Behavioral models

Material in this section is borrowed and adapted from a PBworks collaboration site 

Merriam-Webster Online defines "behavior" as: The manner of conducting oneself, Anything that an organism does involving action and response to stimulation, and/or The way in which something functions or operates.

Early Roots
The Behavioral Model is used as a theory of measurement in Information Seeking Behavior. This model has its roots in the field of psychology, particularly the work of J.B. Watson. Watson's school of Behaviorism was logically based and focused on empiricism, determinism, and analysis. Though it has evolved and branched off over time, the behavior model is primarily concerned with observable behavior that can be measured and recorded, based on the relationship between stimulus and response, and the idea that behavior can be learned.

In Research on Reference Transaction, Richardson (1992) discusses the fact that reference librarians’ processes in reference transactions tend to fall into one of three models – Behavioral, being the dominant, followed by Cognitive Models, and finally Affective Models.

What makes the Behavioral Model ideal in reference studies is that relationships from information seeking behavior and reference transactions can physically be observed, measured, learned, and then repeated (if necessary).

Reference Transactions
The reference desk is thought to be the primary functioning part of the library. Reference librarians are responsible for a great service to the public as well as maintaining a good public relationship. Previous studies have led to countless lists of behaviors that reference librarians should follow to ensure an effective reference transaction. Eckwright, Hoskisson, et al (1998) make a point to list out appropriate reference etiquette that should be apparent in every reference librarian's behavior, such as not bringing other work to the reference desk, being prepared, immediate eye contact with the user, taking the initiative, implementing transactions beyond the reference desk throughout other parts of the library, letting users decide amongst themselves who will be helped next, not assuming what question the user is going to ask before he/she has finished speaking, and communicating effectively

In her article, Reference and Resources: The Human Side, Sara Fine asserts that “Reference is about how users and librarians behave in their respective roles, and about how each responds to the complexities of the other's behavior in their joint information-seeking endeavor” and that “The real issue is that being aware of the way people really behave, not the way we think they behave or pretend they behave or wish they would behave, allows librarians and information professionals to see themselves and their users more clearly” (1995).

Criticism of the Behavioral Model
The primary criticism of the Behavioral Model is that it tends to give the impression of dehumanizing the individual, oversimplifying, when only concerned with the behaviors one can observe, and not the feelings (Affective) or thought processes (Cognitive). Despite the criticism, the Behavioral Model is often used in reference studies due to the ease of measurement and observation. It is important to remember that one model is not better than the other. When the different aspects of measurement and study are taken into account, the models are all relevant and should each be addressed.

Eckwright, G., Hoskisson, T., & Pollastro, M. (1998). Reference etiquette: a guide to excruciatingly correct behavior. American Libraries 29.n5 (May 1998): 42(4). Expanded Academic ASAP. Thomson Gale. UC Los Angeles.

Fine, S. (1995). Reference and resources: The human side. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 21, 17-20.

Kimble, G. (2004). Behaviorism. In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2006 from

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (2006). Retrieved November 2, 2006, from

Parot, F. (2004). History of Behaviorism. In International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences. Retrieved November 2, 2006 from

Richardson, J. V. Jr. (2002). The Current State of Research on Reference Transactions. In F. C. Lynden (Ed.), Advances in Librarianship, (Vol. 26, pp. 175-230). San Diego: Academic Press.