In recent years, reference student assistants have been assigned both more time at the reference desk and increasingly complex tasks. Reasons for this increasing reliance on student assistants include growing demands on the time of reference librarians, attempts to use staff more effectively, and concerns about the image of professional librarians. This reliance has necessitated effective training. The management literature shows that professional trainers have long relied on such active learning methods as role‐playing. In this article, Sheets briefly reviews the literature, then describes a role‐playing exercise that has been used successfully to train reference student assistants. She gives sample questions and make suggestions for conducting effective role‐playing sessions.
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