Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This field experiment investigated the effects of training librarians in communication skills appropriate for the reference interview. Two types of training were compared: neutral questioning, an approach based on extensive research into information-seeking behaviour (Dervin, 1977) and microskills, a counselling-based model adapted for librarians by Jennerich (1974). The study was designed as a 2 x 3 factorial experiment with a control group. The independent variables were time (before and after training) and the type of training. Outcome was assessed through satisfaction ratings assigned by library users, and through expert ratings of skills observed in transcribed reference interviews.;Twenty-four reference librarians from three Ontario public libraries participated. Before and after training, encounters between 334 library users and these librarians were tape-recorded. Transcripts were analyzed for evidence of selected listening and questioning skills. A questionnaire was completed by 236 users who rated selected dimensions of the answer received and of the librarian's behaviour. Hypotheses that predicted differences over time dependent on training type were tested using analysis of variance. Supplementary analyses were conducted on related factors such as interview duration.;Using ratings for both pre-training and post-training periods were relatively high, with significant decreases for the control group. Users received significantly more helpful answers from librarians trained in neutral questioning, in comparison with librarians trained in microskills, and with untrained librarians. Analysis of the transcripts revealed that librarians trained in neutral questioning demonstrated more use of all skills taught to this group. Librarians trained in microskills increased their use of two skills. No change was found for control group librarians.;Results suggested that moderate changes in the librarian's communication behaviour may not affect the user's perception of the service when that perception is initially very positive. Nevertheless, training clearly helped these librarians to improve their interview skills. The most important result was the evidence that librarians were able to transfer selected skills from training to the work setting. Further investigation into librarian-user behaviour in naturalistic settings is recommended.



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