Information services guidelines

Last updated:  28 March 2024

G6. Information and readers’ advisory services


To offer information and readers’ advisory services to all library customers. To ensure that these services provide customers with the information and/or reading materials that suit their requirements in an appropriate time frame. To offer education programs to support information and digital literacy, and effective use of library resources and facilities.

Reference and information services are core components of public library services as set out in the Library Act 1939 s10 and the Guidelines to s10.

This guideline should be read in conjunction with G21. Customer service.


Information requests

Include contacts with a library customer where the service that is provided is predominantly informational/instructional, including information and referral services, by a member of the library staff.

Information sources include printed and non-printed materials, databases, online resources, catalogues, referral to other libraries, institutions, and people inside and outside the library.  

The request may come in any form including in person, by phone, mail, email or social media from an adult or a child.

Information requests include:  

  • author/title: requests to locate or reserve a specific title or the works by a specific author (in-house and ILL)  
  • general subject: requests for non-fiction subjects or fiction for information
  • readers advisory: requests for fiction or non-fiction subjects for leisure  
  • local studies: requests for information, photographs, maps, books, newspapers, journals or other materials that concern the local area.  
  • genealogy: requests for assistance with finding genealogy or family history information for people tracing their family history.  
  • community information: requests for information on, or direction to, services, program, activities, or facilities whether provided by the library or council, other government, community, commercial or any other group
  • literacy/ESL: requests for material to assist with literacy or English language learning
  • community languages: requests for books, newspapers or other material in a language other than English including material on-loan from the State Library of NSW or other library services
  • technology instruction: requests for instruction/guidance with the use of technology for: information purposes (for example to search the internet or access an eresource); communication purposes (for example providing instruction for the basics of online communication including email, Word and scanning); to access library services through online portals (for example borrowing ebooks/emagazines, articles); to access external services through online portals (for example registering with and utilising government services)
Readers’ advisory work

Rewarding Reading, the training program for readers’ advisers, developed for the State Library of New South Wales and presented across Australia and New Zealand since 2005 uses the following definition:

‘A readers’ advisory service is one in which knowledgeable, non-judgemental library staff help readers with their leisure reading needs. Using knowledge of fiction and non-fiction material, familiarity with the library collection, and print and electronic reference tools, the readers’ adviser helps the reader answer the question ‘What do I read next?’ The service includes suggesting new or unfamiliar authors and topics or genres, interesting casual readers in more systematic reading, maintaining contacts with local educational agencies, promoting reading and encouraging use of the library service.’

Reader education or user education

To provide individuals and/or groups with advice on using the library’s facilities and services; training programs in the use of information technology; information and digital literacy programs. A reader education program may be formal tuition in an aspect of library service, information technology or digital literacy, or as informal as a booking for one or two people for a ‘how to use the internet’ session. 



Appropriately skilled and trained staff deal with information and readers’ advisory requests.

Library staff are proactive in offering assistance and promoting services and resources to customers.

Library collections and electronic resources support the provision of information by library staff in response to requests for information and recreational material.

Information services are accessible to library customers onsite and electronically.

When appropriate for content and the community served, library delivers customer education and help services online via its website.

Appropriately trained staff provide customer education programs.

Reader education programs and activities in the library are appropriately advertised and promoted.

Appropriate community information database/s are developed and/or used for information service delivery.

Interlibrary loan services are used to support information service delivery.

Signage in library buildings is used to facilitate access to information and readers’ advisory services.

High quality informational, directional, instructional and promotional material is used/provided.

Interior layout and furniture facilitate side-by-side options for staff assistance to readers, particularly when demonstrating online services.

Appropriate training in information service, technology assistance and readers’ advisory work and procedures are provided to all staff.

Staff have a responsibility to maintain their reference and readers advisory skills and knowledge to a professional standard by participating in training and self-development/education.

Regular statistics of enquiries are recorded, sampling is a valid methodology.

Suggested performance indicators

  • number of reservations per annum
  • number of requests per annum involving all aspects of library services onsite and electronically:  
  • information requests  
  • readers’ advisory requests
  • community information enquiries
  • council services enquiries
  • number of reader education and training programs offered per annum
  • attendance numbers of library customers at public reader education and other training programs per annum
  • satisfaction rate for reader education and other training programs.
Points to consider

In measuring performance of information and readers’ advisory services, it is recommended that the following guidelines be applied when counting completed information requests.

Count all information requests. An information request is defined as any enquiry which involves the knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more informational sources, including information and referral services, by a member of the library staff. Information sources include printed and non-printed materials, databases, online resources, catalogues, referral to other libraries, institutions and people inside and outside the library.

Information requests include enquiries on:

  • author / title or other details
  • subjects
  • local studies
  • genealogy
  • community information
  • literacy / ESL resources
  • community language resources
  • technology instruction

Customer service requests should be counted separately. These include any enquiries that are not counted under the definition of an information request provided above. Examples include changing a customer’s registration details or helping customers with equipment, PC bookings, wireless inquiries, and directional inquiries.  

Do not count:  

  • issuing of loans  
  • accepting items for return.
  • Interlibrary loans and document delivery

G7. Interlibrary loans and document delivery


To facilitate access by the local community to resources held in other Australian library and information services collections. Libraries use interlibrary loans to supplement, but not supplant, local collection development.


Provision, whenever possible, of a free or cost recovery interlibrary loan (ILL) service to customers.

NSW public libraries should follow the Australian Interlibrary Resource Sharing (ILRS) Code 2023

Technology is used appropriately to expedite interlibrary loans.

Simple workflows and/or automated ILL processes which interface with library system software are used to expedite ILLs.

Interlibrary loan staff are trained in latest ILL technological developments and kept up-to-date with document delivery/ILL trends through involvement in the NSW public library network.

Library holdings are added to and maintained on union catalogues.

Cooperative agreements are implemented with key requesting and supplying libraries, where possible.

Suggested performance indicators  

  • proportion of total ILLs supplied within timeframes specified within the ILRS Code
  • proportion of total requested ILLs received within time