As academic libraries continue to adapt to meet the needs of new student populations,

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portal: Libraries and the Academy, Vol. 7, No. 1 (2007), pp. 81–96.

Copyright © 2007 by The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD 21218.

User Preferences in Reference

Services: Virtual Reference

and Academic Libraries

Joel Cummings, Lara Cummings, and

Linda Frederiksen

abstract: This study examines the use of chat in an academic library’s user population and where virtual reference services might fit within the spectrum of public services offered by academic libraries. Using questionnaires, this research demonstrates that many within the academic community are open to the idea of chat-based reference or using chat for some loosely defined “research purposes,” but this openness does not necessarily result in high levels of use. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether the lack of virtual reference use could, in part, be explained by students’ preference for competing methods and technologies for obtaining reference assistance. This study demonstrates a pattern that suggests chat-based reference does not compete well with other methods of providing reference service.

A

s academic libraries continue to adapt to meet the needs of new student

popu-lations, traditional service points have also evolved. In response to declining

use statistics,1 reference desks staffed by librarians who meet face-to-face or

by phone with students in a defined physical space are increasingly supplemented by

e-mail, virtual reference, instant messaging services, and Web logs.2 In this changing

environment, how traditional and virtual reference services will be used by the next generation of students remains an area open to inquiry and research.

The ability to communicate with users in a variety of modes is an important one for librarians. It is often cited as a reason that many new services are designed or purchased

and implemented.3 Synchronous chat-based reference is one example of a

communica-tion technology that was enthusiastically accepted by the library community, producing several highly successful digital reference services nationwide. In some cases, however,

interest in providing the service was not always matched by actual use.4 As a result,

a number of these digital reference projects have now been indefinitely suspended or

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During the winter of 2004, librarians at Washington State University (WSU) exam-ined the use of chat-based library assistance in an effort to understand where virtual

reference might fit within the larger array of public service options. The main WSU

campus is located in Pullman, Washington. The university includes three regional

campuses located around the state. Using Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA)

funding, chat-based virtual reference services were implemented on the Pullman and Vancouver campuses as a collaborative pilot project in the fall of 2002. In a previous study by the authors, it was noted that the WSU Libraries digital reference service

received very little use.5 Steve Coffman and Linda Arret noted in a 2004 article series

“To Chat or Not To Chat,” parts I and II, that there was a marked decline in chat refer-ence “patrons,” despite the fact that most of the library chat services had just opened

for business approximately one year prior.6 Many chat services were also discontinued

after only a few short years of business.

This WSU Libraries study expands on those patron use and satisfaction findings.

It examines the use of chat in an academic library’s user population and where virtual

reference services might fit within the spectrum of public services offered by academic

libraries. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether the lack of virtual reference use could, in part, be explained by students’ preference for competing meth-ods and technologies for obtaining reference assistance. Virtual reference as a method of reference service delivery has been considered a new frontier in library service. Unfortunately, recent evidence has shown that, despite the library community’s

en-thusiasm for virtual reference, this mode of providing refer-ence services has not been a universally popular method

with users.The authors noted

in an earlier article that there was a willingness among the academic community to use chat-based reference service for research or questions about the library, but this expressed willingness did not result

in high use of the virtual reference service. We did find that the service was successful

in providing useful answers to questions, and overall satisfaction with the virtual

refer-ence experirefer-ence was high.7

Literature Review

A plethora of articles about virtual, digital, or chat reference can be found in the literature. Many different facets of this popular topic have been discussed previously, including descriptions of implementation, analysis of available chat and virtual reference software, training issues, and evaluation of virtual reference services. With the growth of virtual reference in the late nineties and turn of the millennium, it is not surprising that the library literature has been inundated with articles.

The authors located very few articles about virtual reference that addressed user preferences for potentially competing methods or technologies for obtaining reference

Unfortunately, recent evidence has shown

that, despite the library community’s

en-thusiasm for virtual reference, this mode of

providing reference services has not been a

universally popular method with users.

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assistance. Many of the articles written about virtual reference services use surveys to assess whether to start up a service or to evaluate the success of chat transactions. Two studies were located that sought similar information to our study. One study by Denise Bennett, Pamela Cenzer, and Paul Kirk did so indirectly by requiring students in a particular class to use chat reference software to interact with a librarian, which produced data about whether the students would use the service again. A second study by David Ward at the University of Illinois sought to answer why a user would choose

a chat service.8

To support this current study, the authors limited their literature review to a few topics they thought would be helpful for answering questions about whether a service would be used or not. These included the challenges of marketing, user perceptions, and assessment. As with any service, especially a new service, on-going assessment and marketing efforts of the service after implementation are vital. As Charles McClure et al. point out in their 2002 guidelines, “Understanding the user’s reason for use can play a role in the continuing assessment and development of the marketing of the digital

reference service.”9 Since libraries commit staff time and other resources to such services,

the value to library users must be demonstrated. In the many cases in which virtual reference services are supported by grants, the value must also be demonstrated to the funding agencies. After the study, the researchers conducted a concluding examination of the literature on the subject of the future of digital reference.

Washington State University Libraries Virtual Reference Experience

The Washington State University Libraries experimented with the provision of a virtual

reference service beginning in the fall of 2002. The service was put on an indefinite hold

as of December 2004. During the 2002–2003 initial trial periods of digital reference at the

WSU Pullman campus, only 141 verified digital reference transactions were recorded by

the software. The hours of the service varied from semester to semester and included a range of daytime, evening, and weekend times. In conjunction with an LSTA grant, which brought the Pullman and Vancouver campuses together to provide joint virtual reference service, marketing efforts were stepped up starting during the fall of 2003 until the service came to an end in December 2004. Marketing efforts included give-away items such as pencils with the “Ask a Librarian” online reference service Web address

and bookmarks for both campuses, as well as one aimed specifically at distance degree

students. A poster campaign took place with specially designed posters that were sent to all six WSU Pullman campus libraries, the Vancouver campus library, library

extension offices around Washington State, and a few student service points on both

campuses. The campaign also included prominent placement of virtual reference links throughout the libraries Web site. Despite these efforts, between fall 2003 and July 2004, only 101 real transactions were recorded. There were also an additional 35 sessions that had connection trouble on either the librarian or the patron side; and, as a result, no reference transactions were conducted. During fall semester 2004, the Pullman campus libraries continued the digital reference service on their own, until it was put on hold in December 2004. The Vancouver campus had discontinued the project when the grant funding ran out in July 2004.

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A Digital Challenge: Marketing, User Perceptions, and Assessment

Marketing

In order for any new service to be successful, Doris Small-Helfer believes that “adver-tisement of the service would increase the amount of questions that the library gets” and suggests that placement of logos and buttons for the service on various pages of

the library Web site is integral to promotional efforts.10 The authors found in an earlier

study that users of virtual reference most frequently learned about the service through

the library’s Web site.11 Brenda Bailey-Hainer demonstrates the correlation of media

advertisement and the prominence of links to virtual reference services to the use that

the services receive.12 Ann Marie Breznay and Leslie M. Haas argue that establishing a

budget for the marketing of the service is also an important step in developing a

mar-keting program.13 The authors make a point of arguing that a “key location is the

place-ment of digital reference on the library’s home page. Since many requests for assistance come at point of need, it will be necessary to place icons liberally around the Website, to remind users of the service. Some libraries have icons placed on database portals and

others use pop-up windows asking the patron if they need assistance.”14

In her extensive focus group study of digital reference services, Beth Thomsett-Scott observed that students often did not know about digital or virtual reference services, even though they were frequent users of the library and the library Web site. One of her focus group participants even stated, “Every student should be [made] aware of

the product.”Her participants also suggested several advertising forums including the

library Web site, the university Web site, electronic bulletin boards, e-mail, pop-ups,

and screen savers, as well as traditional paper-based products like banners, flyers, and

brochures explaining the services.15

User Perceptions

There are fewer articles that address the challenge presented by user perceptions, but this could be attributed to the fact that digital reference is still a relatively new service. Joseph E. Straw states, “User expectations are an important consideration when

think-ing about the form of real-time reference.”16 He offers two distinct categories of patron

expectations. The general expectation patrons have is simply to get an answer to the

question or to be shown where to start the research process. Specific expectations digital

patrons have include the librarian introduction, questioning (the reference interview),

and the presentation of information in a helpful manner.17 Thomsett-Scott, in her 2003

focus group study on user perceptions of digital reference, noted that her participants were largely concerned with issues that could be resolved in a frequently-asked-question (FAQ) page about the service: open hours, timeliness of responses, marketing issues,

and what types of questions could be asked.18 The authors noted in an earlier study that

although students are familiar with the chat environment, they are mostly unaware of

chat or digital reference services available at their own libraries.19

Assessment

Assessment of virtual reference services by users is a somewhat problematic issue since most of the data are subjective. There are basically three primary means for collecting

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information regarding user perceptions: utilizing “secret patrons” such as students or other faculty “assigned” to pose questions and rate the responses based on given criteria, analyzing follow-up surveys sent to users after a digital reference transaction, and actually surveying patrons who are users or potential users. The secret patron and

observation method may be significantly flawed, simply because they are not true pa -tron interactions. Although there were several articles in the literature regarding secret patrons, most of the information provided was not about user experiences. Instead, these were studies about the effectiveness of librarians learning to use various digital reference software packages. In surveys of past users of virtual reference services, students may

give inflated predictions of their future use of chat-based reference service. Another

method for evaluating user perceptions is to review transcripts in an attempt to discern

user satisfaction. This method requires a large number of sample transcripts as well as

thorough analysis as seen in a study by Arnold and Kaske.20Thestudy reported hereis

different in that we used a survey methodology that emphasized the user’s perception of chat as an information-seeking tool and where or whether a chat-based reference service

might fit within the array of different reference service methods and technologies.

In their 2003 survey of previous “Ask a Librarian” users, Jessica Bell and April Levy noted that respondents seemed generally positive about the service and showed a

will-ingness to use the service again.21 They referred to Ann Bristow’s 1992 article suggesting

that respondents tend to be overly positive and lack a critical component.22CoreyJohnson

took a look at two different populations in his 2002 study of two academic communities

that had recently introduced chat-based reference services.23 Four percent of his survey

participants selected online chat reference as their first choice for reference assistance, whereas 66 percent chose face-to-face reference services as their first choice, and e-mail reference garnered 20 percent as first choice preference. Johnson’s participants predicted

online chat reference would grow in use over the next 10 years to a 36 percent preference

rate, with face-to-face reference slipping to 19 percent.24 Several studies, including those

done by David Ward at the University of Illinois, Julie Arnold and Neal Kaske at the University of Maryland College Park, and Lisa R. Horowitz et al. at MIT used various means to analyze digital reference user perception and satisfaction but primarily focused

on whether the users of the virtual reference received an accurate answer.25

Current Study

Objectives

The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether the lack of virtual refer-ence use could, in part, be explained by students’ preferrefer-ence for competing methods and technologies for obtaining reference assistance. A secondary goal was to assess the perception of different technologies in the context of information seeking behavior in an academic environment.

Methodology

The authors saw the low use of digital reference services as an opportunity to employ surveys to discover students’ perceptions of digital reference—or chat—and the possible reasons for its failing. A survey was distributed to a variety of locations in January and

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February of 2004 on the Pullman and Vancouver campuses of Washington State Univer-sity. The locations included library instruction classes, the entrance of the Owen Science and Engineering Library on the Pullman campus, and a Pullman campus involvement fair. The WSU Libraries virtual reference service was not mentioned to students during classes in which the survey was to be distributed. The Pullman spring involvement fair included university groups such as clubs and units from within of the WSU organiza-tion. Surveys were handed out at this event from the libraries booth to all those willing to participate. During collection periods, surveys were distributed to all library users entering the Owen Science and Engineering Library.

For comparison purposes, reference will be made also to a survey distributed in

August and September of 2003. This survey focused on perceptions of chat and provides

more background data about chat use and the perceptions of chat use at Washington State University. It should be noted that the earlier survey was discussed by the authors

previously in a 2004 chapter of the Virtual Reference Desk Conference proceedings.26 The

August/September 2003 survey is referred to as survey A, and the survey conducted for this article, distributed in January and February of 2004, is referred to as survey B. Unless otherwise noted, collected data is combined for the Pullman and Vancouver Campuses (see table 1).

Results

Survey B included predominately undergraduates. This can be explained by the choice of different collection venues. Additionally, it included fewer participants from the WSU Vancouver Campus (12.7 percent compared with 36.5 percent in survey A). It must be noted that a very small number of respondents selected more than one category for status (see table 2).

In an attempt to determine the prevalence of chat use, survey B asked how often respondents use online chat. Of those who responded, 42 (31.8 percent) checked “sev-eral times a day,” 33 (25 percent) respondents indicated “most days,” 30 (22.7 percent) chose “a couple of times a week,” and 27 (20.5 percent) chose “very infrequently” (see table 3).

Survey A indicated that online chat was predominantly used for personal reasons.

SurveyBalso demonstrated this pattern, with 143 of all 197respondents (72.6 percent)

using chat for personal reasons within the preceding six months. In survey B, school and work purposes were combined because the investigators thought that the distinction between the two categories was blurred for the population being studied. Seventy-one users (36.0 percent) of all respondents indicated that they had used chat for school or work related reasons. Only 42 users (21.3 percent) of all respondents indicated that they used chat for technical assistance. This category was included to see if chat were being used for a set of services that are vaguely analogous to virtual reference (see table 4).

Awareness of chat-based reference services was very low, although awareness

ap-peared to grow by 7.3 percent in approximately five months between surveys, from 17.4

percent (26 of 149 respondents) in survey A to 24.7 percent (48 of 194 respondents) in

survey B (see table 5).The question used in both surveys, “Would you ever think of using

chat to get help with research, homework, technical support, and so on?” provided the

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Total Number of Responses 178 197 375

Pullman Campus 113 172 285

Vancouver Campus 65 25 90

Chat Users Total 96 (53.9%) 135 (68.5%) 231 (61.6%) Chat User’s—Pullman 68 (60.2%) 121 (70.3%) 189 (66.3%) Chat User’s—Vancouver, WA 28 (39.8%) 14 (56%) 42 (46.7%)

Table 1

Chat Use among Surveyed Populations

Survey A Survey B Combined

Table 2

Status of Respondents

Undergraduates 87 168 255 Graduate Students 63 20 83 Faculty 10 1 11 Staff 11 5 16 Other 7 6 13

Status of Respondents Survey A Survey B Combined

Several Times a Day 42

Most Days 33

A Couple of Times a Week 30

Very Infrequently 27

Table 3

Frequency of Chat Use (Survey B)

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Personal 143 72.6%

School or Work 71 36.0%

Technical Assistance 42 21.3 %

Table 4

Types of Chat Use (Survey B)

All Respondents N=197 100%

Survey A 26 (17.4%) 123 (82.6%) 149

Survey B 48 (24.7%) 146 (75.3%) 194

Totals 74 (21.6%) 269 (78.4%) 343

Table 5

Awareness of Virtual Reference at WSU

Yes No Total

Willing 262 72%

Not Willing 102 28%

Table 5a

Willingness to Use Chat for Research Purposes

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would use chat for these purposes, whereas only102 respondents (28 percent) indicated

that they would not (see table 5a). The surveyBrespondents were asked, “Would you

ever use an Ask a Librarian chat service?”One hundred thirty of 195 respondents to

this questionindicated yes they would. Only 48, however, were aware that WSU offered

such a chat service; and of those, 33 said that they would use it.

Survey B respondents who indicated they would use an Ask a Librarian chat ser-vice were queried what time of day they would be mostly likely to use such a serser-vice (see table 6). The results were analyzed and placed into the four categories of weekday mornings, weekday afternoons, evenings, and weekends. Individual responses were counted in all categories that applied. Evenings were the most popular time respondents predicted they would use a virtual reference service (72 respondents). Comments indi-cated this time period included a range from early evening to very late at night. Also, many respondents predicted they would use this service on weekends (31 respondents), weekday mornings (30 respondents), or weekday afternoons (39 respondents). A no-ticeable pattern among those who indicated that they would use such a service during weekday mornings was that many would use this service before the start of the regularly scheduled classes—often times before the WSU Libraries open (see table 6)

Survey B respondents were asked, “If you were at home or at work and had a

ques-tion about the libraries or library resources, how would you prefer to find an answer to

your question? Rank the following methods from 1 to 7, with 1 being the most favored and 7 being the least favored.” Then a series of options were listed (see table 7). After this question, the survey asked the same question prefaced with “If you were

physi-cally at one of the libraries…” instead of “If you were at home or in your office…” (see

table 8).

According to the Friedman Test, a nonparametric analysis of variance method, there

are significant differences among the rankings of favored approaches (P = 0.00).27 The

least significant difference among the sum of the ranks was 64.62. Multiple comparisons among favored approaches indicated that using the library Web site was significantly

different than all other methods, and chat was different from all other methods as well.

There was neither a significant difference among the preferences for telephone, e-mail,

or reference librarian nor among preferences for e-mail, reference librarian, or asking a friend. The grand median for all methods was 3.583 (see table 7).

When this question was asked of users outside the library, the library Web site was the most favored option. Chat was the least favored of the named methods (see table 7).

Again according to the Friedman Test, there are significant differences among the rankings of favored approaches (P = 0.00). The least significant difference among the sum

of the ranks was 64.62. Multiple comparisons among favored approaches indicated that

asking a librarian, using the library Web site, and asking a friend were all significantly different from all other methods. There was no significant difference between using e-mail and telephone nor was there a significant difference between telephone and chat.

The grand median was 3.500.

When inside the library, asking a reference librarian was the most popular option, using the library Web site declined to the second most preferred method, and asking a

friend was the third most favored option. Chat, although not significantly different than using the telephone, remained last among the specified methods (see table 8).

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Survey B asked, “In the future when/if you are employed/running a business, do you think you will use the following information resources in a work situation?” Four-teen (7.1 percent) of respondents either did not answer this question or did not expect to use any of the named categories in a work situation. Although most of the participants who responded to this question believed that they would use the World Wide Web (166, 90.7 percent), colleagues (153, 83.6 percent), conferences and meetings (156, 85.2 percent), and e-mail (165, 90.2 percent), many believed they would use public libraries

(114,62.3percent) and subject databases (125, 68.3 percent). Smaller percentages would

use chat (87, 47.5 percent), listserves and newsgroups, (86, 47.0 percent), and only 83

All Respondents N=172 Weekday Mornings 30 Weekday Afternoon 39 Evenings 72 Weekends 31

Table 6

Survey B: “What time of day would you use Ask a Librarian?”

Period Number of respondents who predicted use during the time period

Table 7

Survey B: Modes of Reference Service and User Preferences:

Outside of the Library

Median and Sum of Ranks

Chat 176 5.000 793.5

E-mail 176 3.500 607.0

Ask a friend 176 4.250 661.5

Reference Librarian 176 3.500 617.0

Telephone 176 3.000 578.5

Library Web site 176 2.250 438.5

Most Favored = 1; Least Favored = 7; Median = 3.583

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Table 8

Survey B: Modes of Reference Service and User Preferences:

Inside of the Library

Median and Sum of Ranks

Chat 168 5.333 772.5

E-mail 168 4.167 704.5

Ask a Friend 168 3.167 580.5

Reference Librarian 168 1.333 287.0

Telephone 168 4.667 750.5

Library Web site 168 2.333 433.0

1 = Most favored; 7 = Least favored; Median = 3.5

Favored N Estimated Median Sum of Ranks

(45.4 percent) said that they would use university libraries (see table 11). A few of the respondents wrote in comments next to this question that implied that they were under the impression they could or would only use a university library if they were a student or worked at a university. Although many people seem to think they would use chat in a future work environment, it was one of three least popular options.

Discussion

Libraries were early adopters of virtual reference technology, and, for some, the services were successful projects. For others, however, a critical mass of users was never realized, triggering decisions to suspend or discontinue chat-based reference projects. The reasons for this disparity are manifold and

warrant greater study. The authors would argue that user perception of the service is a determining fac-tor in a project’s eventual success or failure.

This study demonstrates that many within the academic envi-ronment are open to the idea of

chat-based reference or using chat for some loosely defined research purposes. This

openness does not translate into a high level of use. This study also demonstrates that chat reference does not compete well against other available reference services. The respondents’ preference for asking questions in an online chat environment did poorly in comparison to other methods and technologies, in part because these other methods of accessing information and assistance appear to be more appealing to library users.

The reasons for this disparity are

mani-fold and warrant greater study. The

au-thors would argue that user perception

of the service is a determining factor in

a project’s eventual success or failure.

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1 17 17 12 70 18 24 6 N=165 2 11 32 35 28 18 37 4 N=167 3 14 25 37 29 33 25 1 N=167 4 15 37 39 16 31 24 2 N=168 5 36 28 29 12 35 29 0 N=174 6 61 17 12 10 27 28 5 N=166 7 11 1 3 5 3 4 56 N=90 N = 165 N = 157 N = 167 N = 170 N = 165 N = 171 N = 74

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All who indicate yes for one category N=183

University Library 83 45.4%

Public Library 114 62.3%

Subject Databases 125 68.3%

World Wide Web 166 90.7%

Listserves and Newsgroups 86 47.0%

Colleagues 153 83.6%

Conferences and Meetings 156 85.2%

E-Mail 165 90.2%

Chat 87 47.5%

Table 11

Future Sources of Information Survey B: Predicted Future Use

There are several possible explanations for this preference. The survey indicated that respondents wanted a chat service to be available over a broad range of times, in-cluding late evenings and early mornings—times outside the standard business hours

and the WSU Libraries staffed reference desk hours. This service would require the

library to join a cooperative service, such as 24/7 Reference Cooperative that would enable Washington State Library users to ask virtual reference questions from libraries

in different time-zones and/or with more service hours.28

Despite a marketing and education campaign to increase awareness of chat-based reference, few users found their way to the Ask a Librarian service, and fewer still re-turned for subsequent visits. Whether technical problems with the software, experienced

on both the librarian and user side, were a decisive factor influencing preference remains

another question for future research. The two surveys demonstrated low awareness of the WSU Libraries virtual reference service within the potential user community. However, if all the prospective WSU users were aware of the virtual reference service it

would have been approximately a five-fold increase in awareness about the WSU virtual

reference service. It is conceivable that such an increase in awareness could result in a proportional increase in use. Even if this conjecture were to prove correct, the use levels would still be very low.

Limited hours of service might be a factor in the low use experienced by this service.

The hours were limited to very small fragments of the week, due primarily to staffing

limitations. This survey showed that respondents had interest in using the service over a broad range of times; respondents mentioned times such as late evenings and early mornings.

For libraries interested in offering an online reference service, one solution may be to take advantage of “free” chat software available through such providers as Yahoo! or AOL. Sarah Houghton and Aaron Schmidt published a comparative study of Web-based chat versus instant messaging (IM), in which IM was favored Web-based on speed, cost,

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and training issues.29 For many libraries, including those in the WSU Libraries system,

e-mail reference is a viable alternative. It remains to be seen if Web logs and emerging

social networking technologies will find a place in the teaching, learning, and research

environment and whether academic libraries will be welcomed there.

In his 2003 introduction for the conference proceedings of the 2001 Virtual Reference Desk Conference in Orlando, Florida, R. David Lankes asked, “Where are the users?”30 Steve Coffman, an early champion of digital reference, published a two-part series with Linda Arret titled “To Chat or Not to Chat?” He highlighted the escalating price of digital reference services in comparison to very low statistics, even from the large consortium digital reference groupings, asking, “So, just how much is chat reference worth to us?”31

Coffman’s analysis mirrors the research reported here with the conclusion, “The general public has yet to accept chat as a means of communications for business dealings and other formal transactions.”32

With the continual changes wrought by technological innovation, the examination

of how reference services will be conducted in the future is central for public services in libraries. Which technologies and how they will be employed to meet the needs of

library users remain areas in need of analysis and study.

Acknowledgment

Statistical analysis was provided by Rich Alldredge, PhD, of the Washington State University Department of Statistics.

Joel Cummings is collection manager for agriculture, engineering, and the sciences, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA: he may be contacted via e-mail at: jcummings@wsu.edu. Lara Cummings is instruction librarian, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA; she may be contacted via e-mail at: lursin@wsu.edu.

Linda Frederiksen is access services librarian, Washington State University Vancouver Library, Vancouver, WA; she may be contacted via e-mail at: frederik@vancouver.wsu.edu.

Notes

1. Martha Kyrillidou and Mark Young, “ARL Library Trends,” Association of Research Libraries (2004), http://www.arl.org/stats/arlstat/04pub/04intro.html (accessed October 1, 2006).

2. Randy Reichardt and Geoffrey Harder, “Web logs: Their Use and Application in Science and Technology Libraries,” Science & Technology Libraries 25, 3 (2005): 105–16.

3. Anne Grodzins Lipow, The Virtual Reference Librarian’s Handbook (New York:

Neal-Schuman, 2003).

4. Laura K. Probst, “Digital Reference Management: A Penn State Case Study,” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 10, 2 (2005): 43–59.

5. Linda Frederiksen, Joel Cummings, and Lara Ursin, “User Perceptions and Virtual Reference Services,” in The Virtual Reference Experience Theory Into Practice, ed. R. David Lankes et al. (New York: Neal Schuman, 2004): 43–61.

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6. Steve Coffman and Linda Arret, “To Chat or Not to Chat: Taking Another Look at Digital Reference, Part 2,” Searcher 12, 8 (September 2004): 49–56; Coffman and Arret, To Chat or Not to Chat: Taking Another Look at Digital Reference, Part 1,” Searcher 12, 7 (July/August 2004): 38–46.

7. Frederiksen, Cummings, and Ursin.

8. Denise Beaubien Bennett, Pamela S. Cenzer, and Paul Kirk, “A Class Assignment Requiring Chat-Based Reference” Reference and User Services Quarterly 44, 2 (Winter 2004): 149–63; David Ward, “Why Users Choose Chat: A Survey of Behavior and Motivations,” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 10, 1 (2005) 29–46.

9. Charles R. McClure et al., “Statistics, Measures and Quality Standards for Assessing Digital Reference Library Services: Guidelines and Procedures (Syracuse, NY: Information Institute of Syracuse, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University; Tallahassee, FL: School of Information Studies, Information Use Management and Policy Institute, Florida State University, 2002).

10. Doris Small-Hefler, “Virtual Reference in Libraries: Status and Issues,” Searcher 11, 2 (February 2003): 64.

11. Frederiksen, Cummings, and Ursin.

12. Brenda Bailey-Hainer, “Virtual Reference: Alive and Well,” Library Journal 130, 1 (January 2005): 46–7.

13. Ann Marie Breznay and Leslie M. Haas, “A Checklist for Starting and Operating a Digital Reference Desk,” The Reference Librarian 79/80 (November 2003): 101–12.

14. Ibid., 108.

15. Beth Thomsett-Scott, “If You Ask, I Will Tell You: Future Users of Virtual Reference Share Their Thoughts on the Design, Operation, and Marketing of Virtual Reference,” in The Virtual Reference Experience, 78.

16. Joseph E. Straw, “Expecting the Stars, But Getting the Moon: Negotiating Around Patron Expectations in the Digital Reference Environment,” in The Virtual Reference Experience, 100. 17. Ibid., 100–2.

18. Thomsett-Scott, 63–86.

19. Frederiksen, Cummings, and Ursin.

20. Julie Arnold and Neal Kaske. “Evaluating the Quality of a Chat Service,” portal: Libraries and the Academy 5, 2 (2005): 177–93.

21. Jessica G. Bell and April P. Levy, “Making the Digital Connection More Personal” in The Virtual Reference Experience, 139–61.

22. AnnBristow, “Academic Reference Service Over Electronic Mail: At Indiana University,” College & Research Libraries News 10 (November 1992): 631–2.

23. Corey M. Johnson, “Online Chat Reference: Survey Results from Affiliates of Two Universities,” Reference and User Services Quarterly 43, 3 (Spring 2004): 237–47. 24. Ibid., 241.

25. David Ward, “Measuring the Completeness of Reference Transactions in Online Chats,” Reference and User Services Quarterly 44, 1 (Fall 2004): 46–56; Lisa R. Horowitz, Patricia A. Flanagan, and Deborah L. Helman, “The Viability of Live Online Reference: An Assessment,” portal: Libraries and the Academy 5, 2 (2005): 239–58; and Arnold and Kaske. 26. Frederiksen, Cummings, and Ursin.

27. W. J. Conover, Practical Nonparametric Statistics, 2nd ed. (New York: Wiley, 1980), 300. 28. Question Point 24/7 Reference Services, “Frequently Asked Questions About the

24/7 Reference Cooperative,” OCLC Online Computer Library Center, http://www. questionpoint.org/community/TransitionTaskForce/FAQ_247.htm (accessed November 7, 2006).

29. Sarah Houghton and Aaron Schmidt, “Web-based Chat vs. Instant Messaging: Who Wins?” Online 24, 4 (July/August 2005): 26–30.

30. R. David Lankes, “Introduction,” in Implementing Digital Reference Services: Setting Standards and Making It Real, ed. R. David Lankes et al. (New York: Neal Schuman, 2003), 1.

31. Coffman and Arret, “To Chat or Not to Chat, Part 2,” 56. 32. Ibid., 42.

Figure

Table 9 Survey B: Modes of Reference Service and User Preferences: Outside of the Library: Survey Data   Ranked Preference                  Chat                  Telephone                  E-mail                   Web site                  Ask a friend

Table 9

Survey B: Modes of Reference Service and User Preferences: Outside of the Library: Survey Data Ranked Preference Chat Telephone E-mail Web site Ask a friend p.13
Table 10 Survey B: Modes of Reference Service and User Preferences: Inside of the Library: Survey Data                                                                         Reference Librarian	 Ranked Preference                  Chat                 Tele

Table 10

Survey B: Modes of Reference Service and User Preferences: Inside of the Library: Survey Data Reference Librarian Ranked Preference Chat Tele p.14

References