Reference Intern Pilot Program

  Introduction    |    Purpose     |    Training     |    Program Promotion     |   Assessment    


The library seems more approachable when there is someone like you at the desk.
-University of Michigan student Peer Information Counselor

I started doing reference work in 1986. I have always been aware of students walking in the door, standing there and sizing up the staff at the reference desk, deciding whom to ask for help. I have been aware, many times, that that someone was not me. I can see the choice being made in their minds … students choose students.
-University of Michigan librarian, Joint Conference for Librarians of Color, Oct. 15, 2006.

In order to reach a greater number of students, the Good Library is initiating a pilot Reference Intern (RI) program in the spring of 2008 to help students find, evaluate, and use information. Reference Interns are students who have been trained in the research process, in searching catalogs and databases, and who have shadowed reference librarians working at the reference desk.


  • To extend hours of library reference service
  • To provide students with an opportunity to learn information skills from peers
  • To help students overcome library anxiety and their fear of asking questions of reference librarians
  • To mediate questions between students and reference librarians
  • To mentor students with an interest in librarianship


Librarians will provide training in the following areas of instruction in a group classroom setting:

Session 1: Orientation and the Reference Interview

  • Orientation
  • The reference interview
  • Guidelines for behavioral performance of reference service providers

Session 2: Research Process/Print Resources

  • Overview of research process
  • LC call numbers
  • Catalog searching and Worldcat
  • Print reference sources

Session 3: Developing Search Strategies and EBSCO

  • Information cycle and organization of information
  • Boolean operators, nesting, truncation
  • Introduction to EBSCOhost interface (ASP, ATLA, and CINAHL-FT)

Session 4: Database searching

  • JSTOR, LexisNexis, Grove
  • Biography Resource Center, CQ Researcher, LitFinder, Vault
  • Finding book reviews
  • Government documents

Session 5: Information Ethics, Interlibrary Loan, Evaluating Information, and Reference Desk Manual

  • ALA Librarian Code of Ethics
  • Identification of elements of a citation
  • APA and MLA citation style
  • Evaluating information
  • Interlibrary loan
  • Reference Desk Manual

After the sessions of group instruction, including guided hands-on skill development, RI’s will shadow reference librarians working at the reference desk and will role play, responding to real reference questions librarians have recorded in a notebook.

Program Promotion

  • Eye-catching flyer, created by a student, posted on prominent bulletin boards in campus buildings and dorms
  • Announcements in Campus Communicator and FSB
  • Announcement in faculty business meeting
  • Reception: Meet the library's new reference interns
  • Table tents on dining hall tables
  • Library display board presentation
  • Flyers on selected dorm bathroom stall doors


  • Reference interns will write brief journal entries at the end of shifts describing what they did, number of students assisted, and questions asked.
  • Mentoring librarians will review journal entries with reference interns every week.
  • Reference statistics will be tabulated, and spring 2008 statistics with reference interns will be compared to 2007 statistics without reference interns.
  • At completion of reference intern pilot program, faculty, staff, and students will be asked to respond to a brief web based SurveyMonkey survey.


Updated 05-May-2008 SWH
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