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Thriving on Theory: A New Model for Synchronous Reference Encounters Marie L. Radford, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Rutgers, The State University of NJ Lynn.

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Presentation on theme: "Thriving on Theory: A New Model for Synchronous Reference Encounters Marie L. Radford, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Rutgers, The State University of NJ Lynn."— Presentation transcript:

1 Thriving on Theory: A New Model for Synchronous Reference Encounters Marie L. Radford, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Rutgers, The State University of NJ Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist, OCLC ASIS&T 2009 Annual Meeting November 6-11, 2009 Vancouver, BC

2 Need for Integrated Theoretical Model In time, perhaps an overarching model of all reference, regardless of medium of delivery, will be developed. (Pomerantz, 2005) Today will present new model grounded in Communication & Sociology Theory

3 Relational Theory & Approach to Interpersonal Communication Every message has dual dimensions – both content & relational. (Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 1967)

4 Dual Dimensions Content The WHAT of the message Information exchange Relational HOW message is to be taken Relationship of participants

5 Interaction Ritual: Essays on Face-to-Face Behavior Erving Goffman Essay: On Face-Work: An analysis of Ritual Elements in Social Interaction (1967)

6 Model Grounded in Research Identify what is critically important to users & librarians in successful reference interactions FtF Environment –Reference Encounter (Radford, 1999) Virtual Reference, Live Chat Environment –Seeking Synchronicity (Radford & Connaway, )

7 The Reference Encounter – FtF (Radford, 1999) Interpersonal relationships & communication of great importance in librarian & user perceptions. Librarians value content more. Users value relational aspects more.

8 Seeking Synchronicity – VR Librarians AND users value BOTH information (content) & relational aspects Greater portion of users value content in VR than in FtF Librarians sensitive to users attitude in unsuccessful VR encounters (as found in FtF)

9 Interpersonal Aspects Important in VR –Rapport building –Representing nonverbal cues –Strategies for relationship development –Evidence of deference & respect –Face-saving tactics –Greeting & closing rituals

10 Findings from Interpersonal Communication Analysis Relational & Content Facilitators –Interpersonal aspects of FtF or chat conversation that have a positive impact on librarian-client interaction & that enhance communication. Relational & Content Barriers –Interpersonal aspects of FtF or chat conversation that have a negative impact on librarian-client interaction & that impede communication.

11 Facilitators - Positive Relational & Content Dimensions Relational (Interpersonal) –Positive Attitude –Positive Relationship Quality –Approachability –Positive Impact of Technology –Familiarity –Greeting Ritual –Closing Ritual Content (Information) –Providing Information Access –Accurate Information –Specific Information –Demonstrating Knowledge (General/Specialized) –Appropriate Instruction –Convenient/Timely Access

12 Barriers - Negative Relational & Content Dimensions Relational –Negative Attitude –Negative Relational Quality –Lack of Approachability –Negative Impact of Technology –Lack of Greeting Ritual –Lack of Closing Ritual Content –Lack of Info./Access –Lack of Accuracy –Negative Impact of Technology –Lack of Knowledge (General/Specialized) –Lack of Appropriate Instruction –Unrealistic Task

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14 Quadrant A - Positive Relational & Positive Content – Successful Participants (librarians & users) information & interpersonal needs are met.

15 Quadrant B - Positive Relational & Negative Content - Mixed Participants interpersonal needs are met, but information needs are not met.

16 Quadrant D - Negative Relational & Positive Content - Mixed Participants information needs are met, but interpersonal needs are not met.

17 Quadrant C - Negative Relational & Negative Content – Unsuccessful Participants information & interpersonal needs are not met.

18 Encounter Context – Participant Characteristics Librarian & User –age & gender –cultural background –educational level –technological skills (including keyboarding) –subject knowledge –language & communication skills –institutional affiliation –users past experience with libraries/librarians –librarians reference service philosophy

19 Encounter Context – Situation Reference queries are related to different situations including –professional –academic –personal –other

20 Encounter Context – Mode of Communication Synchronous reference modes –FtF, traditional reference –VR (live chat) encounters

21 Implications Information & relationship development critical to successful interactions Sustainability dependant upon developing & maintaining positive relationships with VR & FtF users For LIS education –Content & technical skills vitally important –Increase emphasis on interpersonal communication –Emphasize users point of view

22 Future Research More testing of Theoretical Model –Does it hold up in other modes (IM)? –Non-synchronous modes ( )? –Quasi-synchronous modes (SMS text messaging?) Next will investigate Instant Messaging (IM) reference environment – growing steadily –IM believed to be congruent with model, closely related to live chat

23 References Flanagan, J. C. (1954). The critical incident technique. Psychological Bulletin, 5, Goffman, E. (1967). Interaction ritual, essays on face-to-face behavior. Garden City, New York: Doubleday. Pomerantz, J. (2005). A conceptual framework and open research questions for chat- based reference, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 56(12), 1288–1302. Radford, M. L. (June, 2006). Encountering virtual users: A qualitative investigation of interpersonal communication in chat reference. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 57(8), Radford, M. L. (1999). The reference encounter: Interpersonal communication in the academic library. Chicago: ACRL, A Division of the American Library Association. Radford, M. L. & Connaway, L. S. ( ). Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives, grant funded by the Institute for Museum and Library Services, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and OCLC, Inc. Available: Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J. & Jackson, D.D. (1967). Pragmatics of human communication. NY: Norton.

24 Special Thanks Rutgers University & OCLC Seeking Synchronicity Grant Project Team Jocelyn DeAngelis Williams Susanna Sabolsci-Boros Timothy J. Dickey Patrick Confer Mary Anne Reilly Julie Strange Lisa Rose-Wiles Andrea Simzak Jannica Heinstrom Those helping with the graphic design of the model Nathan Graham (Rutgers), Mor Naaman (Rutgers), & Gary P. Radford (Fairleigh Dickinson University)

25 End Notes This is one of the outcomes from the project Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives Funded by IMLS, Rutgers University, & OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc. Slides available at project web site:


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