Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

The 360 Librarian: A Framework for Integrating Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, and Critical Reflection in the Workplace


Knowledge of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of the Reference and Information Service Providers and an awareness of the books, databases, and other resources generally available in library reference collections are excellent pathways to train confident practitioners in reference service. Procedural knowledge of RUSA guidelines and intellectual ability are the basic skills required to answer a reference question. Yet at times, the reference interview is a labyrinthine process laden with confusion and emotion. Tacit knowledge – unwritten, unspoken knowledge based on experience, insights, and intuition – is a skill that allows librarians to navigate the reference transaction labyrinth and leave the patron feeling validated and confident in their research experience.

Library patrons today are typically not looking for a finite piece of information, but rather are trying to sift through and interpret the massive amount of unmediated information available to them. This means patrons are operating under a high cognitive load before they begin their library research, often leaving them anxious and unmoored before they venture to the reference desk for advice. Because of this, it is essential that library students view the reference transaction holistically, as they interact with the patron.

In order to create an environment conducive to the holistic reference transaction, empathy, communication, and critical thinking should be at the forefront of a new librarian’s skillset. Emotional intelligence should be studied and practiced to ensure library students leave a reference course with the ability to not only meet their patrons’ information needs, but also to help their patrons feel comfortable navigating the library and its resources. The practice of mindfulness ensures self-awareness and openness to new information and promotes calm, clear interactions with patrons. Finally, critical reflection upon one’s reference training and practice while in the classroom and beyond is key to incorporating the ideals of emotional intelligence and mindfulness into a comprehensive reference librarian’s skillset.


This is a book chapter within L. Ellis, ed., Teaching Reference Today: New Directions and Approaches. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, available at:

This book chapter is also referenced within the faculty books and monographs collection: