REFERENCE RESEARCH REVIEW: 2007
An annual bibliography highlighting selected works in the literature
Items selected and annotated by members of the American Library Association, RUSA/RRS Research & Statistics Committee (2007-2008): Anne C. Moore, Chair (University of Massachusetts-Amherst), Janelle M. Hedstrom (Univ. of Texas, Austin), Ellen Safley (University of Texas at Dallas), Betsy Hageman (National Assoc. of Chain Drug Stores), Char Booth (Ohio University), Heather Tunender (CSU-Fullerton), Rebecca Pressman (Rutgers University) , Girija Venkat (Hampton University), David Ward (University of Illinois, Urbana), Linda Shippert, (Washington State University), Luke Vilelle (Hollins, University), Liane Luckman (Chicago Public), Holly McCullough (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh)
Agosto, D., & Anderton, H. Whatever happened to "always cite the source?". Reference & User Services Quarterly, 47(1), 44-54.
The study tested the frequency of source attribution in telephone reference transactions at major public library systems in the United States. Posing as patrons, the authors asked a series of questions to determine how often library workers cited the sources of information as they provided answers. Results indicate that roughly 70% of respondents failed to provide attribution, and that the accuracy of correct answers was higher than reported in previous studies.
Alling, E., & Naismith, R. (2007). Protocol analysis of a federated search tool: Designing for users. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 12(1/2), 195-210.
Reports on the findings of usability testing conducted on ENCompass for Resource Access, Endeavor's federated searching tool. The authors describe their use of protocol (think-aloud) analysis and categorize their findings in areas such as unfamiliarity with terms or navigation from screen to screen. Changes to the existing ENCompass interface improved usability, and general reflections on the authors' experiences with usability testing are also given.
Bracke, M. S., Brewer, M., Huff-Eibl, R., Lee, D. R., Mitchell, R., & Ray, M. (2007). Finding information in a new landscape: Developing new service and staffing models for mediated information services. College & Research Libraries, 68(3), 248-267.
This case study from the University of Arizona presents a multi-faceted approach to re-evaluating and redesigning information and referral services. Actions taken in the evaluation process included logging questions asked at service points, surveying customers to assess satisfaction, and calculating the costs of information and referral services. The results led the investigators to combine desks, to reduce professional staff’s desk hours, and to create a web-based referral system. Follow-up customer surveys showed no reduction in perceived quality. Survey instruments are included as appendices.
Colson, J. (2007). Determining use of an academic library reference collection. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 47(2), 168-175.
To determine adequate collection management practices for a university reference collection, the author created a five-year study to track material use patterns. The results revealed widely varying use patterns for reference material - 35% of collection items were never used, while 65% were used at least once during the five-year period. Contrary to the results of other findings, this article reports a 40% rise in the use of print reference material over the period of the study. The author provides a brief overview of usage patterns by material type and classification.
Crawford, G. A., & Feldt, J. (2007). An analysis of the literature on instruction in academic libraries. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 46(3), 77-87.
Through a longitudinal study this article tracked published literature on academic library instruction over a 30-year period in order to determine leading journals, typical article types, and changes in publication frequency over time. The authors found that articles dealing with library instruction were typically in essay form, while research-based articles tended to use chi-square and t-tests as their method. The article also lists the top publications in the field of library instruction, and discusses the relative lack of "high-quality" research in the field of library instruction and in the library literature overall.
Cummings, J., Cummings, C., & Frederiksen, L. (2007). User preferences in reference services: Virtual reference and academic libraries. Portal, 7(1), 81-96.
Examines the decline in use of chat reference on two campuses of Washington State University, and explores the role of competing technologies and services on its popularity. They used a survey to analyze awareness of chat service and willingness to use it, which was compared to a similar survey done the previous year (2003). Results included a user preference for other methods of reference service (i.e. talking to reference librarians or using the library web site) over chat reference. The study is valuable for analyzing user choices in seeking research assistance, and for highlighting reasons for failure of chat reference services, despite environments where users express high interest in these services.
Erdman, J. (2007). Reference in a 3-D virtual world: Preliminary observations on library outreach in “Second Life”. Reference Librarian, 47(98), 29-39.
This article looks at the similarities and differences between “virtual world” reference, other forms of virtual reference, and face-to-face reference services. Challenges and advantages of virtual world reference, specifically in the Second Life environment, are discussed.
Gremmels, G. S., & Lehmann, K. S. (2007). Assessment of student learning from reference service. College & Research Libraries, 68(6), 488-501.
The investigators asked both students and librarians to fill out a survey immediately following reference transactions. The investigators found that most students understood the reference encounter as instructional, and the student “sometimes” learned what the reference librarian intended to teach. The study also explored whether the reference transaction related to or built on instruction from previous information literacy sessions, but few of the students reported receiving instruction for the assignment they were working on. The survey instruments are included as appendices.
Hill, J., Hill, C., & Sherman, D. (2007). Text messaging in an academic library: Integrating SMS into digital reference. Reference Librarian, 47(97), 17-29.
This article examines the use of text messaging for virtual reference at Sims Memorial Library at Southeastern Louisiana University. Although a low percentage of research requests were received via text message, they found they were able to reach a different population. Use of text for reference is still in its infancy but merits consideration as part of a virtual reference service.
Hill, J.B. , Madarash-Hill, C., & Allred, A. (2007). Outsourcing digital reference: The user perspective. Reference Librarian, 47(98), 57-74.
In 2003, Southeastern Louisiana University began outsourcing some of their virtual reference services. Through an analysis of outsourced reference sessions and the use of a patron exit survey, user satisfaction with outsourced virtual reference was measured. The patron survey is included.
Leykam, A., & Perkins, C. (2007). Is this the right tool for our library? A look at e-mail virtual reference use patterns. Reference Librarian, 48(1), 1-17.
This article examines use patterns of e-mail reference at the College of Staten Island Library. Main findings were that the special features of OCLC QuestionPoint were underutilized by both library staff and users and that questions received over the weekend had a much longer response time than those received on weekdays. Use of a regular e-mail solution and an increase in weekend staffing for virtual reference is presented as an alternative.
Marshall, A., Burns, V., & Briden, J. (2007). Know your students. Library Journal, 132(18), 26-29.
The article describes a two-year ethnographic study of their undergraduate student population, revealing the students’ daily activities and relationship with the library. Conducted under the guidance of an anthropologist, teams of librarians and staff interviewed undergraduate students, held design workshops, and conducted observation exercises, in addition to photo surveys and mapping diaries (no instruments were included). Findings were incorporated into an expanded reference service, a bolder outreach to faculty and students, and an invigorated and motivated staff
McCain, C. (2007). Telephone calls received at an academic library's reference desk: A new analysis. Reference Librarian, 47(98), 5-16.
To evaluate claims that most questions at a library’s reference desk do not require the assistance of a professional librarian, and to determine if such is also the case for phone reference, the author tracked all reference questions to which she responded over two years. Analysis of the types of questions she received by phone confirm that most telephone calls could be fielded by well-trained students or staff.
Mon, L., & Janes, J. (2007). The thank you study: user feedback in E-mail thank you messages. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 46(4), 53-59.
This exploratory study analyzed a series of unsolicited thank-you messages received from email reference users in order to gain insight into the characteristics of effective email reference transactions. Transcripts of thanked and non-thanked messages were compared. The authors report an overall thank-you message rate of roughly 15%, and found that reference email length was the best motivator of user thanks. Factors such as librarian thanks and email reference format did not affect the user thanks rate.
Mosley, P. A. (2007). Assessing user interactions at the desk nearest the front door. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 47(2), 159-167.
This study analyzes questions received and responses given at the service desk located closest to the entrance doors of a large academic library. The study was created to determine the character of information sought at the first point of assistance in a library. The author reports on current information needs and discusses implications for staffing models, desk arrangements, and signage/communications
Nicholson, S., & Lankes, R. D. (2007). The digital reference electronic warehouse project: Creating the infrastructure for digital reference research through a multidisciplinary knowledge base. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 46(3), 45-59.
This article presents the results of a survey aimed at establishing a fielded searchable knowledgebase of digital reference transactions. Survey participants were asked demographic questions about electronic reference services and other information that would assist the authors in developing search fields for a Digital Reference Electronic Warehouse (DREW). Survey findings are discussed and preliminary steps towards developing a DREW are presented.
Novotny, E., & Rimland, E. (2007). Using the Wisconsin-Ohio reference evaluation program (WOREP) to improve training and reference services. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(3), 382-392.
Discusses best practices for providing quality service at reference desk by using two surveys conducted in the Pennsylvania State University Libraries using the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program survey as the instrument. The WOREP Survey Instrument was used and is included in the article. There is a growing recognition of the importance of quality reference and a commitment to providing quality reference service is given high priority in most institutions. This article provides best practices for delivering quality reference service at the reference desk.
Shachaf, P., & Snyder, M. (2007). The relationship between cultural diversity and user needs in virtual reference. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(3), 361-367.
This article examines cultural diversity and user needs in virtual reference services and analyzing the similarities and differences between non-traditional Caucasian and African American
Shachaf, P., Meho, L. I., & Hara, N. (March 2007). Cross-cultural analysis of e-mail reference. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 33(2), 243-253.
This article examines collaborative online reference services global virtual reference services in three non-English speaking countries: Israel, Japan, and Lebanon. It highlights elements that international collaborative initiatives must consider when implementing this service. The researchers examined email reference transactions in the University of Haifa, Keio University, and the American University of Beirut. They then analyze the data and discuss the content analysis method used to analyze the transactions. Tables and figures with results are provided.
Smith, C. (2007). Meta-assessment of online research guides usage. Reference Librarian, 47(97), 79-93.
This study examines one method of meta-assessment for evaluating the use and efficacy of online research guides. Use of a multiple regression model is used to compare actual usage rates with potential usage, and allows for differences in size and quality of the guides. Use of this tool can identify “underachieving” guides and therefore identify areas needing updating or improvement.
Steiner, S.K., & Long, C. M. (2007). What are we afraid of? A survey of librarian opinions and misconceptions regarding instant messenger. Reference Librarian, 47(97), 31-50.
This study examined librarian attitudes regarding the use of Instant Messaging and chat reference in libraries. More than half of the surveyed libraries offer or plan to offer it. The survey instrument is included.
Tang, R., Hsieh-Yee, I., & Zhang, S. (2007). User perceptions of MetaLib combined search: An investigation of how users make sense of federated searching. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 12(1/2), 211-236.
Using a survey instrument the authors tracked student and librarian perceptions of the MetaLib Combined Search (MCS) federated search tool. Findings indicate that student users of the Washington Research Library Consortium MCS perceived the tool as a full-text locator, while librarians viewed it as limited in ability and an overall "disappointment. Both groups desired more information about the service. The article discusses the implications of these findings for usability, design, and information literacy instruction.
Welch, J. M. (2007). Click and be counted: A new standard for reference statistics. Reference Librarian, 47(97), 95-104.
This article examines the NISO Z39.7-2004 standard “Information Services and Use: Metrics and statistics for library and information.” The importance of gathering statistics on virtual transactions is discussed.