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Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time, 6th edition

May 2012 | 176pp

Paperback
9781856048118
Price: 39.95
CILIP members price: 31.96

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9781856048873
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Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time, 6th edition

Tim Buckley Owen

This best-selling 'one-stop' practical guide is designed to help all information professionals become self-sufficient in answering enquiries. 

Step by step, the book guides the reader through all stages of research, from finding out what the enquirer really wants to providing a polished, value-added answer. There’s an emphasis throughout on how to make the best use of limited resources – and a final chapter offers practical advice on how to set up an enquiry service from scratch or revive a run-down one.

This fully updated sixth edition features a brand new chapter on remote enquiry handling by email, SMS and instant messaging. It has cutting-edge coverage of developments in mobile media, social networking, microblogging and e-books. The new Starter Sources section provides an essential and up-to-date list of quality-checked reference sources, on the web and in print.

In this edition:
  • What do they really want? (How to make sure you really understand the question.)
  • Flying blind. (Why remote enquiry handling is different.)
  • Getting started (Dealing with the panic – thinking clearly.)
  • Smarter searching. (Tips for efficient search strategies.)
  • Help! Everything’s going wrong. (When you can’t find the answer and you’re running out of time.)
  • Success! Now let's add some value. (Presenting your answer well is part of the job.)
  • Setting up – how do you start? (Establishing your own enquiry service from scratch.)
  • Choosing your toolkit. (Resources that you’ll need to run your enquiry service.)  
Readership: Ideal for anyone who has to answer enquiries from users in any environment, this essential manual is suitable for use in large or small libraries and information units. Anyone working in a contact centre – dealing with information enquiries or processing transactions or trouble-shooting technical issues – should find it useful too. And it's particularly valuable for information professionals and those working on enquiry desks in academic, public, school and special libraries. 

It doesn’t matter whether your job is actually finding answers for people or helping others find the answers for themselves. This book is for you. 

Introduction
Eight ideas for successful enquiry answering

1. What do they really want?
How to make sure you really understand the question
  • Avoiding misunderstandings
  • Asking the right questions
  • Does all this really work?
  • Agreeing the task
  • Finding out how long you’ve got
  • Coming next – when the enquirer’s not there  
2. Flying blind
Why remote enquiry handling is different
  • Can’t see, can’t hear – the risk of misunderstanding, even offence
  • Keeping your remote enquirer on side
  • Keeping good records
  • Coming next – avoiding panic, thinking on your feet   
3. Getting started  
Dealing with panic – thinking clearly
  • Imagining the final answer
  • Choosing the best type of source and delivery medium 
  • Print, electronic documents, online
  • Does all this really work?
  • Identifying actual sources
  • Coming next – smarter searching   
4. Smarter searching
Tips for efficient search strategies
  • Who needs to be able to search smarter?
  • Working out your search strategy 
  • Searching systematically
  • Making the most of indexes 
  • Reading strategically
  • Making sure that what you find is reliable
  • Coming next – even more things that can go wrong  
5. Help! Everything’s going wrong
When you can’t find the answer and you’re running out of time
  • Vital versus urgent tasks
  • Your working timetable
  • A compromise solution? 
  • Plan B
  • Coming next – adding value  
6. Success! Now let’s add some value 
Presenting your answer well is part of the job
  • Quality checking your answer
  • Presenting your answer – orally 
  • Presenting your answer – in writing 
  • Copyright, licensing, ethics
  • Has the answer arrived – and does the enquirer like it?
  • Sign-off: what can we learn from this enquiry?
  • Coming next  
7. Setting up – how do you start? 
Establishing your own enquiry service from scratch
  • Finding out what your users need
  • Identifying the sources that will meet your users’ needs
  • Exploiting your sources
  • Promoting your service
  • Getting help and support 
  • Coming last – choosing your toolkit  
8. Choosing your toolkit 
Resources that you’ll need to run your enquiry service
  • Search engines 
  • Enquiry tracking software
  • Starter Sources 
  • Final word of warning
  • Your goal: successful enquiry answering – every time

"With its cutting edge coverage of contemporary developments, Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is much more than was ever taught to trainee librarians. It is highly recommended for students, librarians, and library educators and also for anyone who has to answer questions in a contact centre or enquiry desk anywhere. Whether finding answers or teaching others how to find answers, this book is a goldmine of effective ideas."
- Australian Library Journal

Tim Buckley Owen BA DipLib MCLIP is an independent writer and trainer with over 40 years' experience of information work - at Westminster Central Reference Library, the City Business Library, and as Principal Information Officer at the London Research Centre. He has also held strategic media and communications posts at CILIP, the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council and the Library & Information Commission.

1. What do they really want?

Chapter 1 deals with the most fundamental aspect of enquiry answering: finding out what the enquirer really wants. It doesn’t matter whether your job is to find the answer for them, or help them with advice and guidance on the strategies they could employ and the sources they might use – get this bit
wrong and everything else goes wrong too. In this chapter you’ll find out how to:
  • avoid misunderstandings
  • ask the right questions
  • agree the task
  • find out how long you’ve got to do it.  
2. Flying blind

Chapter 2 looks at broadly the same thing – but when the enquirer is somewhere else and you have only a voice on the phone or characters on a screen to go by. We normally rely so heavily on non-verbal communication that, when we can’t see or hear the enquirer, even more can go wrong – so this chapter tries to help you make sure that it doesn’t. In this chapter you’ll find out how to:
  • deal with enquiries by phone, e-mail or text
  • avoid even more misunderstandings
  • keep your enquirer on side
  • get into the habit of good record keeping.  
3. Getting started

Chapter 3 is all about dealing with the panic that can grip you when the enquirer has made clear what they want and is waiting for you to come up with a solution. Again, it doesn’t matter whether you’re advising a student or member of the public or embarking on a piece of desk research for a client – It’s your job to think your way through the problem clearly. In this chapter you’ll find out how to:
  • imagine what the final answer will look like
  • decide what kinds of source will provide that answer
  • determine the best delivery medium to use
  • start identifying actual sources.  
4. Smarter searching

In Chapter 4, we look at how smarter searching can help produce results that the enquirer simply wouldn’t have thought of for themselves – how you can either delight a research client or provide valuable learning support to a student or library visitor. In this chapter you’ll find out how to:
  • search systematically
  • avoid traps for the unwary
  • make the most of searching tools
  • read strategically
  • decide whether you can rely on what you find.  
5. Help! Everything’s going wrong

In Chapter 5, we think about what to do when things start going wrong – when the answer just isn’t showing up anywhere and time’s running out. You could be coming up to a deadline imposed by your boss or helping a hapless student who just hasn’t given themselves enough time to do their assignment; either way, they’re looking to you to come up with a plan B. In this chapter you’ll find out how to:
  • prioritize enquiries so the right ones get done first
  • think of compromise solutions when time’s running out
  • decide what to do when you can’t find the answer
  • look for outside help. 
6. Success! Now let’s add some value 

Chapter 6 is about success, and how you can add value to your answer – turning it into a readable report for your client, showing a member of the public or a student how they can evaluate what they’ve found instead of just taking it on trust. This chapter also demonstrates how you can use the results of completed enquiries to measure your performance and provide an even better service. In this chapter you’ll find out how to:
  • quality check your answer
  • present it effectively in writing, orally or visually
  • make sure you’ve observed copyright and licensing requirements
  • confirm that the enquirer is satisfied
  • gather performance data.  
7. Setting up – how do you start? 

Chapter 7 takes a look into the future – your next job or role and a new enquiry service to set up or a run-down one to revive. It’s all about studying your users’ needs – whether they are your colleagues, outside clients, a student community or simply anyone who comes in or phones up – and making sure you have the tools to satisfy them. In this chapter you’ll find out how to:
  • discover what your users need
  • identify and choose sources and services that will meet their needs
  • exploit the sources you invest in
  • raise the profile of your service through branding, promotion and customer care
  • get help and support when you need it.  
8. Choosing your toolkit 

Chapter 8 suggests what some of those tools might be: search engines (there’s more than
one!); enquiry management systems (to help you keep track of your workload); and Starter Sources (multipurpose information resources that can help you begin on a great many of the kinds of enquiries you’re likely to encounter). In this chapter you’ll find links to:
  • search engines
  • enquiry tracking software
  • Starter Sources.