Reference Research Review 2003

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 (2003-2004): Joan Ellen Stein, Chair (Carnegie Mellon Univ.), Mary F. Casserly (Univ. at Albany), Kathryn M. Crowe (Univ. of North Carolina at Greensboro), Melissa Gross (Florida State Univ.), Sarah Jane Hammill (Florida International Univ.), Steven Z. Hiller (Univ. of Washington), Rebecca Jackson (Iowa State Univ.), JoAnn Jacoby (Univ. of Illinois), Carolyn Radcliff (Kent State Univ.),  Matthew L. Saxton (Univ. of Washington), John S. Spencer (Gonzaga Univ.)

Bao, Xue-Ming. (Spring 2003).  “A Study of Web-Based Interactive Reference Services via Academic Library Home Pages.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 42 (3), 250-256.  The author examined web pages of a sample of 143 academic libraries between March and May 2001 for the presence of reference services offered by e-mail, discussion forum, or chat room. Fewer than half the institutions (46.9%) offered such services, with nearly all of those offering either a reference request form or an email link. Most libraries did not provide a service policy and slightly more than half the institutions provided links to their services from their home page.

Chan, Donna C. and Ethel Auster.  (Autumn 2003).  “Factors Contributing to the Professional Development of Reference Librarians.”  Library and Information Science Research, 25 (3), 265-286.  Describes “updating activities” (formal and informal activities undertaken to improve professional skills and competencies) among reference librarians in large public libraries in Ontario and provides a model of the organizational factors and individual characteristics affecting participation in professional development activities.  Multiple regression analysis of a mail survey of  348 professional librarians indicated that supportive managers have a positive effect on participation, while situational barriers, feeling old, and working part time have a negative influence.  (Survey instrument not included.)

Fagan, J.C. and C. Desai. (2003).  “Site Search and Instant Messaging Reference: A Comparative Study.” Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 8  (1 / 2), 167-182. The use of two services offered at Southern Illinois University, Site Search, a search engine that searches the library’s web pages, and Morris Messenger, a chat-reference service, were compared to determine how successful their users were in finding relevant resources.  The authors also examined the success rate of users who posed  “search engine type” questions to the Morris Messenger service.  Their results show that the real-time reference service is more successful in answering users’ queries than the library search-engine service, although it is not as popular.  Practitioners will gain a better understanding of how search-engine users perceive and react to an online chat reference environment from this research.   

Kawakami, Alice and Pauline Swartz. (2003).  “Digital Reference:  Training and Assessment for Service Improvement.” Reference Services Review, 31 (3), 227-236. The performance of UCLA digital reference services librarians was measured against a list of digital reference service competencies developed by that library.  As a result of the findings the service’s training program was redesigned. This article describes a useful model for training and assessing digital reference service. (List of competencies included.)

Kelley, Kimberly B. and Gloria J. Orr. (May 2003).  “Trends in Distant Student Use of Electronic Resources:  A Survey.”  College & Research Libraries, 64 (3), 176-191. This survey of student use of library resources conducted at the University of Maryland University College, a large distance-education institution, confirmed that distance education students rely heavily on electronic resources.  It also found significant differences in usage trends among undergraduate and graduate students who are not distance education students. (Survey instrument not included.)
Marsteller, M. R. and D. A. Mizzy. (2003).  “Exploring the Synchronous Digital Reference Interaction for Query Types, Question Negotiation, and Patron Response.” Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 8 (1 / 2),
149-165. The authors examined hundreds of online reference chat transcripts from Carnegie Mellon University Libraries’ synchronous digital reference service to determine if chat reference is effective for all types of reference transactions.  In spite of predictions that real-time online reference would only be appropriate for ready-reference queries, the authors found that all types of questions, including those requiring full reference interviews, were being asked and answered to the satisfaction of the users.  Practitioners would benefit from the insights into the value of chat reference offered in this article. (Question classification scheme included.)

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Pomerantz, Jeffrey, Nicholson, Scott, and Lankes, R. David. (April 2003).  “Digital Reference Triage: Factors Influencing Question Routing and Assignment.” The Library Quarterly, 73 (2), 103-120. Report of a study designed to identify the factors that influence decisions for question routing in the digital reference environment in order to inform automation of this process.  The Delphi method was employed and fifteen factors were identified as important to this task.  These factors were then ranked and further categorized as general factors, factors that affect assignment to an individual within a service, and factors that affect the choice of where to route questions that are to be sent to an outside service.

Stacy-Bates, Kristine. (Fall 2003).  “E-mail Reference Responses from Academic ARL Libraries.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 43 (1), 59-70. This 2001 unobtrusive study of 98 ARL libraries examined library responses to three reference questions. Responses were assessed in terms of timeliness, elements of the reference interview present, service to people not affiliated with the institution, and accuracy. Response time varied greatly but was often less than the stated timeframe. Accuracy varied by question, ranging from 99% to 65%. Specific suggestions are presented for libraries that offer e-mail reference service.  (Reference questions and assessment questions included in text.)

Tyler, David C. and Beth McNeal. (2003).  “Librarians and Link Rot: A Comparative Analysis with Some Methodological Considerations.” portal: Libraries and the Academy, 3.4, 615-632.  The authors examined the longevity of URLs included in the Web bibliographies prepared by librarians and published in C&RL News from 1994 to 2001. They were found to be as, or more, persistent than those included in previous studies of  randomly selected URLs and those included in commercially published guides.  The authors identify URL characteristics that may be associated with longevity.  The findings will be useful to those developing Web reference collections and bibliographers.

Van Scoyoc, Anna M. (Summer 2003).  “Reducing Library Anxiety in First-Year Students.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 42 (4), 329-341. In this quantitative study of changes in students' library anxiety three groups were studied, one experiencing an in-person bibliographic instruction session, one a computer-based tutorial, and one, the control group, receiving no instruction. Bostick's Library Anxiety Scale was used as both a pre-test and a post-test. Results show that students in the group receiving in-person bibliographic instruction had significantly less library anxiety than the control group. Similar results were found for the 'barriers with staff' and 'affective barriers' subscales.  The study has implications for providers of reference working with students experiencing anxiety about library staff and resources. (Survey instrument is included.)

Von Seggern, Marilyn and Nancy J. Young. (2003).  “The Focus Group Method in Libraries:  Issues Relating to Process and Data Analysis.”  Reference Services Review, 31 (3), 272-284. Focus groups were conducted to determine how users viewed recent transformations in library services and resources.  Ethnograph software was used to code and analyze the data.  This article provides excellent guidance about the methodology and practical application of focus groups and the advantages and disadvantages of Ethnograph.

Ward, David. (2003).  “Using Virtual Reference Transcripts for Staff Training.” Reference Services Review, 31 (1), 46-56. Graduate students analyzed chat transcripts at the University of Illinois using a checklist based on the 1996 RUSA guidelines for behavioral performance.  Implications for training were identified, especially in the area of question negotiation and the reference interview. This article describes a useful method for analyzing chat transcripts to improve service.

Westbrook, Lynn.  (May 2003).  “Information Needs and Experiences of Scholars in Women’s Studies:  Problems and Solutions.”  College & Research Libraries, 64 (3), 192-209. Women’s Studies faculty were surveyed about their use of library services, stages at which library services are useful, and problems and productive strategies in information seeking. Librarians serving Women’s Studies faculty were asked to provide advice on general service issues, marketing of services and searching.  The results suggest the value of developing partnerships, breadth of knowledge, more in-depth research services, and service to a community of users. (Survey instrument not included.)

Zumalt, Joseph R., Smith, Rebecca A. and Yoo-Seong Song. Winter 2003.  “Cost-of-Living Calculators on the Web.” Reference & User Services Quarterly, 43 (2), 155-164. The authors studied the accuracy of web sites that provide cost of living information using the American Chamber of Commerce ACCRA Cost of Living Index as a benchmark. Features of four such web sites are presented as are data about how accurately the sites calculated salaries in cities around the U.S. Significant discrepancies in salary calculations were found. The authors advise reference librarians to carefully evaluate web sources before using or offering them as reference tools.
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