Annual Reference Research Forum


Hosted by the RUSA Reference Services Section (RSS) Research and Statistics committee, the Reference Research Forum is held each year at ALA Annual. Presentations on new and significant research in reference services are selected by blind review for inclusion in each year's forum. 


Still the Same or Something New?: A Retrospective Investigation of How Public and Academic Libraries Provide and Promote Virtual Reference Services

  • Presenters: Mark Robison, University of Notre Dame & Megan Elsen, University of Notre Dame
  • During the roughly three decades since libraries began having a presence on the internet, they have experimented with an impressive array of virtual reference services. But virtual services such as chat, email, and text messaging are not merely digital facsimiles of their in-person counterparts; they are qualitatively different experiences for both patrons and librarians. As virtual reference matured into a robust and familiar library service, it is possible that it changed how libraries thought about the goals and purpose of reference itself. This project focuses on two central questions: how have virtual reference services evolved in the United States from their inception until now, and how has this evolution reshaped reference services writ large?


“¡Qué discriminación!” Authentic Organizational Culture for Anti-Oppressive Bilingual Reference Praxis

  • Presenters: Julie Marie Frye, IUPUI & Maria Hasler-Barker, Ph.D., Sam Houston State University
  • While most libraries serving multicultural communities affirm social justice values, many remain rooted in historically oppressive foundations. We employ organizational culture theories to expand the growing body of LIS research about (anti)oppressive praxis. We examined bilingual reference desk activities at a public library in a US-Mexico border city. Focusing only on bilingual interactions, we used deductive analysis to understand organizational values and compared these with librarians’ discourse. Our preliminary analysis reveals three (in)consistencies between organizational culture(s) and reference services. We hope these findings, and the discussion at our session, will strengthen our collective commitment to authentic anti-oppressive praxis.

Access issues in Collection Institutions: A Special Collection Library Case Study

  • Presenter: Karina Sanchez, University of Texas Austin
  • Special collection libraries can be intimidating research institutions, particularly for underrepresented users, and strict access policies push this narrative. The Huntington Library in California will be used as a case study. In this presentation, I will critique and analyze how special collection institutions' strict access policies and euro-centric physical spaces are not providing a safe research area for underrepresented researchers. To conclude, recommendations for the reference desk, wayfinding, and more will be provided, in hopes that special collections will become an equitable space. By changing the library, we are amplifying underrepresented voices, leading to diversification of libraries, research, and collections.


Sexual Harassment Occurs in Chat Reference: Its Impact on Librarians and the Role of Institutions

  • Presenters: Samantha Kannegiser, Rutgers University-Camden and Julie Hunter, Western Connecticut State University
  • Sexual harassment in physical workplaces, including libraries, is well documented. What happens when that harassment moves online? Sexual harassment in chat reference occurs in three planes: workplace harassment, customer service harassment (patron-instigated), and online harassment. We investigated the prevalence of sexual harassment in chat, its impact on service providers, and how organizational support, or lack thereof, affected chat providers responses to harassment. Using a survey instrument inspired by the Sexual Experience Questionnaire, we surveyed chat providers and found that over 60 percent of respondents experienced some form of sexual harassment on chat. In this presentation, we will discuss the prevalence of harassment in chat, the impact of harassment on chat providers, and the role administrators and organizations play in supporting employees providing chat reference.


Reaching Potential Users Through Proactive Chat

  • Presenters: Laura Costello, Rutgers University and Amy Kimura, Rutgers University
  • Proactive chat, a pop-up widget inviting users to access chat reference services at the point of need, has tremendous potential to equalize access to expert reference services, but implementing this service poses challenges. Existing literature shows that this service can help more users with real reference questions connect to library services, but the increase in volume can be intimidating for libraries with fixed staffing models. This presentation focuses on implementation choices like pop-up trigger time that impact chat volume and question complexity with the aim of helping practitioners right-size this service to their libraries.

An Examination of Professional Journalists ISB for Outreach and Reference Services

  • Presenters: Stacy Gilbert, University of Colorado Boulder, Phil White, University of Colorado Boulder, and Kathryn Tallman, University of Colorado Boulder
  • In order to improve an R1 university libraries outreach and reference services to participants of a journalism fellows program, libraries conducted semi-structured interviews with seven fellows to discover information seeking behaviors. After coding transcripts for themes, preliminary findings suggest that while journalists often have highly developed information seeking skills, they may be unaware of the depth and breadth of library services. This presentation will discuss these findings and how this study affected librarians’ engagement practices with fellows, and how the findings can be extended to supporting journalists at reference service points at public and academic libraries.

Development of Use and the READ Scale in Assessing Chat Reference: A Meta-study

  • Presenters: Adrienne Warner, University of New Mexico and David A. Hurley, University of New Mexico
  • A giant leap forward from the hashmark statistics-collecting paradigm, the READ scale is used to understand and make decisions about reference services. Yet this industry standard tool predates the widespread adoption of chat by libraries, and so chat reference did not fully inform its development. In this meta-study of published articles, gray literature, and popular content, we critically analyze the foundational assumptions of the applicability of the READ Scale to chat transactions, its use by academic librarians to understand chat reference, and resulting service changes.


Perceptions of Reference Services at the University of Southern California

  • Presenters: Melissa Miller, University of Southern California, Melanee Vicedo, University of Southern California and Elizabeth Galoozis, University of Southern California
  • This study explored the research problem "What are undergraduate and graduate students' habits, attitudes, and needs related to research help?" We conducted four focus groups (purposely recruiting students who do not regularly use library research help) and analyzed transcripts and notes. Questions included "What kind of environment makes you feel comfortable asking for help?" and "What's the first thing you do when you are assigned a research project or paper?" Preliminary findings indicate that students do not perceive connections between their work and lives, and the research help services that our libraries and librarians provide. We also found that students valued faculty opinions and communications above all other forms of recommendations and keeping informed (including social media and peer advice). Our presentation will focus on putting these findings into action. We will discuss making significant changes to a rigid model of subject liaisons and an isolated physical reference desk, and planning and implementing an information campaign aimed at explicitly connecting with student needs. This research will be of value to other institutions reframing their reference services models, on how to use direct user evidence to persuade administrators and colleagues. It builds upon other qualitative and ethnographic studies of student behavior in the context of a large, diffuse institution and library system, both resistant to change. It also makes visible valuable connections among reference, instruction, laision work, public relations and other public services, and the way one institution re-envisioned them.

How May I Teach You?: Rethinking Virtual Reference with the Framework

  • Presenters: Samantha Kannegiser, Rutgers University-Camden, Julie Hunter, Western Connecticut State University, Jessica Kiebler, Berkley College-White Plains and Dina Meky, Berkley College-Woodbridge
  • How do librarians provide instruction to students who expect quick answers in chat reference? Information literacy instruction is inherent in face-to-face reference, but with an ever-expanding offering of online programs and virtual services, our library identified an opportunity use the ACRL Framework to evaluate if and how librarians were providing information literacy instruction in chat reference. The findings of this study reaffirmed the importance of balancing customer service and instruction to manage student expectations, and it established best practices and strategies that librarians can employ to provide a well-rounded service. This presentation will review the major themes identified from a literature review, explain the methodology used to assess information literacy instruction in chat reference, review the study's findings, and elaborate on best practices for librarians to balance customer service and instruction.


Reframing Reference Through Participatory Visual Methods

  • Presenter: Eamon Tewell, Long Island University
  • How can academic librarians improve reference services for marginalized students? How can research into these questions center students' ideas and lived experiences? This study uses Photovoice, a participatory method that combines photography, interviews, and discussion to create change regarding an issue. Attendees will gain insight into how 11 students from historically marginalized backgrounds seek information in their everyday activities, learn about students' recommendations, and potential implications for the development and redesign of reference services.

Reference on Demand: Testing an 'Uber Reference' Service in an Academic Library

  • Presenter: Brian D. Moss, Universitiy of Kansas
  • In an effort to overcome students' reluctance to approach library staff, we have begun testing an "Uber Reference" model that allows patrons to summon library staff to group study areas within the library. This presentation will present the findings of a pilot study within a large academic library, examining the effectiveness of this on-demand reference service. The presentation will conclude with suggestions for how other libraries can implement their own on-demand reference services, drawing upon the lesson learned through this pilot study.

You Didn't Say 'Hola': What Happens When the Reference Script is Altered

  • Presenters: Julie Marie Frye, Indiana University and Maria Hasler Barker, Sam Houston State University
  • Grounded in a Critical Theory framework (Habermas, 1984), we used conversation analysis (Schegloff, 2007) to examine 20 hours of digitally-recorded reference desk activity at a public library in a US-Mexico border city. This study contributes to an understanding of how the reference initiation type can affect the efficiency and effectiveness of bilingual transactions. Our findings illuminate cross-cultural communicative differences for scholars and practitioners who seek to improve bilingual patron comfort in libraries.


Research Consultations and Student Success

  • Presenter: Ann Roselle, Phoenix College
  • Based on original research applying the Framework for Information Literacy, this presentation explores the question: What common themes occur in research consultations? Patterns emerged from analysis of 522 field notes recorded by a team of librarians after consultations, along with in-depth telephone interviews with librarians at other institutions. Within and beyond information literacy concepts, librarians establish connections with students that range from explaining research as inquiry to preventing course withdrawls. This presentation proposes that academic libraries can positively affect student retention by intentionally leveraging relationship-building opportunities in the research consultation context.

Analyzing Data Consultations: What Liaisons Can Learn about Users' Data Needs and Use of Tools

  • Presenters: Wenli Gao, University of Houston, Lisa Martin, University of Houston and Irene Ke, University of Houston
  • As more academic libraries start to offer data services, liaison librarians find themselves needing to improve their data consultation skills. This study analyzed email and in-person data consultation transactions for the academic year 2014-2015 and conducted content analysis to dig deeper into the questions and answers. The results of this study would provide librarians with insights to users' data service needs and help librarians focus professional development on tools and resources that are most relevant for users.

'Is it a journal title, or what?' Mitigating Microaggressions in Virtual Reference

  • Presenters: Marie Radford, Rutgers University, Vanessa Kitzie, Rutgers University, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC and Diana Floegel, Rutgers University
  • Microaggressions are intentional or non-intentional verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities towards marginalized individuals. Microaggressions are subtle, nuanced, and difficult to detect and address, especially in virtual environments. This presentation reports results from qualitative content analysis of a large, longitudinal, random sample of QuestionPoint virtual reference service (VRS) sessions (drawn from 2006, 2010, and 2016). In this time of heightened online conflict, attendees will be provided with research-based examples and guidelines to help them to both recognize microaggressions and to minimize them to enhance service excellence.


The Research Process of First-Year Students

  • Presenter: Laura Hibbler, Brandeis University
  • As librarians, we often provide instruction to students at the early stages of the research process and do not have the opportunity to see the steps that students take next. Even when we do have the opportunity to see the end product of a student's research, the student's paper or project may reveal little about ways that the student's research focus shifted over time and which parts of the research process caused frustration. This presentation will describe findings from a study that involved interviewing first-year students at three different points while they were working on a research paper. By interviewing students over the span of the time that they were working on their research essays, the librarian was able to ask students to reflect on the steps they had taken and students were able to provide a more complete picture of their research process.

Container Collapse!: How Students Determine Identity and Credibility of Digital Resources

  • Presenter: Tara Tobin Cataldo, University of Florida
  • What does it mean to be format agnostic and what role does it play in a student's determination of credibility of digital information? Our three-year, IMLS-funded research project explores this phenomenon with students from 4th grade to graduate school using age-appropriate science inquiry examples. The research team has created a new methodology for observing and studying information-seeking behavior in a simulated online environment. This presentation outlines our project, demonstrates the simulations, and discusses the study's implications for all librarians, educators and online information providers. We seek your feedback and welcome lively dialogue.

Research Consultations and Dweck's Theories of Intelligence

  • Presenter: Amanda L. Folk, University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg
  • Reference interactions, particularly research consultations, are informal teaching and learning opportunities in which librarians aim to help patrons develop information literacy skills and locate relevant information. Few studies, however, focus on understanding patrons' motivations for consulting a librarian for help in order to explore whether or not these patrons are simply seeking to locate the relevant information or if they want to learn about the research process more generally through interactions with a librarian. Carol Dweck identified the fixed and incremental theories of intelligence, which could affect how patrons navigate the research process, including if they will seek help from a librarian and what they intend to take away from that interaction. This study seeks to determine if students who make appointments for research consultations with a librarian at small regional campus of a public research university subscribe to a particular theory of intelligence as defined by Carol Dweck, in order to provide evidence that can be used to inform reference practice and information literacy instruction.


Information Behavior of Foreign-Born Students at Brooklyn College

  • Presenter: Frans Albarillo, City University of New York
  • This presentation reports the results of a survey of immigrant and international students at Brooklyn College, a large public liberal arts college with a diverse campus that serves many foreign-born and first-generation immigrant students. The survey gathers data on students in these communities to investigate common patterns and explore how these students experience the academic library with a focus on language and culture. This exploratory study was funded by a grant from the PSC CUNY and further developed at the 2014 inaugural Institute of Research Design in Librarianship.

Understanding the Research Needs of Mid-level Undergraduate Students

  • Presenters: Marianne Colgrove, Reed College and Annie Downey, Reed College
  • How do sophomores and juniors learn to do independent research and what services, resources and curriculum strategies would help? As a part of a larger Mellon-funded initiative, the Reed College Library and IT departments collaborated on a needs assessment in order to understand the gap between faculty and student perspectives on the research process. Using both focus group discussions and a student survey, the needs assessment showed that faculty characterize research as a complex, multi-faceted process and emphasize the importance of a researchable question that drives the process. Many students aren't sure what faculty expect and often invest so much energy in gathering resources that they run out of time to conduct analysis and integrate their assignment into a unified whole. This study also exemplifies how IT and the library can collaborate to conduct a low-cost self study that informs the development of new research curriculum and services.

Library as Endangered Species in the Information Ecosystem

  • Presenter: Jean Amaral, Borough of Manhattan Community College
  • When students and faculty need information, where do they go? A year-long ethnographic study at an urban community college suggests it may be anywhere but the library. Amaral will present the results of this study, which call for engaging in a creative reassessment of library services in community colleges.


Building Relationships for the Effective Development and Delivery of Research Data Services

  • Presenters: Ixchel Faniel, OCLC, Lynn Connaway, OCLC, and Kendra Parson, OCLC
  • This presentation is based on an analysis of interview data collected from 36 librarians. A major objective of the study is to explore librarians' early experiences in developing and delivering research data services in order to consider how their experiences and the services can be improved. By opening an early dialogue about the opportunities and challenges associated with library - provided research data services, we aim to consider practical, effective approaches to the development and delivery of such services within the academic community. Our second set of speakers from SUNY College of Old Westbury will be focused on student tech usage and trends.

College Student Tech Usage: A Recent Survey of Trends

  • Presenters: Curt Friehs and Jason Kaloudis
  • Presented findings of a survey of undergraduates to gain a better understanding of motivating factors behind tech adaptions. The perspective of the Millennial college student provides insights into the desires and needs of the younger generation.

Libraries and the Affordable Care Act

  • Presenters: Jenny Bossaller, University of Missouri and Guinevere Lawson, University of Missouri
  • This group shared the results of discussions with librarians across the United States regarding their involvement with the Affordable Care Act. This exploratory study provided context for libraries' actions or inactions that are a result of the law's uneven implementation, differing community needs, and the attitudes of the community and librarians.


Research Guides Usability Study

  • Presenters: Angela Pashia, University of West Georgia and Andrew Walsh, University of West Georgia

Two Birds, One Stone: Using a Mixed Methods Approach to Measure Service Process and Identify Usability Pain Points in Virtual Reference

  • Presenter: Christine Tobias, Michigan State University

Query Clarification in Chat Reference: A Visual Transcript Analysis

  • Presenter: Alexa Pearce, New York University


Best Practices of Text Reference Service: A Synergistic View

  • Presenter: Lili Luo, San Jose University

Apples and Oranges: Lessons from a Usability Study of Two Library FAQ Web Sites

  • Presenters: Susan Gardner Archambault and Kenneth Simon

Research Assistance Interactions: Exploration of Users' Motivation and Perceptions

  • Presenters: Alison Graber, Alison Hicks, Caroline Sinkinson, and Stephanie Alexander


Recent reference transaction statistics in Academic libraries in the United States: in the United States: Are Electronic resources responsible for the decline?

  • Presenter: Ana Dubnjakovic
  • Examined the relationship between spending on electronic resources and reference transactions.

Mining virtual reference data for an iterative assessment cycle

  • Presenter: Amanda Clay Powers
  • Discussed possible changes in chat questions and answers after the implementation of EBSCO Discovery Service.

Practitioners beliefs in reference librarians in academic research libraries

  • Presenter: Amy VanScoy
  • Analyzed the values and attitudes held by academic reference librarians that influence their work.


Anthropologists in the Library: The ERIAL Project and its Implications for Reference Service

  • Presenters: Andrew Asher, Lynda M. Duke, Sue Stroyan, Monica Moore, Suzanne Wilson, Illinois Wesleyan University/ERIAL
  • The ERIAL Project, a two-year research study funded by a Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant through the Illinois State Library, ethnographically examines how undergraduate students at five universities (Illinois Wesleyan University, University of Illinois Springfield, University of Illinois Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University, DePaul University ) conduct academic research and utilize library reference services and resources. The project is organized around three core goals: to gain a better understanding of undergraduates’ research processes based on firsthand accounts of how they obtain, evaluate, and manage information for their assignments, to assess the role academic libraries and librarians play in these research processes, and finally, to adjust library resources and services to more effectively address students’ research needs. Using a mixed-methods approach that integrates a variety of anthropological data collection techniques, this study builds a holistic and user-centered portrait of student needs through an in situ examination of what students actually do while completing their research assignments.

Do LibGuides Make a Difference? A Quasi-Experimental Investigation Into the Impact of LibGuides

  • Presenter: Steven Bell (Temple University)
  • Multiple articles about library subject guides have examined how users respond to the design of the guides, how effective the users think the guides are and other aspects such as user familiarity with guides. But the literature contains no articles that attempt to connect the use of library guides to academic performance. This presentation reports on the use of a quasi-experimental research study designed to determine if LibGuides actually did make a difference in the quality of a student research assignment. Conducted over a full academic calendar, experimental groups were directed to a LibGuide prepared for their specific assignment. Control groups completing the same assignment were neither directed to nor told about the same LibGuide. A rubric integrated into the Blackboard Outcomes Assessment Module was used to evaluate annotated bibliographies prepared by both group. In addition students in both the control and experimental groups completed a survey about their research process in completing the assignment. The presenter will provide an overview of the methodology, the use of the Blackboard Outcomes Assessment module and the findings of the experimental study.

Minding the Gap: Generational Differences in Attitudes toward Reference Service in Academic Libraries

  • Presenters: Eric Jennings, Hans Kishel, Jill Markgraf (University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire)
  • Reference services in academic libraries are undergoing substantial change as a result of technological developments, limited human and financial resources, and significant observed and anticipated library staff retirements. With an impending shift in generational balance in the library workforce come changes in attitudes, expectations, and priorities that may have profound effects on librarianship. This research study focuses on the generational differences in attitudes toward reference service to reveal potential conflicts, changes, and trends in attitudes and philosophies. The findings will be valuable to those working in, managing or planning library reference services as the profession undergoes a major generational shift in its workforce.


What WOREP Results Say About Reference Service, Patron Satisfaction and Success

  • Presenters: Julie A. Gedeon, Carolyn J. Radcliff, and Barbara F. Schloman*
  • *Recipient of the 15th Annual Reference Research Forum Research Grant
  • This presentation will describe 24 years of WOREP survey results from more than 100 academic libraries. We will highlight strengths and compare results from earlier years to today’s reference services, including both patron and staff perspectives on the nature and quality of in-person reference service. 

Measuring the Effectiveness of Online Tutorials: A Pragmatic Approach

  • Presenters: Cindy Craig and Curt Friehs
  • A public librarian worked with an academic librarian to develop an effective wayto measure online tutorial efficacy. A two-part survey was created to measure both learning outcomes and gather feedback from end-users. This initial research project answered as many questions as it raised. This led to a second research undertaking comparing the effectiveness of video versus HTML tutorials. The results were startling. Currently, a bulk of the professional literature is out of synch with patron expectations and optimal learning outcomes.

“Teachable Instants” in Instant Message Reference: Taking the Opportunity or Taking a Pass?

  • Presenters: Megan Oakleaf and Amy VanScoy
  • A decade after the inception of virtual reference service in academic libraries, many librarians have mastered the chat and instant message (IM) technology, become comfortable with providing answers without body language and voice clues, and even learned the “cool” IM abbreviations. However, like other services provided by academic libraries, virtual reference is ultimately about teaching and learning. This research study identifies instructional techniques that are grounded in educational theory and easily integrated into a reference librarian’s instructional repertoire and examines the presence of these techniques in academic library chat transcripts. Librarians can integrate these instructional techniques into reference training, ensuring that reference staff is prepared not only to answer questions via IM reference, but also facilitate student learning. Similarly, this research can be used to improve reference evaluation procedures by arming librarians with specific strategies and examples that can be identified in the chat transcripts of their own institutions and used for ongoing reference improvement.


The READ Scale (Reference Effort Assessment Data) Project: Qualitative Statistics for Meaningful Reference Assessment, A Report on the National Study

  • Presenters: Dr. Bella Karr Gerlich, University Librarian at Dominican University; Ms. G. Lynn Berard, Principal Librarian, Engineering and Science, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Current methodologies for data gathering of statistics do not adequately reflect the effort / knowledge / experience / skill / value-added service of reference staff.  The READ Scale (Reference Effort Assessment Data) was developed as a tool in an attempt to gather unrecorded qualitative ?value-added? data associated with the reference transaction.  A national study was conducted to test the viability of the READ Scale as an adaptable / adoptable tool at diverse institutions and determine its effectiveness and practical applications in reference librarianship, and acquire data to support or disprove to its use in the modern context of the statistics / assessment  / measures / recognition of value-added service related to reference work.

Does Size Matter?  Examining Trends in the Provision of Remote Reference Services in Academic and Public Libraries

  • Presenters:  Eileen G. Abels, Ph.D., Associate Professor, College of Information Science & Technology, Drexel University; Denise E. Agosto, Ph.D., Associate Professor, College of Information Science & Technology, Drexel University; Lorri Mon, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Florida State University, College of Information
  • This study examines the state of remote reference services being offered in public and academic libraries in the United States, including the use of technologies such as email, chat, instant messaging (IM), and Rich Site Summary (RSS).  The results will be compared between public and academic libraries and among size categories as well.  Data analysis is complete for the public libraries in the sample.  Initial findings indicate significant differences in reference media offerings based on the size of service populations in public libraries.  The academic library data gathering has also been completed, and data analysis is underway to determine if similar service differences by size occur in academic libraries.

Problems, Processes, and Judgments: User Expectations of Online Reference Service

  • Presenter: Lynn Westbrook, Assistant Professor, School of Information, University of Texas
  • If we can understand why they come to VR, then we can both hone the service and attract additional users by more tightly targeting our service developments.  This study triangulates three bodies of data: 5,293 selected Internet Public Library email queries over a period of 31 months, all 402 of an academic library?s chat reference transactions over a period of five months, and all 170 of an academic library?s email reference queries over 39 months.  The queries are artifacts of user expectations; these disparate data sources provide insight into user expectations across geographical, chronological, and organizational boundaries. Each of these questions was examined to identify, wherever possible, two key elements of the user?s expectation of the reference transaction: (a) characteristics of the assistance that librarians could provide and (b) characteristics of the use to be made of that assistance.  The analysis characterizes user expectations in terms of the nature of the aid users expect to receive and in terms of the kind of information problem they expect to be able to solve.


Not Dead Yet! Ready Reference in Live Chat Reference

  • Presenters: Marie L Radford, Associate Professor, Rutgers University; and Lynn Silipigni, Consulting Research Scientist, OCLC
  • This paper reports results of an in-depth analysis of a random sample of 600+ live chat virtual reference transcripts from an international population of 480,000+ transcripts from OCLC's QuestionPoint. These anonymous transcripts were analyzed by: Type of Query, Subject of Query, and Session Duration. Preliminary analysis of 273 transcripts found a surprising 30% to be ready reference questions. Social Science (42%) was the predominant subject area with mean Session Duration of approximately 14 minutes. The authors will present detailed findings, discuss implications, and provide recommendations to promote reflective practice and service excellence in both face-to-face and virtual reference environments. 

Evaluating the Quality of Instant Messaging Reference Service through Transcript Analysis

  • Presenters: Erin Rushton, Science Librarian, Binghamton and Sarah Maximiek, Government Documents / Reference Librarian, Binghamton University
  • The Binghamton University Libraries' Digital Reference Committee (DRC) initiated a transcript analysis project to evaluate Instant Messaging transcripts for one year of service. The committee and reviewers collected data from the transcripts such as time, date, length of session, source used to answer question, type of question asked, correct and completeness of answer and compliance to RUSA's Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. The DRC then analyzed the data to determine if the questions answered through the IM reference service were being answered in accordance to the Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers, and how often the questions were being answered correctly and completely. The DRC also used the data to make recommendations on web page design and electronic resource access.

Library Websites / Library MySpace Profiles: Online Redundancy or Meeting New Needs?

  • Presenter: Beth Evans, Electronic Services Librarian, Brooklyn College Library
  • Libraries conducting business through online social networks find themselves maintaining a number of portals with varying faces on the web. Social networks such as MySpace encourage individuals, groups and institutions that walk their paths to make use of interactive and often entertaining tools that are not as typically employed on a more traditional web site. Libraries are always eager to engage their visitors both in the physical and the virtual world. The researcher explores the extent to which libraries are using a variety of online tools to reach their users both through traditional web sites and newly emerging social network profiles. Additionally, she observes incidents where tools have crossed boundaries from one environment to the other and features of each environment that have not crossed the lines.


User Expectations: a Sense-Making Approach to Mental Models of Information Seeking

  • Presenter: Lynn Westbrook, PhD, Assistant Professor, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin
  • As individuals make sense of the complex and dynamic process of information seeking, they employ mental models (MM) of that process. Those models underpin their expectations and behavior patterns. MM explain why certain tools, search tactics, and services are expected to be available, productive, or problematic. Within the socio-cognitive framework of sense-making, the following research problems are posed: (1) How do university students envision or model the process of their own academic information seeking? (2) What are the implications of those models for academic reference service? This study utilizes two techniques to identify and analyze MM components of academic information seeking in two populations. In the first sub-study, 55 graduate students in two MA reference classes used narrative and visual means of describing their MM of the academic information-seeking process. In the second sub-study, 950 transcripts of chat-reference transactions during the 2004-05 academic year at a major university were examined as MM artifacts of real-life, contextualized situations. A meta-analysis will identify components and characteristics of users' mental models of the academic information seeking process.  

Quick & Easy Reference Evaluation: gathering the users' and the providers' perspective

  • Presenter: Jonathan Miller, Head of Hillman Public Services, University Library System, University of Pittsburgh
  • We created an outcomes-based method of evaluating reference service quality that is, from both the users' and providers' perspective, quick and easy to complete. This method can be implemented in both in-person and online reference services. We identified the general desired outcomes of an academic library reference transaction and designed a two-part survey instrument based on those outcomes. We analyze the results to determine how close we came to meeting those outcomes, the differences between the perceptions of users and providers across all respondents, but also, where possible, in terms of sub-populations within and between users, providers, and institutions. 

Measuring the Library's Presence in CMS

  • Presenters: Scott Collard, Librarian for Education, Psychology and Linguistics, New York University and Nadaleen Tempelman-Kluit, Instructional Design Librarian, Bobst Library, New York University
  • The recent push by libraries to add research resources to content management systems has provided users with another access point to library services. It has also provided librarians with the opportunity to highlight key resources that might be less obvious among the collection of links on library homepages. While the subset of links added to content management systems are presumed most relevant and useful for users, librarians' mental models often tend to differ from those of our constituents. It's important, therefore, to test our assumptions about the use and relevance of the links chosen for integration into CMS. At NYU, we have been doing this not only by quantitative measures like hit counting, but also by adding a qualitative survey to the Library Links page in our CMS. This survey has been used to help us determine not only the relative success of the venture, but also whether some of the previously hidden resources on the library homepage have been of use to our students. The results have provided us with the opportunity to evaluate our assumptions about what is important for our users, and to re-design based on their needs, rather than our assumptions of their needs. 


Assessment of Student Learning From Reference Service

  • Presenters: Jill Gremmels & Karen Lehmann
  • This study takes evaluation of reference service in academic libraries in a new direction by adding assessment focused on student learning rather than on evaluation of techniques or results. The challenge of assessment, as presented by regional accrediting associations and others interested in accountability, is for institutions of higher education to prove that students are learning what instructors intend to teach.  Questionnaires administered after instructional reference questions compared the student's self-report of what was learned with the librarian's statement of what was taught.  In addition, the two-year study tested whether students perceived a link to information literacy content from class sessions.

Building DREW: a Data Warehouse for Digital Reference

  • Presenters: R. David Lankes & Scott Nicholson
  • Scott Nicholson and R. David Lankes, faculty at Syracuse University School of Information Studies, will present the progress and future of the Digital Reference Electronic Warehouse (DREW) project.  The goals of the DREW project are to: create a schema useful in archiving components of a reference transaction in a standardized manner; work with services to turn their archives into the DREW format; collect, clean, and remove personally identifiable information; create an exploration space for library scientists to create new models, measures, reports, and generalizations about the reference process; and create the infrastructure to allow services to directly benefit from the models the researchers create.    Both librarians and researchers will learn how they can participate in the collaborative DREW project.

CSI Cyberspace: A Multiple Case Study Investigation of the Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • Presenters: Marie L. Radford & M. Kathleen Kern
  • Chat reference services have come to life on library home pages in a growing trend over the last few years. Many virtual reference projects have been successful and are increasingly viewed as integral parts of reference services. However, it is also a reality that several libraries have started virtual reference services, only to discontinue them in a relatively short amount of time. Using the comparative case study method, this research investigates the reasons why six virtual reference services were discontinued. Data consists of structured interviews with the library decision makers and an analysis of available relevant reports and documents. 


Does the Medium Matter?  A Comparative Analysis of Openings in Face –to-Face and Computer Mediated Reference Interactions. 

  • Presenters: 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

  • Presenters: 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

  • Presenters: 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.


An Analysis of Sources Used to Answer Reference Questions

  • Presenters: Robert Lenholt, Jane Bradford, and Barbara Costello, Stetson University, DeLand, Florida
  • Are print reference sources are used much less frequently than electronic sources to answer patron queries? To test this hypothesis, reference librarians at the duPont-Ball Library recorded every question asked at the reference desk (except directional and computer/printer problems) and what source or sources were used during two two-month periods during fall 2002 and spring 2003. The authors will discuss the results of their analysis and possible impact on collection development and training.

Trends in Staffing:Paraprofessionals and Librarians Talk about Working the Desk

  • Presenter: Jennifer Sweeney, Department of Information Studies, UCLA
  • Do librarians and paraprofessionals have different perceptions of reference work? This qualitative research project investigated basic aspects of work environments and personal perceptions of reference work in academic libraries. Interviews were conducted with professionals and paraprofessionals who work at reference desks.

What are they asking? An analysis of questions asked at in-person and virtual service points.

  • Presenter: M. Kathleen Kern, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Is there a difference in questions asked at the in-person reference desk, chat reference service, email and telephone? Appropriate staffing and training depends on understanding our patrons' information needs at these various points of contact. This study examined 1500 questions received at the Central Reference Services desk during fall and spring semesters 2001-2002.


A Comparison of Questions Asked in Face-to-Face, Chat, and E-mail Reference Interactions

  • Presenters: Charlotte Ford, Reference Librarian, Birmingham-Southern College Library
  • Many libraries are experiencing an increase in the number of computer-mediated reference interactions and a simultaneous decline in the number of in-person reference interactions. In this changing environment, it is crucial for us to understand how these types of interactions differ from each other. A key part of this involves understanding the types of questions that library users are asking online as compared to the types of questions they ask in face-to-face encounters. I will discuss the results of an analysis of reference questions asked via each medium in over 300 reference interactions that took place in a single library in 2001. The results of chi-square tests done to check for significance of selected differences across media will also be presented and the implications of these differences discussed.

Search and Rescue: Repair Strategies of Remote Users Searching the Online Catalog  

  • Presenters: Nancy Turner, Electronic Resources Librarian, Syracuse University Library, and Susan Beck, Head, Reference and Research Services, New Mexico State University Library
  • Transactions logs from this library’s online catalog indicate that half of the searches are conducted beyond the boundaries of the physical reference desk areas. Without direct assistance from library staff, how do users search the catalog? When presented with results sets of zero or several thousand hits, how do they repair their search queries? Analyzing transaction logs allows us to virtually “peek” at search behavior and use the results to inform and improve our own reference and instruction techniques.

What are Undergraduates Thinking? Implications for the Reference Interview

  • Presenters: Ethelene Whitmire, Assistant Professor, School of Information Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison 
  • How do undergraduates handle ill-structured questions when completing a term paper assignment? Interviews with fifteen undergraduates revealed that students at various stages of intellectual development exhibited different information seeking behavior patterns when searching for information in general, on the Web, and using the library’s online public access catalog (OPAC). Implications of these findings for reference and information services are discussed.


Structural and Theoretical Constraints on Reference Service in a High School Library Media Center

  • Presenter: Mary K. Chelton
  • Using naturalistic inquiry, this study described reference service activity in a senior high school library media center during March, 1995, based on audio and video recordings of six class periods on a staff-designated "typical" day. Time and activities are seen to be constrained by unique and rigid institutional demands, such as the division of time into discrete class periods, and by the library staff being part of the district-mandated, school wide student location enforcement system. School library media specialists are forced to perform "information and enforcement triage" before anything resembling idealized reference service can take place. How the staff copes with these constraints using an embedded theory of user competence forms the basis of the study.

Virtual Classroom, Virtual Library: Library Services for an Online Writing Laboratory

  • Presenter: Barbara J. D'Angelo
  • This paper explores the development, organization, launching, and pitfalls of a library using multi-user object oriented (MOO) technology in collaboration with the Online Writing Laboratory (OWL) at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. The MOO library provides links to Internet- and other library-related resources for use by students in community colleges in Arkansas. Using Internet technologies, graduate students at the University of Arkansas provide writing assistance to the community college students. The addition of the library to the MOO educational environment enhances and complements the tutoring services provided by the graduate students. The librarian provides assistance to instructors in the development of specific course-related resources as well as real-time reference service via an online reference desk. The combination of an organized collection of links to resources and the availability of synchronous reference service will test the feasibility of using MOO technology to provide library service to distance education students.

The Impact of the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program on Reference Service in Eleven Libraries: Did Collecting All That Data Really Make a Difference?

  • Presenters: Michael Havener and Marjorie Murfin
  • Since 1983, over 230 libraries have used the Wisconsin-Ohio Reference Evaluation Program (WOREP) to evaluate their success in answering reference questions. This presentation provides an overview of fifteen years of cumulative WOREP data, but its focus is upon the eleven libraries that have participated in the WOREP more than once. These repeat libraries were studied in terms of factors that might have contributed to gain or loss in success rates for reference transactions, as rated by the libraries' patrons. Several factors were found to be associated with a decrease in success rates. Those factors included the loss of one or more professional positions, reduction in the proportion of reference desk transactions performed by professional librarians, and increase in the number of hours the reference desk was open for service. Loss or gain was also related to a library's initial success score. Implications of these findings for the administration of reference departments are discussed.