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Quality Inquiry: User Perspectives on Virtual Reference Practice Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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Presentation on theme: "Quality Inquiry: User Perspectives on Virtual Reference Practice Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey."— Presentation transcript:

1 Quality Inquiry: User Perspectives on Virtual Reference Practice Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist OCLC ASIS&T 2009 Annual Meeting November Vancouver, BC

2 Libraries Today – Rapid Change Vying for information seekers attention Must re-engineer to accommodate users workflows & habits

3 Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, & Librarian Perspectives IMLS funded project with 4 phases: Focus group interviews Transcript analysis (850) Online surveys – 496 Total 175 VRS librarians, 184 VRS non-users, 137 VRS users Telephone interviews Total 100 VRS librarians, 107 VRS non-users, 76 VRS users

4 Online Surveys Descriptive statistical analysis – Demographic – Multiple-choice – Likert-type Qualitative analysis – Open-ended – 2 critical incident (CI) questions Adults & Net Gen

5 The Net Generation Born Millennials EchoBoomers Gen Y Socially networked environment Different communication & information-seeking behaviors

6 Screenagers Youngest of Net Generation Born – Now years old Affinity for technology Expect instant access

7 VRS User Demographics (N=137) Net Gen (N=49) Female (51%, 25) years old (47%, 23) Caucasian (67%, 33) Adult, 29+ (N=88) Female (68%, 60) years old (38%, 33) Caucasian (84%, 74)

8 User Demographics Adult (N=88) High School Graduates to PhD – Majority college degree or higher (83%, 73) Used chat >1x – Overwhelmingly Yes (99%, 87)

9 VRS Users Likely to be Repeat Users Net Gens (N=49) Adults (N=88)

10 Chat Least Intimidating to VRS Users Net Gens (N=49) Adults (N=88)

11 Recommendation Important to VRS Users Net Gens (N=49) Used VRS because recommended Recommended VRS more than adults

12 What Attracts Users to VRS? Users (N=137) Convenience, Convenience, Convenience – Available 24/7 Working from home Nights or weekends – Immediate answers – Lack of cost – Efficient Less intimidating

13 VRS Users Quotes Efficiency Yes, definitely. I already told the librarians I spoke with that I would recommend this service to anyone. It was so easy to use and very helpful. It was brief enough to answer my questions efficiently and not waste my time. I don't really want to have personal chats with librarians over the chat reference service. I really just wanted to ask my question and get an answer and that is exactly what my experience was. It was great! (UOS-30287) Net Gen The chat helped me since it was an efficient use of my time. I was able to continue working online while chatting. (UOS-65381) Adult Cost Effectiveness Yes - it's free, and convenient. The librarians are available till late at night, and they're very productive. The negative experience I described is the only one I've had, and I must have used the over 30 times. It's an easy way to get a better understand your subject and get positive answers from a trained specialist - what more could a student ask for? :-) (UOS-39497) Net Gen Yes, quick and convenient. Cost-effective. Most libraries provide free access but parking can be expensive in the city where major libraries are located, not to mention that the closest major library to me is 60 miles away. (UOS-80908) Adult

14 Why Users Dont Always Choose VRS? Net Gens (N=49) Unhelpful answers Non-subject specialists Slow connections Scripted messages Cold environment

15 What Would Attract Users to VRS? Net Gens (N=49) Faster & easier software Personalized interface Reliable co-browsing More service hours Kiosk & cybercafe access Experienced, tech-savvy librarians

16 What We Learned FtF & VRS Users want – Extended hours of service – Access to electronic information – Interact w/ friendly librarians – Relationships with librarians

17 What We Can Do Encourage service use – Creative marketing Promote full range of options Reassure young people VRS is safe – Build positive relationships whether FtF, phone, or online

18 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. Special thanks to Co- PI, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist, OCLC Project web site:

19 References Connaway, L. S., Radford M. L., Dickey, T. J., Williams, J. D., & Confer, P. (2008). Sense-making and synchronicity: Information-seeking behaviors of millennials and baby boomers. Libri, 58(2), Flanagan, J. C. (1954). The critical incident technique. Psychological Bulletin, 5, Prabha, C., Connaway, L. S., Olszewski, L., & Jenkins, L. R. (2007). What is enough? Satisficing information needs. Journal of Documentation, 63(1), Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1, 3-6.

20 References Radford, M. L., & Connaway, L. S. (2007). Screenagers and live chat reference: Living up to the promise. Scan, 26(1), Rushkoff, D. (1996). Playing the future: How kids culture can teach us to thrive in an age of chaos. NY: HaperCollins. Sweeney, R. (2006). Millennial behaviors and demographics. Retrieved March 18, 2009, from folders/sweeney/Millennials/Article-Millennial-Behaviors.doc. Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J. & Jackson, D.D. (1967). Pragmatics of human communication. NY: Norton.

21 Questions & Comments? Marie L. Radford, Ph.D. Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey


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