Client Diagnosis and Recommendation of Information Sources Kelli Doubledee Emporia State University

CLIENT DIAGNOSIS AND REC. OF INFO. SOURCES Abstract This paper is an analysis and discussion of a reference interview to establish an information


recommendation after a client diagnosis. Steve Doubledee, a college professor and debate coach, is interviewed prior to the national tournaments. A simple question (information need) is diagnosed which uncovers other information needs. A search strategy using current databases and the Internet provide answers after constant exchange between the client and interviewer. The answers are provided, and Steve confirms they are satisfactory. Current theories about reference service are examined and related to the interview and search process to clarify strengths and weaknesses of the exchange.

CLIENT DIAGNOSIS AND REC. OF INFO. SOURCES Client Diagnosis and Recommendation of Information Sources Steve Doubledee, a college debate coach, was chosen to fulfill this assignment. The actual search for information needed was accomplished after a thorough reference interview using theories presented in class readings .The interview, search strategy, resources used, and


results are examined and evaluated to facilitate a better understanding of reference services when applied to a specific situation. Method Participant Steve Doubledee is a debate coach at Washburn University. His information diagnosis interview was conducted the week before the national tournament. During this week, Steve was researching debate topics and then collecting the findings to be distributed to students for construction of debate positions. The debate positions involve depth at this point of the year since most topics have been researched and then debated at tournaments since the start of the semester. Current event topics are of particular concern for this tournament; sometimes the difference between a win or loss. Preparation Prior to the interview, I looked over the class readings. I prepared to interview Steve using neutral questioning that would find the information needed using strategies taught in the various modules. Close attention was paid to accommodate Steve’s timeframe of one evening to find the information for this particular topic. Procedure I sat down with Steve to do the client diagnosis interview. Initially, I thought I would diagnose the information needed and work on the search by myself to be presented back to Steve

CLIENT DIAGNOSIS AND REC. OF INFO. SOURCES in an information package. After asking a few questions, I realized the information needed was fairly simple. Steve wanted to know about the atrocities committed under the Haiti ruler, Baby Doc. He specifically asked for information about the Duvalier Gang. After some researching, I realized I needed more information to completely diagnose the information needed. There had been two Duvalier rulers of Haiti: Baby Doc and Papa Doc. Papa Doc exceeded Baby Doc in atrocities afflicted on the Haitian people. He stood out so much in the sources I found; I sought


out another interview. I tried to not ask so many neutral questions this time, and instead, focused on appropriate questions dependent on what he thought of information as I found it. The result section discusses the various reasons why this proved to be effective. Results Since I did not know anything about either of the Duvaliers, I turned to the Encyclopedia Britannica which was sited in Wikipedia. I learned that both Papa Doc and Baby Doc had reigned with help from the Duvalier Gang, Tonton Macoutes (Bogeymen). I sent links of the Encyclopedia Britannica and a Life picture with caption which described the atrocities. I also sent a link to an article describing the transformation of the Tonton Macoutes into FRAPH (Revolutionary Front for the Advancement and Progress of Haiti). The nonverbal clues were apparent as I heard Steve respond that he did not know the name had changed. He liked the atrocity links, but the FRAPH link was more of what he was looking for. Two theories came to mind here. First, Grover and Carabell (1995) state, “information professionals may become frustrated when their clients are unable to articulate their needs, yet clients should not be expected to know what to ask” (p. 2). I had satisfied the first information need, and one that had not been identified. “Kuhlthau's Information Search Process model acknowledges the user's sense of inadequacy in defining needs and identifies varying cognitive



and affective stages that occur during the search process” (Grover and Carabell, 1995, p. 3). The need may either increase or decrease in relevancy as the search continues. White defines this holistic approach as, “The Needs-Oriented Model which assumes that intermediaries must help users clarify questions” (Grover and Carabell, 1995, p. 3). With the first information need satisfied, I began a second diagnosis interview. I once again used neutral questioning. This time I asked how the information I found helped, and if there was more needed. This allowed Steve to open up about his research into the topic area. He explained the case was in need of a link between a presidential candidate in Haiti, Martley, and the FRAPH. Dervin’s sense-making theory best explains this new information need found through neutral questioning. It “allows users to retain control over the description of need and directs the interaction to the most pertinent aspects of the users' experience” (Dervin and Dewdney, 1986, p. 509). I searched through several current event databases: Expanded Academic Index, Academic One File, and Custom Newspaper. I found articles in all of them regarding the election in Haiti. Steve stated he had read all of them. I used more open questioning at this point to see if what I was finding was helpful or not. Even though why questions are sometimes not useful, I felt it was needed in this case to establish a research strategy. Dewdney and Mitchell (1997) point out the importance of why questions in certain situations, “The librarian needs to know the reason underlying the information need not out of prurient interest but in order to develop a productive search strategy and to avoid useless searching for information that does not answer the real question” (p. 51). Our exchange of sources went back and forth for a long time. At one point, I asked him if possibly the link did not exist. He emailed me an article which briefly touched on the link; He

CLIENT DIAGNOSIS AND REC. OF INFO. SOURCES stated he needed more information regarding the brief discussion. The article proved to be a valuable piece of the puzzle. At this point, I realized the information required was more of a


presumptive nature. I decided to search on Google for Martelly and “right wing”. I found several blogs which mentioned the link/connection. I evaluated the blogs and found they passed the C.R.A.P. (currency, reliability, authority, purpose/point of view) test. Steve stated this was exactly what he needed. I emailed him the sources and he forwarded these to a student for the case construction. The latter part of the search was aided by what Grover and Carabell (1985) explain as “help chaining” theorized by Dervin. “When a single question does not produce an adequate response, more questions may uncover a higher-level goal that is a better representation of the underlying information need and that consequently facilitates the information search” (p. 66). Discussion I felt the search went well, but it was lengthy. I do not know how this search would have played out in a real-life reference setting with limited time. I agree with Dervin and Dewdney (1986), “neutral questioning uncovers needs that may be difficult or time-consuming to meet”, but save time in the long run. (p. 512) I hope with experience I can recognize the second question to be a presumptive nature that would not be found in a newspaper or journal article. Dervin and Dewdney also assert: According to the sense-making approach, communication strategies are themselves situationally based; different strategies are more likely to lead to certain consequences, and the wise practitioner selects strategies based on intent, watches closely to see how they are working, and modifies as necessary. Closed, open, and neutral questions are all options and all appropriate under different circumstances. (p. 509-510)

CLIENT DIAGNOSIS AND REC. OF INFO. SOURCES Steve was happy with the results. He was surprised I found the information quickly and met his time requirement. Grover and Carabell (1995) establish that it is important to constantly be evaluating the needs of the client noting: non-verbal behavior, preferences, and time limitations. (p. 7) By paying attention to the client’s needs, the client will feel more relaxed and


trust the librarian which provides for cooperative discourse. (Dewdney and Michell, 1997, p. 5556) In this case, Steve acknowledged he did not initially state his full information need because he had not researched the information completely and knew I would not be familiar with the subject. Dewdey and Michell (1997) explain, “Katz has enumerated the reasons that library users may be reluctant to answer a "why" question: ‘The user…(2) does not trust the librarian's knowledge of the field’…” (p. 52). A criticism of my search observed by Steve was the point where I told him I thought the link did not exist. I recognize this strategy of negative closure defined by Ross and Dewdney (1998). As a way to end the reference query when no information has been found, “The librarian states explicitly that the search has reached a dead end” (p. 156). Negative closure should be avoided in the reference environment. In conclusion, the success of the diagnostic interview relies upon the evaluation and reevaluation of information needs. (Grover and Carabell, 1995, p. 4) The librarian conducting the information search should pay close attention to the client and look to information need theories to guide information need diagnosis.

CLIENT DIAGNOSIS AND REC. OF INFO. SOURCES References Dervin, B., & Dewdney, P. (1986). Neutral questioning: A new approach to the reference interview. RQ, 25, 506-513. Dewdney, P., & Michell, G. (1997). Asking “why” questions in the reference interview: A theoretical justification. Library Quarterly, 67, 50-71. Grover, R., & Carabell, J. (1995). Toward better information service: Diagnosing information needs. Special Libraries, 1-10. Ross, C.S. & Dewdney, P. (1998). Negative closure: Strategies and counter-strategies in the reference transaction. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 38(2), 151-63.


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