Common Chat Reference Service Models Stand-alone –Local staffing –Local tech support –May involve branch libraries Consortium –Centralized staffing (multi- institution, state, national) –Centralized tech support
Issues common to both service models Librarians cant staff a physical and virtual reference desk at the same time Librarians can multi-task while staffing chat reference Issues with the medium –Pressure to answer quickly and completely –Lack of nonverbal cues with patrons –Difficulties with shift changes
Further issues Relatively low volume of questions per hour Cost effectiveness Nature of questions –An evaluation of chat sessions revealed that a substantial portion of inquiries received related to university-specific interests. from Virtual Reference Services: Consortium versus Stand-Alone
Stand-Alone chat service Local staffing benefits –Produces higher patron satisfaction for local-expertise required questions –Fast response time to local questions (which constitute more than 1 in 5 queries) –Local control of training enables more uniform level of response –May be less expensive overall
Local staffing down side –Many more hours dedicated to service than consortium members while still not providing 24/7 coverage –May not be less expensive overall, depending on software choice and total staffing costs –Free software has downsides
Consortium chat downsides –More expensive –23% of questions require local expertise and 60% of questions require some institutional knowledge of resources, etc. –Training needs are greater due to many more members –Librarian dissatisfaction
Reasons chat reference services are discontinued The major reason for discontinuation was funding problems, followed by low volume (including low volume by target audience). Other reasons were staffing problems, technical problems, and institutional culture issues. from A multiple-case study investigation of the discontinuation of nine chat reference services
Anecdotal Evidence Off-Campus Library Services Conference –3 libraries either switched from consortium to stand-alone services or ran both simultaneously –All three reported much higher satisfaction with stand-alone chat reference service from patrons and librarians, even with far fewer service hours
Resources used in this presentation Bishop, Bradley Wade. Virtual Reference Services: Consortium versus Stand-Alone. College & Undergraduate Libraries 13(4) 2006: 117-127. Kwon, Nahyun. Public libraries patrons use of collaborative chat reference service: The effectiveness of question answering by question type. Library & Information Science Research 29 (2007): 70-91. Radford, Marie L. A multiple-case study of the discontinuation of nine chat reference services. Library & Information Science Research 28 (2006): 521-547. Akers, Cynthia. From IM to Collaboration: Providing Virtual Reference Services at a Medium-Sized Institution. College & Undergraduate Libraries 13(4) 2006: 75-95.
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