Undertaking Reference Interview - How-To-Do-It handbook for Librarians (02) via Ross, Catherine Sheldrick - Nilsen, Kirsti - Dewdney, Patricia [Paperback (2002)]
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Since users are translating into an unfamiliar language-the language of the information system-it's not surprising that sometimes their translations are not helpful to the librarian. The proper person to do the translation into system terms is the librarian, not the user, just as the proper person to diagnose a drug prescription is the doctor and not the patient. When a patient comes into the doctor's office and says, "I need a prescription for prednisone," the doctor doesn't reach immediately for the prescription pad.
A further complication that can occur with either of these two kinds of ambiguity is that the staff member may interpret the ambiguous words in the context of a particular mental set, predisposition, or expectation. For example, one librarian was busy weeding the sports books when he misheard a request for books on Socrates as "soccer tees" and began scanning the soccer books. Another librarian was engaged in bibliographic checking when she misheard a request for books on sea lamprey as a request for books on C.
From the workshops and other sources, we have collected examples of illformed queries and now have a database of 945 examples of question pairs. The list in "What People Really Want to Know" gives some typical examples of question pairs of the initial question and the negotiated or "real" question. A QUICK TIP Go Beyond the User's Diagnosis of Source In the Mental Models Study, an experienced librarian was asked if she had advice for a new librarian who was just learning about reference service.
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