Monday, October 25, 2010

Introduction to reference: Reference services for specific groups

Persons with disabilities
  • Leave user in control
  • Don’t make assumptions about user’s abilities or needs
  • Treat user as an individual
    o Speak directly to user, not to companion if present
  • Maintain eye contact, relaxed posture, etc.
    o Don’t get uptight.
  • Don’t underestimate user
  • Don’t assume user wants special materials
    o A “Talking Book” may not be necessary for someone with an eye disability
  • Know facts about specific disabilities
  • Know limitations of your library
    o Make as much of the collection accessible, remove barriers
  • Don’t pretend disability does not exist
  • Encourage user’s independence
  • Encourage feedback
    o From variety of sources, persons

The deaf
Be sure person can see your face as you speak, do not cover your mouth with your hand while you talk, or talk as you walk away from patron.

  • Speak slowly and clearly but do not exaggerate lip movements (may distort words)
    o Don’t exaggerate how you speak, and don’t talk too loudly either.
  • Be sure you have person’s attention before speaking
  • Try to maintain eye contact (helps keep feeling of direct communication)
  • If person does not understand your words, try a different phrase. Some words are at a pitch that cannot be heard, no matter how loud they are said.
  • Do not be embarrassed about asking user to write down a question, or writing down information yourself.

Persons who are blind

  • Know the facts, ability to see and read varies greatly
  • Do not feel self conscious about using phrases such as “I see what you mean” or “Let’s take a look”
  • If you need to guide user, let him take your arm. Do not take his.
  • Acknowledge user verbally with restatement and verbal encouragers, describe what you are doing or where you are going. Make sure other staff are aware of where you are.
  • Do not treat guide dogs as pets
  • Keep aisles clear of obstacles

Wheelchair/scooter users

  • Condition may be permanent, progressive or temporary (different levels of expertise in using wheelchair)
  • Know library’s physical barriers and how to help user overcome them. If you leave, tell them where you are going.
  • For a conversation sit down, it can be tiring for the user to look up for any length of time. Get on their level.

Specific age groups
Seniors are one of the fastest growing age groups.

  • Be sensitive to possibility of a physical impairment which makes communication more difficult (vision/hearing).
    o Be aware though that not all seniors have any impairments.
  • Do not assume all older patrons have similar problems and needs e.g. large print books.
  • Some may need encouragement to use newer technologies.
    o More libraries are using electronic materials. More seniors are using e-mail regularly. Some will be more likely to attempt new technologies then others will.
  • Older users may be seeking someone to talk to and require a reminder others are waiting to be served.
    o Perhaps they need to look into another place to convene?
  • Do not make assumptions about a person’s abilities based solely on age

Children are entitled to the same services as adults.

  • Show same level of respect and courtesy.
  • Try to be at child’s eye level.
  • Speak to child not parent/caregiver
  • Do not assume all questions relate to school
  • Treat child’s question the same way as you do an adult’s
    o Take them seriously.
  • Children may have more trouble explaining question to you due to their lack of experience and vocabulary
  • Be sensitive in matching information to reading level of child and in providing the right amount of information.
    o Present a range of materials from different areas. Teens may bounce between both adults and children’s sections.

Patrons from different cultures

  • Speak in brief simple sentences avoiding library jargon. Present one concept at a time.
  • Pose two questions rather than “either/or” ones.
  • Speak slowly and articulate distinctly. If necessary write information down.
  • Do not expect verbal reinforcement, watch for a nod or ask “Do you understand?”
  • Recognize smiling may hide emotions such as frustration or confusion
  • Silence may indicate
    o Respect for authority
    o Full agreement
    o Fear of being judged on quality of spoken English
  • Realize name order may be different for some cultures
  • Saving face is important in many cultures, always show mutual respect
  • Be patient
  • Keep smiling
  • Ask questions if necessary, but keep them short
  • Do not ask negative questions which can easily be misinterpreted
  • If all else fails ask someone else for help
  • In some cultures it is considered polite to avoid eye contact
  • Allow time for patron to translate mentally what you have said
  • Do not raise your voice, this may be taken for anger
  • Avoid idioms and metaphors

Speech barriers

  • Restate what you understand
  • Take ownership of problem, e.g. “I’m sorry I seem to have trouble understanding people today. Could you tell me again?”
  • If you still cannot understand, ask patron to write question down. “It would help me if you could just write… down on this paper.”
  • If all else fails, tactfully ask someone else to help.

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