Reference Research Reviews: 2006

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 (2006-2007): Janelle Hedstrom (chair), Paula Contreras, Sarah Jane Hammill, Holly L. McCullough, Anne Moore, Rebecca Pressman, Carolyn Radcliff, Ellen Safley, Heather Tunender, Luke Vilelle, Char Booth, Zola Maddison

Matthew Bejune and Jane Kinkus. Creating a Composite of User Behavior to Inform Decisions about New and Existing Library Services. Reference Services Review 34:2, p. 185-192
This paper presented a method of data collection and analysis to improve decision-making about when to offer human-mediated services online. Seven data sources were identified that provided usage statistics on an hourly basis and revealed patterns of activity on the library web site. The library expanded chat service hours accordingly, and the additional hours proved successful.

Youngok Choi. Reference Services in Digital Collections and Projects. Reference Services Review, 34:1, p. 129-147
This study examined how incorporating reference services into digital library projects increased the value and use of the collections. Of eight potential reference services, the average number of services was only 2.88 per digital project. The author suggests the need for additional reference services to help users find more information and to instruct users on how to better utilize the digital library.

Cheryl Dee and Allen, Maryellen. A Survey of the Usability of Digital Reference Services on Academic Health Science Library Websites. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32:1, p. 69-78
This survey measured the kind /extent of chat service offered, the navigability of the service, and the overall usability of the site in relation to the service offered. Results show that the extent and nature of services vary widely. Overall, students reported favorably on the usability of digital reference services for libraries. The survey instrument is included.

Joseph Fennewald. Same Questions, Different Venue: An Analysis of In-Person and Online Questions. Reference Librarian, 46:95/96,  p. 20-35
The authors classify online reference questions according to the categories used at their reference desk. Limitations and benefits of using the same classifications for both service points are discussed, including some exploration of the nature of online reference queries (both email and chat) compared to in-person reference. Category definitions and question are included.

Stephanie J. Graves and Christina M. Desai. Instruction via Chat Reference: Does Co-Browse Help? Reference Services Review, 34:3, p. 340-357
This article explores various aspects of instruction in chat reference in an academic library: if instruction is welcomed by IM/chat users, if instruction is possible, if it can be effectively provided, and if the use of co-browsing enhances learning. The authors conducted two studies, one based on the use of text-only IM software and the second using commercial chat software with co-browsing. Each included transcript analysis and patron surveys. Findings indicated that patrons welcome instruction and are satisfied with chat/IM as an instructional medium.

Melissa Gross, Charles R. McClure and R. David Lankes. Costing Reference: Issues, Approaches, and Directions for Research. Reference Librarian, 46:,95/96,  p. 173-186
This article presents three measures useful for understanding the cost of digital reference services: total cost of providing digital reference service, the cost of digital reference service as a percent of the total reference budget, and the cost of reference as a percent of the total library or organizational budget. In addition, it reviews issues in the ongoing question of how to determine the cost of reference services in libraries and offers direction for further study toward a general cost model for information services.

Loree Hyde and Caleb Tucker-Raymond. Benchmarking Librarian Performance in Chat Reference. Reference Librarian, 46:95/96,  p. 5-19
This article describes the development of a checklist for evaluating chat reference transcripts. The checklist is based on chat reference service guidelines and the RUSA Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. The checklist is included.

Pali U. Kuruppu and Anne Marie Grube. Understanding the Information Needs of Academic Scholars in Agricultural and Biological Sciences. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32:6, p. 609-623
This qualitative study uses 14 one-on-one interviews and a focus group to examine the information needs of scholars at Iowa State University. Results show that faculty and graduate students rely on primary literature for personal research, use journal articles and books for teaching and learning., and consider convenience a key factor in their research.

Lesley M. Moyo. Virtual Reference Services and Instruction: An Assessment. Reference Librarian, 46:95/96,  p. 213-230
The authors analyzed 405 Penn State virtual reference transcripts and assessed the nature and quantity of instruction provided based on the presence of defined instructional elements incorporated in the sessions. Similarities and differences in approach to instruction during virtual and face-to-face reference are discussed along with the amount of total instruction being undertaken.

Chris Neuhaus, Ellen Neuhaus, Alan Asher, and Clint Wrede. The Depth and Breadth of Google Scholar: An Empirical Study. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 6:2, p. 127-141
This study compares the contents of 47 different databases with Google Scholar. Tests reveal Google Scholar strengths in the coverage of science and medical databases, open access databases, and single publisher databases. Current weaknesses include lack of coverage of social science and humanities databases and an English language bias. Results have implications as to when librarians choose to use Google Scholar as a reference tool and how they recommend Google Scholar as a research tool.

Kirsti Nilsen and Catherine Sheldrick Ross. Evaluating Virtual Reference from the Users' Perspective. Reference Librarian, 46:95/96, p. 53-79
This article focuses on factors that influence users' satisfaction with their virtual reference experience and whether these are the same or different from factors that are important in face-to-face reference. The findings are based on accounts, questionnaires, and transcripts produced by MLIS students. Included are helpful and unhelpful features of each reference method and tips.

Jeffrey Pomerantz, and Lili Luo. Motivations and uses: Evaluating virtual reference service from the users' perspective. Library & Information Science Research, 28:3, p. 350-373
This study attempts to determine if virtual reference services meet user needs in an effective enough manner to justify the costs of the service. Data was collected by exit surveys and semi-structured interviews with the goal of learning how users learned about the service, how often they used the service, their motivations for using the service, their satisfaction with the exchange and how they employed the information they gained though the service.

Jeffrey Pomerantz, Lili Luoa, and Charles R. McClure. Peer review of chat reference transcripts: Approaches and strategies. Library & Information Science Research, 28:1, p. 24-48
This study is an evaluation of the transcripts of the chat sessions from NCknows, a collaborative, statewide, chat-based reference service in North Carolina. Transcripts were divided into three groups by type of librarian (academic, public or 24/7) and then analyzed by peer review. Findings from this study revealed categorical differences in service and philosophy, and results may have implications for staffing of chat reference services.

Marie L. Radford and Kathleen Kern. A multiple-case study investigation of the discontinuation of nine chat reference services. Library & Information Science Research, 28:4, p. 521-547.
This study investigates why five academic, one public, and three consortial chat services have ceased. Multiple-case study methods were employed through structured e-mail, telephone interviews, and analysis of available reports. Findings may offer insight on potential pitfalls and ways to strengthen current virtual reference services.

Pnina Shachaf and Sarah Horowitz. Are virtual reference services color blind? Library & Information Science Research, 28:4, p. 501-520
This study questioned if librarians provide equitable service based on the perceived race or ethnicity of chat users. Participating chat services were given similar versions of a question. User names varied by question and were chosen to convey a specific race or ethnicity. Findings indicate that quality of service is lower for individuals who are assumed to be African Americans or Arab, and provide insight for identifying discriminatory service.

Amanda E. Standerfer. Reference Services in Rural Libraries. Reference Librarian, 45:93, p. 137-149
This article explores reference services in rural public libraries by conducting a survey of small public libraries in central and northern Illinois. Based on the results, consideration is given to the nature of reference services, how they have changed over time, and how this compares to small libraries in a metropolitan setting.

Joan Stein, Alice Bright, Carole George, Terry Hurlbert, Erika Linke, and Gloriana St Clair. In their own words: A preliminary report on the value of the internet and the library in graduate student research. Performance Measurement and Metrics, 7:2, p. 107-115.
The purpose of this study is to generate a rich dataset of graduate students' ratings of their satisfaction with library collections and services. The study is based on focus groups and questions are included in the article. The research is still ongoing and needs additional analysis before trends can be determined, but upon completion, this may serve as a model for others interested in conducting focus groups about user behavior and satisfaction.

Anna M. Van Scoyoc and Caroline Cason. The Electronic Academic Library: Undergraduate Research Behavior in a Library Without Books. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 6:1, p. 47-58
This study examines undergraduate students' research habits in an electronic-only library environment. A brief survey was conducted of students who visited this space. A chi square analysis found that students rely primarily on Internet sites and online instruction modules (for example Blackboard or WebCT) for their research needs rather than university-funded research sources.

Leanne M. Vandecreek. E-Mail Reference Evaluation: Using the Results of a Satisfaction Survey. Reference Librarian, 45:93, p. 99-108
The authors evaluated the results of a voluntary questionnaire of patrons who used their e-mail reference service at a large academic library over a ten-month period. This paper discusses how the library used the survey results to improve the existing service, and to implement a new one-chat reference. The questionnaire is included.

Virginia A. Walter and Cindy Mediavilla. Teens Are from Neptune, Librarians Are from Pluto: An Analysis of Online Reference Transactions. Library Trends, 54:2, p. 209-227
The authors studied transcripts of chats between reference librarians and teenagers seeking assistance with homework. They used a "Virtual Reference Behavior Checklist" (included) and discovered that in many cases, the communication techniques used by librarians did not mirror accepted practices (such as asking if the question has been answered), were impersonal, and did not facilitate understanding. This study will help practitioners of chat reference service review their assumptions and identify possible areas for improving chat communication, especially with teenagers.

Fu Zhuo, Mark Love, Scott Norwood and Karla Massia. Applying RUSA Guidelines in the Analysis of Chat Reference Transcripts. College & Undergraduate Libraries, 13:1, p. 75-88
This study examines transcripts of 100 chat reference sessions, using ALA's RUSA Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers as an evaluation tool. The analysis provides insights into the current state of their service and how it can be improved. The analysis also demonstrated that when chat reference sessions are conducted effectively, the user leaves the session with direction toward the information needed and with a positive impression of library service.