Schramm’s model seemed best for solving this particular communication problem because of the cyclical nature of the interaction between patron and librarian at the reference desk. Schramm's model emphasizes two way communication between the individuals. Normally more than one question is needed to ascertain exactly what a patron wants. The process of asking open ended questions to gain knowledge of what the patron is looking for allows for the possibility of constructive feedback. Even if only one question is asked, body language sends other signals so that there is always more than one message. Schramm is the first to include the field of experience which is a key factor in the lack of communication in our intital situation where there is not enough information given. According to Schramm, “The sender can encode or the receiver can decode only in terms of the experience he has had.” Therefore, the patron does not know that s/he must differentiate between the history of Spain or travel in Spain when s/he asks for books on Spain. The reference librarian who has just been answering historical questions for someone else would naturally be quick to direct the patron to history books. The lack of further questioning brings the cycle of feedback to a halt.
This diagram interprets Schramm's communication model using figures (instead of circles) to show human communication between two people. For our problem one figure represents the librarian and the other the patron. The difference between Schramm's graphic representation and Infotech's is the use of different colors to distinguish between the two people, the messages and the field's of experience. The varying type face suggests the processing by each person to decode-interpret-encode the message. The diagram with color-coded differences comes from Schramm's emphasis on how people are different. He explains that we will encode messages based solely on our experience and group affliliations which will not be the same for any two people. The diagram represents Schramm's communications model by using two human figures and various color changes to signify the way a message or signal changes, including the limitations of personal fields of experience, sensory receptors, and noise.
Many patrons come into a library with a predisposed notion of a prudish and unfriendly librarian. This attitude combined with an intimidation of computers, a lack of knowledge of the cataloging system, a possible language and cultural barrier, can produce a frustrated patron who is afraid to ask for help. Even patrons who feel comfortable in a library setting may find it difficult to approach the reference desk. Librarians recognize that library users often ask their initial questions in incomplete and unclear terms. Conducting a reference interview is the best process of extrapolating information from a patron and a good example of Schramm's model in action.
The patron looking for "books on Spain" would have been better served by a friendly, approachable librarian who asked specific questions designed to understand the message sent:
The use of these open ended questions allows the librarian to clarify the problem, locate the information required to answer the question, find a solution and communicate the answer to the patron. This technique effectively sets up the first cycle of communication. The question then can be asked, "Is this the information you were looking for?" If the patron says "no" then the process of encoding and decoding the patron's message and providing feedback can begin again until a solution is found. The motivation behind the question is more important at this point in bringing the librarian and patron closer to a common area of understanding. Continuing with this two-way question and answer process will ensure that the patron is satisfied with the information provided.
Schramm's model of communication is useful for librarians helping patrons find the information they need. It is the librarian’s job to be empathetic and put the patron at ease with the proper body language and communication skills. At the reference desk the librarian needs the proper tools and skills in order to be empathetic and decode the patron’s request so that a positive reference interview can take place and the patron leaves satisfied. Using Schramm’s model of communication will help the librarian conduct a positive reference interaction. Many aspects of Schramm’s model can be found in the “RUSA Reference Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers.”Reference Services Guidelines