REFERENCE RESEARCH REVIEW: 2002
An Annual Bibliography highlighting selected works in the literature.
Items selected and annotated by members of the American Library Association, RUSA/MOUSS Research & Statistics Committee (2001-2002):
Eric Novotny, Chair (Pennsylvania State Univ.), Mary F. Casserly (Univ. at Albany), Kathryn M. Crowe (Univ. of North Carolina at Greensboro), Melissa Gross (Florida State Univ.), Rebecca Jackson (Iowa State Univ.), Rochelle Logan (Douglas Public Library District), Matthew L. Saxton (Univ. of Washington), Joan Ellen Stein (Carnegie Mellon Univ.), John S. Spencer (Gonzaga Univ.), Sarah J. Hammill (Florida Int’l Univ.)
Cubbage, Charlotte. (2002). “Do We Really Have an Internet Problem? Statistics, Credibility and Issues Concerning Public Internet Access in Academic Libraries.” Reference Librarian, 75/76, 115-127. Prompted by concern over possible inappropriate use of their computers, librarians at Northwestern University used Kansmen Corporation’s LittleBrother software to anonymously track and analyze Web usage on their public workstations for two-months. The data indicated that greatest use was to pages in the .com domain with the library catalog, e-mail servers and Blackboard courseware receiving the most use as measured by time. This protocol is useful for libraries seeking to make a case for an Internet use policy.
Curtis, Susan, Barbara Mann, and the Cooperative Reference Services Committee. (summer 2002). “Cooperative Reference: Is there a Consortium Model?” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 41(4), 344-349. Reports the result of a survey of 24 ICOLC members conducted in 2000 by RUSA’s Cooperative Reference Services Committee for the purpose of exploring types of cooperative reference initiatives. The researchers describe the responses in terms of initiative purpose, membership, administration, funding, communication, referral process, response time, promotion of service and statistics gathering. The authors advise public services to work within their consortia to pool their reference expertise. (Survey instrument included.)
Fagan, Jody Condit. (spring 2002) “Use of an Academic Library Web Site Search Engine.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 41(3), 244-252. Researchers from Southern Illinois University analyzed the use of their site search engine during 36 days in 2000. Data were collected using perl scripts developed locally and through the manual examination of a smaller group of searches. The analysis covers when site search was used, where the use originated, how queries were worded, and the search results presented and those chosen by the searchers. The results were used to improve SIU’s site search and reference services.
Given, Lisa M. (2002) "The Academic and the Everyday: Investigating the Overlap in Mature Undergraduates' Information-seeking Behaviors." Library & Information Science Research, 24(1), 17-29. Presents analysis of interviews with 25 mature undergraduates from a Canadian University. Participants were at least 21 years old, and returning to formal education after at least a 3-year absence. The desire to save time was a primary motivation. Students reported returning to habitual, comfortable sources of information rather than learning new resources. Interpersonal sources (family, friends, colleagues, etc.) were frequently consulted before more formal information resources. The academic and everyday needs of mature students were densely interwoven. The student's life experiences informed their academic pursuits, while campus resources were utilized for everyday information needs.
Gross, Melissa and Matthew L. Saxton. (2002) "Integrating the Imposed Query into the Evaluation of Reference Service: A Dichotomous Analysis of User Ratings." Library & Information Science Research, 24(3), 251-263. A comparison of user survey data on imposed queries (i.e., where the patron is asking on behalf of someone else) and self-generated queries from 13 public libraries in southern California. Patrons with imposed queries rated service providers more highly on factors such as readiness to help, interest, understanding of the question, and overall satisfaction. The authors speculate that those working for others may be less critical than those with self-generated questions and urge librarians to consider the implications of these findings for staff training, traditional reference interview techniques, and evaluation. (Survey instrument not included)
Harrington, Deborah Lynn and Xiaodong Li. (summer 2002). “Utilizing Web-Based Case Studies for Cutting-Edge Information Services Issues: A Pilot Study.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 41(4), 364-379. Results of a pilot project conducted at Texas A&M University to determine whether the benefits of the case study method of training in the face-to-face environment could be realized in the virtual, synchronous Web environment. After conducting a series of three case studies via moderated conferences using e-Share software, the researchers surveyed the 80 participants. Data were collected on many aspects of the training framework, virtual experience and format comparison. The researchers conclude that the benefits of utilizing the case study method were “overwhelmingly positive.” (Survey instrument included.)
Jackson, Rebecca. (August 2002) “Revolution or Evolution: Reference Planning in ARL Libraries.” Reference Services Review, 30 (3), 212-228. Describes a survey conducted of ARL libraries’ heads of reference to determine how they were responding to the declines in user visits to their reference desks. Most libraries were making incremental changes in response to the change in traffic, which are described in this article, but none were doing anything revolutionary. These findings will be useful to reference departments grappling with similar changes and looking for ways to respond. (Survey instrument is not included but each question is mentioned within the article.)
Janes, Joseph and Chrystie Hill. (fall 2002) “Finger on the Pulse: Librarians Describe Evolving Reference Practice in an Increasingly Digital World.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 41(1), 54-65. An exploratory study of librarians’ experience with the inception, development and implementation of digital reference services. The researchers conducted four preliminary telephone interviews which were used to develop a list of questions posed to all DIG-REF participants. The responses from the 22 participants were analyzed to determine common themes and, using NUDIST software, these themes were contextualized. The researchers identify potential areas of further inquiry related to service policies, quality evaluation and future directions. (Survey instruments included.)
Johnson, Kristin, and Kathleen Carlisle Fountain. (May 2002). “Laying a Foundation for Comparing Departmental Structures between Reference and Instructional Services: Analysis of a Nationwide Survey.” College & Research Libraries, 63 (3), 275-287. Survey of mid-sized university libraries about the organizational structure of their reference and instruction units and perceived advantages and disadvantages of having separate departments. The great majority of libraries in this sample have combined departments; reasons for this vary, but a prime consideration was that reference and instruction are a continuum, with teaching occurring all through the continuum. (Survey instrument not included.)
Kibbee, J., Ward, D., & W. Ma. (February 2002) “Virtual Service, Real Data: Results of a Pilot Study.” Reference Services Review, 30 (1), 25-36. Results of a pilot project to test the feasibility of providing real-time online reference service at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Survey data were gathered on service effectiveness and planning the service to meet users’ needs. Other data came from transaction logs from the chat software provider. Of particular interest to practitioners will be the attention paid to staffing such a service in addition to providing reference desk service. (Survey instrument included.)
Lankes, R. David and Pauline Shostack. (summer 2002). “The Necessity of Real-Time: Fact and Fiction in Digital Reference Systems.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 41(4), 350-355. The researcher analyzes the 1998 and 2000 AskERIC reference service customer service surveys to demonstrate the value of asynchronous services. The data indicate widespread satisfaction with ERIC’s asynchronous service and the researchers used statistics from a 1997-98 survey of AskA services to illustrate the growth of these topical digital services and provide additional evidence of the sufficiency of asynchronous services. The author makes the case that real-time and asynchronous systems will need to coexist. (Survey instruments not included.)
Murdock, Theresa. (winter 2002). "Revising Ready Reference Sites: Listening to Users Through Server Statistics and Query Logs." Reference & User Services Quarterly, 42(2), 155-163. Describes two methods used to evaluate the University of Washington's ready reference web pages. Researchers used Web logs to determine the types of resource (e.g. dictionaries, directories, etc.) most frequently used and identify the most common access pathways. They also analyzed e-mail queries sent from their ready reference pages. Only 10% of these queries could be answered from the sources on the page, while many were inquiries about the location of known-items. The authors discuss changes made to their ready reference pages in response to their findings.
Richardson, John V. Jr. (Apr. 15, 2002) "Reference is Better Than We Thought." Library Journal, 127(7); 41-42. A study of 12 public libraries in southern California that debunks the 55% rule. Finding a deficiency in attention to theory and other problems in previous studies, the researchers sampled over 9,200 people and found that reference librarians recommended an accurate source or an accurate strategy in 90% of the studied cases. (Survey instrument not included)
Ruppel, M & J.C. Fagan. (2002) “Instant Messaging Reference: Users’ Evaluation of Library Chat.” Reference Services Review, 30 (3), 183-197. Measurement and comparison of users’ perceptions of instant messaging reference and traditional reference services at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Discussion of the results includes perceived advantages and disadvantages of each format based on user feedback, and suggests these services are complementary rather than competing. This study will be of value to others considering gathering user feedback on their electronic reference services and can serve as a model for replication. (Survey instrument included.)
Schwartz, Jennifer. (spring 2002) “Internet Access and End-User Needs.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 41(3), 253-263. A study of user search strategies and behaviors at NYU’s General & Humanities Reference Center during two weeks in spring 2000. Reference transaction data on referrals to computer workstations and requests for assistance from workstation users were collected. Workstation users were surveyed about their status, sources used, reference assistance sought, and perceived search ease and success. Most researchers did not seek assistance with computer searching. This study supports other studies’ findings that users are generally satisfied with their searching efforts. (Survey instrument included.)
Simmons, Jennifer L. (2002). “Availability, Accessibility, and Promotion: A Study of Reference Services in Ulster County, New York Public Libraries.” Reference Librarian, vol. 37( 77), 153-165. Surveys were administered to 11 libraries of all sizes to determine what reference services they provided. Data on commuting distances of patrons were also examined. Researchers concluded that the libraries needed to offer longer hours and more remote reference services. A useful method for public libraries to determine reference needs. (Survey instrument not included.)
Tenopir, Carol and Lisa Ennis. (spring 2002) “A Decade of Digital Reference.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 41(3), 264-273. The researchers compare the data collected from the 1991/92, 1994/95, 1997/98 and 2000/01 surveys of ARL Reference Departments. Findings illustrate the shift from mediated to self-service searching, increase in locally loaded databases and the influence of the Web on access to resources, instruction and reference. The study confirms that most libraries offer e-mail reference services (a smaller number offer real-time online reference), the decline of the importance of print reference resources and reference librarians’ perception that their libraries currently offer better reference service than in the past. (Survey instruments not included.)
Webb, Lynn M. (2002), “Availability of Internet Training Program for Elderly Public Library Patrons. “ Reference Librarian, 37( 77), 141-151. Surveys of services to the elderly with an emphasis on Internet training were completed by 60 public libraries in New York State. Results indicate that only a moderate amount of emphasis is placed on such training. A useful study for librarians researching the needs of elderly patrons. (Survey instrument not included.)
Westbrook, Lynn & Steven A. Tucker. (winter 2002). "Understanding Faculty Information Needs: A Process in the Context of Service." Reference & User Services Quarterly, 42(2), 144-148. Reports the results of a community information-needs analysis conducted at Texas Women's University which consisted of an initial set of interviews, followed by the development and distribution of a questionnaire to the faculty. Researchers found high demand for personalized services, table of contents alerting, on-demand information coaching, combined with a desire for greater self-sufficiency. The researchers provide a model of community information-needs analysis that can be used to evaluate existing services and to get feedback on the value of potential new services. (Survey instrument not included.)
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