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Reference Guide

A refresher for State Library of Oregon librarians and support staff to support and improve reference interactions (and tracking those interactions) with patrons across all platforms (email, phone, chat, in-person).

READ Scale Description

The READ Scale (Reference Effort Assessment Data) is a six-point scale tool for recording supplemental qualitative statistics gathered when reference librarians assist users with their inquiries. One being the least amount of reference effort required and six being expert level, deep research requests.

Examples from the State Library

Examples of READ Scale Level Assignments


We have been using the READ Scale to track our patron interactions since July 2017 in the Transaction Tracker.

These are some specific examples from the State Library and the levels they were assigned on the READ Scale.


1. After meeting with Advocacy Commissions in person and discussing future projects, this request came through:

Most pressing, I think, is the Latinos and Mental Health research that we discussed.  I know we talked about a lot, so to help us all keep it straight, here are the specific pieces of that work:

  • If you find an especially well-formatted report from another state regarding mental health and any cultural group, that would be a helpful model for us to have and help ensure this work moves forward in the best way possible.:)
  • Any and all help you can provide regarding other states’ laws regarding improving services for Latino mental health will create invaluable background for this work.
  • Lastly, any information and research (academic and policy oriented) you can find regarding best practices will be wonderful.  I will be sending an email out to our entire group to get as many resources together from many smart and knowledgeable brains on this last piece, so collectively we will be working to find everything out there.

This work went on from May to August…and I added multiple entries in the tracker throughout the entire thing.

My first follow-up went back and forth for a week. Was about 4 or 5 hours total of work spent and I sent over 20 documents/links.

Rated this a level 6 

  • The most effort and time expended.
  • Inquiries or requests for information can't be answered on the spot.
  • This category covers some 'special library' type research services.


2. Patron (general public): I passed both the engineer in training and land surveyor in training exams in Oregon in summer of 1979. I would like to find records, certification numbers and possibly copies of the actual certificates that were awarded. Any suggestions?

After about 15 minutes or so of searching I found the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying “Look up a License” page.

Found both of his certification numbers by looking up his name.

Rated this a level 3

  • Consultation of ready reference resource materials is needed
  • Minimal instruction of the user may be required – told him how to search the site
  • Reference knowledge and skills come into play – had to use many different search combinations and search through agency site to find the database.


3. Patron pops up on chat…I’m not sure if I’m registered with the State Library.

Check patron in user registration. Provide log in information.

Rated this a level 2

  • Nominal resource consultation


4. Patron in Gov. Room, “I am looking for information on redlining (refuse (a loan or insurance) to someone because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk) in Oregon in rural areas outside of Portland.”

Patron and Heather found a tool from the U. of Richmond – VA that maps redlining, but only in major cities. Heather called in Natalie to assist.

Heather’s searching found that redlining was decided by the Home Owner’s Loan Corporation (HOLC). Found archive of some HOLC information, but nothing in rural Or and no archived maps . Natalie was able to find HOLC office locations in other cities in Oregon using a Fed Doc titled “federal relief for home owners”.

Natalie referred patron to U of O map library after exhausting our resources.

Rated this a level 5

  • Cooperative efforts with user and colleagues
  • Multiple resources used
  • Over an hour of time spent by two librarians
  • Had to ultimately refer because could not find a concrete answer.


5. Patron in Gov room – “Do you have anything about mushrooms?”

Check catalog, short reference interview to refine search (local mushrooms, truffles?, identification? Etc) Show patron how to search public catalog, page material from stacks. Register patron so they can check out.

Rated this a level 3

  • Consulted ready reference
  • Minimal instruction
  • Used some reference knowledge for interview and searching


6. Patron on chat – When can I visit the State Library and where are you located?

Rated this a level 1

  • No specialized knowledge or consultation or resources

Under 5 min