27th Annual Reference Research Forum

2021 ALA Virtual Conference


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.