A request by a library user for information or assistance in locating information, which occurs in person, by telephone, or by mail or e-mail. In most libraries, reference questions are answered by a professional reference librarian during assigned hours at a reference desk, but in smaller libraries this function may be performed by a trained staff member.
At some libraries, reference questions are also answered by reference librarians or library assistants. Many libraries keep user statistics and questions can be divided into six different categories:in person, telephone, e-mail, computer/net usage, referrals and directional.
While the first four categories are easy to define referrals and directionals are slightly harder to define. A referral reference question is one where the librarian (or library staff member) has to refer the patron to either another department or another place outside of the library. An directional question is one where a patron asks for directions to a place (where is the adult nonfiction section?) or instruction on how to do something(how do I make a two-sided copy?)
Sometimes one question can be counted in multiple categories(a question could be both directional and a referral).