Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time, Seventh Edition: Thinking Your Way from Problem to Solution

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  • Description
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When people want to satisfy their immediate curiosity they’re much more likely to use a search engine on their mobile device than ask their local library. But while the days of personal intervention in this kind of enquiry are inevitably numbered, the professional skills that underpin them are not. This book uses technology as the enabler of the thought processes that information professionals need to engage in when answering enquiries, and makes the case that new technology, far from making them irrelevant, raises the skill stakes for all.

Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time is designed to guide information professionals through all the stages of research, from finding out what the enquirer really wants, to providing a polished, value-added answer.

Now in its seventh edition, this book is fully updated to cover new skills, such as

  • employing critical thinking to manipulate, categorize; and prioritize raw search results;
  • using strategic reading and abstracting techniques to identify and summarize the essential information the enquirer needs from the retrieved documents;
  • drawing on established storytelling practice to present research results effectively, whether orally or in writing; and
  • working to the POWER model: plan, organize, write, edit, review.

This book is ideal for anyone who has to answer enquiries from users in any information role; those working in contact centers who are dealing with information enquiries, processing transactions or troubleshooting technical issues; and information professionals working on enquiry desks in large or small academic, public, school or special libraries.

Introduction: Why thinking skills matter


Eight essential thinking skills for successful enquiry answering

1 What do they really want?

Using your analytical thinking skills to understand the question

Avoiding misunderstandings

Asking the right questions

Does all this really work?

Agreeing the task

Finding out how long you’ve got

Coming next – when the enquirer’s not there

2 Why remote enquiry handling is different

Anticipating problems by thinking emphathetically

Can’t see, can’t hear – the risk of misunderstanding, even offence

Keeping your remote enquirer on-side

Keeping good records

Coming next – avoiding panic, thinking on your feet

3 Getting started

Dealing with the panic by thinking imaginatively

Imagining the final answer

Choosing the best type of source and delivery medium

Does all this really work?

Identifying actual sources

Coming next – smarter searching

4 Smarter searching

Developing efficient search strategies by thinking systematically

Who needs to be able to search smarter?

Working out your search strategy

Searching systematically

Making the most of indexes

Electronic search tools

Reading strategically

Making sure that what you find is reliable

Coming next – even more things that can go wrong

5 Help! Everything’s going wrong

Using lateral thinking to get out of difficulties

Vital versus urgent tasks

Your working timetable

Managing expectations

Plan B


Coming next – adding value

6 Success! Now let’s add some value

Using your creative thinking skills to present your answer well

Quality-checking your answer

Presenting your answer – orally

Presenting your answer – in writing

Copyright, licensing, ethics

Has the answer arrived – and does the enquirer like it?

Sign-off: what can we learn from this enquiry?

Coming next – adding even more value

7 Don’t just give me another reading list!

Using critical thinking skills to add further value to your answer


Making your search results manipulable

Selecting, rejecting, prioritizing 140

Strategic reading – finding the best bits of each document

Capturing the content for your report

Now you’re ready to write!

Making sure your work gets read and valued

Coming next – choosing your toolkit

8 Choosing your toolkit

Using your predictive thinking skills to determine the resources you’ll need

Making best use of your Time, Intellect and Money

Keeping track of your enquiries

Discovering information in your own resources (and beyond)

Choosing and using the right search engine

Adding value to your search results

Starter Sources

Your goal: successful enquiry answering – every time


Tim Buckley Owen

Tim Buckley Owen is an independent writer and trainer with over 40 years' experience of information work, at Westminster Central Reference Library, the City Business Library, and as Principal Information Officer at the London Research Center. He has also held strategic media and communications posts at Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP); the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council; and the Library & Information Commission.

"Owen is incredibly thorough in this exhaustive presentation of strategies and different outlets for research, which is what makes this text a strong pick for any information professional, but particularly for students developing their search strategies and those in academic, medical and special library fields."