The reference librarians' use of knowledge and decision making: The analysis of user/librarian interaction

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The knowledge framework of reference librarians consists of four elements regarding to the user's inquiry, the user, information sources, and the possible answer. Reference librarians acquire knowledge through the framework. In order to choose a paticular source and to answer the user's inquiry, they try to relate knowledge, which they already have or which they acquire from the interaction with the user. This paper is concerned with the cognitive process of reference librarians: which aspect of the four elements reference librarians recognize, and how they try to relate those aspects to formulate the answers. In an attempt to identify the cognitive process of reference librarians, the interaction between user and reference librarian at a private university library were analysed. In the course of the analysis, tape-recorded conversational data between the user and the reference librarian were used, and they were reinforced by field notes taken at the reference counter and interview data from the reference librarians. Presented in this paper is a hypothesis about the cognitive process of reference librarians, which has been developed from the data mentioned above. Various aspects of the four elements as well as the knowledge reference librarians already have concerning those aspects, have been identified. It was also found that reference librarians make judgements on material they have chosen as an information source for the particular user, by whether the relationship between those aspects of the four elements relating to that particular material are relevant. This is named "relevance decision-making" and it is on this decision-making that the process of interactions depends.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-103
Number of pages23
JournalLibrary and Information Science
Issue number28
Publication statusPublished - 1990 Dec 1


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Library and Information Sciences

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