Information Services

Hennepin County Library Administrative Policy


This policy establishes specific guidelines that ensure the consistent and unified application of the Hennepin County Library Board Patron Services Policy as it relates to Information Services.

Information Service is the assistance and instruction provided by staff to help patrons utilize library and other resources to obtain the information they need. This is accomplished through the creation, use, recommendation or explanation of library and other resources.

Library staff provide this service to individuals and groups in library buildings, online, and in the community. 

Philosophy of Information Services

The central objective of Information Services is to anticipate and respond to patrons’ information needs. Success is measured by the degree to which patrons’ needs and expectations are satisfied, thereby making Information Services patron-centered in its philosophy and practice.

Staff respond to all requests regardless of patrons’ age, status, circumstances, or the nature of their inquiry. All requests are handled professionally and receive the appropriate time, attention, treatment, and use of and introduction to information resources.

Patrons can access Information Services by a variety of methods, and receive similar service from staff regardless of the way they contact the library. Any variances or other exceptions will be clearly explained to patrons.

Staff facilitate the development of self-reliant users by developing online content and providing instruction on the use of library materials in all formats.

While in-depth research falls outside the Library’s mission, staff providing Information Services suggest appropriate library resources and offer instruction on the use of those resources for patrons whose inquiries require extensive research. Staff refer to outside resources when information needs are beyond available HCL resources and expertise.

When situations occur that are not specifically addressed in this document, staff use good judgment and their best public service skills to accomplish a satisfactory outcome. Patrons leave the library confident that staff have been as thorough as possible in addressing their information requests.

Expectations and parameters

When assisting patrons with information needs, staff:

  • Actively promote the Library's mission, vision and services in all interactions.
  • Know what Library programs, resources, and services are available to patrons.
  • Are available, approachable, and proactively assist and engage patrons.
  • Give prompt attention and a timely response to each information request.
  • Handle requests discreetly and respect patron privacy.
  • Listen carefully to patrons and ask clarifying questions to determine the patron’s need.
  • Respect the comfort level of the patron when deciding the level and pace of assistance.
  • Use authoritative sources to answer questions and provide citations as needed.
  • Use professional judgment to manage workflow to ensure fair and consistent service to all patrons. This may mean balancing time spent with multiple patrons and questions. It may also mean fielding several questions from one patron or spending more time with patrons if there are no others waiting.
  • Verify patron satisfaction before moving on and check back whenever possible. Invite follow-up questions, and inform patron of options for asking additional questions (phone, IM, email, etc.).
  • Know how and when to refer questions to other staff in person or online, or to other resources, if information is not readily available or if more time is needed.

When providing service to groups at the library or at community locations, staff:

  • Plan and prepare programs and presentations tailored to the interests, needs, and requests of the audience served.
  • Provide information and/or instruction on library collections, use guidelines, services, and resources.
  • Ensure that program and presentation content supports the goals of this Policy, including programs planned with external presenters.
  • Work with and prepare all affected staff for the visit and, as needed, to issue library cards in advance.
  • Reserve the right to limit group visits based on local capacity of the individual library or service area.
  • Respond in a timely manner to visit requests.
  • Foster strong relationships with community partners by understanding the group’s needs and communicating best practices and expectations.
  • Are appropriately scheduled to prepare for and accommodate the group.
  • Invite feedback by checking in with the group contact person.

When creating online content to support self-reliant and remote patrons, staff:

  • Create, select, and organize content to support self-reliant use and access to library and community resources both in the library and remotely.
  • Evaluate content for timeliness, relevance, and alignment with web standards and the Library Board Collection Development and Management Policy.

Staff who provide information services:

  • Stay current and engaged by seeking, learning, using, and sharing new knowledge and skills as a basic part of professional development.
  • Follow library, County, and other procedures and guidelines related to data privacy and confidentiality of patron information.
  • Have a working knowledge of:
    • Technology (touch screen, apps, eBook devices, etc.) commonly used to access library resources.
    • Equipment provided by the library (scanner, copier, printer, etc.).
    • Library software (Microsoft Office, PC Reservation, GIMP, etc.) and/or be able to refer patron to books or other self-service help resources.

Service Limitations:

  • Staff assist patrons in locating, accessing, and evaluating relevant and credible information sources, but cannot further interpret, analyze, evaluate, summarize, or otherwise provide personal opinion or advice on the content. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • Medical information
    • Legal information and forms
    • Appraisals (books, art, collectibles, etc.)
    • Homework or in-depth research
    • Tax information and forms
    • Copyright
    • Writing and translation services—editing/proofreading/formatting and layout
  • Staff assisting patrons will not ask for and will not enter identity-related information, except when needed to provide access to library resources. This includes, but is not limited to:
    • bank or financial account information
    • credit card numbers
    • social security numbers
    • account user names and passwords
  • Staff assist patrons needing to access library resources through a wide range of personal devices. Because of potential liability issues, staff cannot touch or suggest configuration changes for any patron-owned electronic devices. This includes laptops, tablets, iPads, smartphones, eReaders, etc. However, staff can and should work with patrons to help address issues related to accessing library materials with these devices, including referring patrons to vendor resources as needed.


In order to ensure that Information Services are meeting organizational and patron expectations and are being delivered in an efficient and effective manner, the service should be evaluated on an ongoing basis.

Information Services will be evaluated using the following methods. In some cases, these methods are not currently in place and will need to be developed to ensure that both quantitative and qualitative measures are available.

Service Evaluation

Ask Us Information Transactions (in person, phone, and online)

  • Quantitative
    • Annual surveys of transactions for the State Report
    • Staff Survey of Information Requests for question type and content
  • Qualitative
    • Patron surveys
    • Comment cards
    • An online tool for staff to record patron trends or requests staff could not fulfill.

Online Content Transactions

  • Quantitative
    • Online use statistics for, mobile app, and other relevant service points
    • Online use statistics for specific databases, online resources and service areas
  • Qualitative
    • Patron surveys
    • Online comments and feedback

Services to Groups – (community events, school visits, public training)

  • Quantitative
    • Program statistics (number of programs offered; program attendance)
    • Group visit statistics (number of group visits hosted; group visit attendance)
  • Qualitative
    • Patron surveys
    • Program evaluations
    • Community Engagement evaluations (staff)

Staff Evaluation

  • Quantitative
    • Hours of relevant training attended
  • Qualitative
    • Patron comments and feedback


This administrative policy is reviewed at minimum every four (4) years by the System Services Division Manager (or designee) in conjunction with the Hennepin County Library Board’s review of the Patron Services Policy. In the event of a significant change in Information Services, the review process may occur more frequently. Upon completion of the review, this policy is revised or reaffirmed.

Policy History

Next review: 07/01/2017
Last reviewed/revised: 07/15/2013
Adopted: 07/15/2013