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When a student asks a librarian for help with a research assignment, will the librarian suggest a place to start looking or deliver a specific resource?Selecting a reference strategy requires balancing priorities: The imperative of teaching in reference service is established in research and professional standards, yet meeting students’ immediate information needs is also vital.This guidance benefits not only students, but also librarians, staff, and student assistants who are less familiar with the subject.Libraries invest substantial resources developing research guides.General approaches to reference include advising students to search the library catalog or a specific database (assuming that students can navigate to them independently) or providing a link to a research guide for the course or subject area.Delivering specific resources can mean linking to a canned search in a recommended database that incorporates the librarian’s keywords and date or material type limits or sending a link to a specific journal article, book, encyclopedia article, or Web resource.

Thus we have broad consensus that student learning is an important goal of reference interactions.

Megan Oakleaf and Amy Van Scoy reported that librarians explained their search strategy (“Think aloud”), modeled searches (“Show, don’t tell”), and coached students doing the search (“Let them drive”).

They found that, in 45 percent of the transcripts, a librarian pushed a page or sent a URL, but only 15 percent of the transcripts included a librarian coaching the student through the steps.

However, measuring learning outcomes in brief, usually anonymous, interactions is difficult, if not impossible.

Therefore, researchers have focused on librarian teaching behaviors.

Thus we have broad consensus that student learning is an important goal of reference interactions.Megan Oakleaf and Amy Van Scoy reported that librarians explained their search strategy (“Think aloud”), modeled searches (“Show, don’t tell”), and coached students doing the search (“Let them drive”).They found that, in 45 percent of the transcripts, a librarian pushed a page or sent a URL, but only 15 percent of the transcripts included a librarian coaching the student through the steps.However, measuring learning outcomes in brief, usually anonymous, interactions is difficult, if not impossible.Therefore, researchers have focused on librarian teaching behaviors.The analysis addressed these research questions: This study draws on and contributes to existing research around: 1) the role of teaching in reference service; 2) instructional strategies in virtual reference; and 3) the instructional value of research guides in academic libraries.