How to Work with a Reference Librarian


You have a research paper due for a class, and you understand the reference librarians are great assets for finding information for your paper.  But you have a problem….you’ve never worked with a reference librarian, and you’re a little confused.  You want to acquire the right information, and  ensure you have it when you need it.  How to proceed??

The RAP Request Form
The Research Assistance Program (RAP) form is available to let you make an appointment remotely with a reference librarian.  You can also use this form to submit a research question.  When you need help, simply complete the RAP form.  Try to be as specific as possible when stating your information need, and be sure to let the librarians know when you need the information.  Once you’ve completed the form, click on the Send Request button at the bottom of the page, and a reference librarian (usually the subject specialist covering the subject area you are working on) will contact you within 24 hours of submitting your request.  Click here for additional ways to connect with a reference librarian.

Time Matters!
Whenever you are working with a reference librarian, ALWAYS indicate the timeliness of your question.  Do you need the information immediately, by tomorrow, or within a week?  If the reference librarian knows when you need the information, she/he can prioritize questions accordingly to ensure your information need is met within your time constraints.

Be Specific
Be as specific as possible when stating your information or research need.  For example, the following question–I need information on the primary economic causes attributed to the start of the Civil War–is more productive than–I need information on the Civil War.  Another example–I’m looking for information on IBM’s bonds and when they are due–is more productive than–I need financial information on IBM.

Librarians as Subject Specialists
Every reference librarian will be glad to answer any question you ask–whether in person or remotely.  Librarians, however, are subject specialists, so your research questions will be delegated to the librarian with the most expertise in your subject area of interest.  This is especially true when you are working on a lengthy research project and you want to make an appointment with the librarian who can be most effective in helping you find the information you need.  The drop down box on the Articles & Databases page can help you find the right subject specialist for your need.  Simply select a subject area to display a listing of databases useful for finding information on this subject area as well as the appropriate subject specialist with their contact information.

Your time is valuable, and reference librarians are here to help!  Ask a librarian!  You’ll be glad you did.