Patrons often have needs that books alone will not meet.

They need the services of groups or agencies for social or health problems, for example.

You have access to hundreds of agencies, organizations, and resources through information and referral. How can a person know which one to turn to for a particular problem? Helping put patrons in contact with the best agency for their needs is the role of "Information and Referral" or "I and R". Information and Referral services try to match patron needs with agencies that have information to solve their problems.

Libraries are becoming more and more involved in providing information and referral services as part of their overall mission of meeting patrons' information needs.

Often libraries use directories of social service agencies. Some libraries may compile directories if none exist on a specific area of interest. These directories are usually indexed by standard key words describing the kinds of help offered.

Some directories are in paper form while others exist as electronic databases.

You should think of referring patrons to agencies and groups as part of your overall answer to their questions.

A complex need, for example, a relative with a head injury, may be met by a combination of things:

  1. Referrals to local agencies

  2. Books on coping with brain injury

  3. Articles in medical journals describing new therapies

  4. Videos or DVDs on how to care for a disabled person

Don't limit yourself to sources at hand on the library shelf.

Try to think of good reference as providing assistance in meeting people's information needs.

Go to Who knows the answer.

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This page was updated on October 25, 2003.