10th Annual Reference Research Forum

2004 ALA Annual Conference, Orlando, Florida

Sunday, June 27, 2004, 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Plaza International: Ballroom C

Does the Medium Matter?  A Comparative Analysis of Openings in Face –to-Face and Computer Mediated Reference Interactions. 
Presented by Cornell University Research Team:  Virginia Cole, Reference & Digital Services Librarian, Olin & Uris Libraries;  Nan Hyland, Public Services Librarian, Mann Library

Do patrons behave differently in an online reference interaction than they do in-person, and if so, how are these differences manifested?  A research team from Cornell University digitally recorded a day of in-person and phone reference interactions (chat and email transcripts were automatically captured by the application software).  Our analysis focuses specifically on the initial stages of reference interactions, i.e. “approachability” and “interest” in the 1996 RUSA Behavioral Guidelines, or “entries” in the theory of interpersonal communication.  The snapshot of reference in the 21st century that our transcripts provide and our analysis of the transcripts can significantly impact reference service.

“Hmmm… just a moment while I keep looking:” Interpersonal Communication in Chat Reference
Presented by Marie Radford, Ph.D., Acting Dean Pratt Institute, SILS and  Joseph Thompson, Project Coordinator: Maryland AskUsNow! Information Services Department, Baltimore County Public Library

Practitioners and researchers charged with evaluating chat reference services are being faced by new challenges.  What relational dimensions are present in transcripts?  This study explores the quality of the interpersonal aspects of these services, including compensation for lack of nonverbal cues and differences in the relational patterns of chat users and librarians.  A random sample of 200 anonymous transcripts from a statewide service has undergone in-depth qualitative analysis.  Some interpersonal skills important to face-to-face reference success are present here in modified form.  Practical implications for service development and training will be determined and recommendations for improvement will be shared.

A Longitudinal and Qualitative Study of Student Information-seeking Behaviors, Attitudes and Skill Development
Presented by  Kathlin L. Ray, Assistant Dean, University Library, University of the Pacific

In an effort to learn more about college students' information seeking behaviors, the Library at the University of the Pacific initiated a study a longitudinal study. We chose a longitudinal and qualitative methodology in order to examine the development of research skills over time and to freely explore student attitudes, behaviors and skills in some detail.  After completing three years of annual interviews with our cohort of 18 undergraduate students, we have gained valuable insights into student approaches to finding information and their skill development, and will share preliminary findings at this presentation.