Guidelines for Virtual Reference Services Summary


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Summary of MARS/RUSA Guidelines for establishing virtual reference services

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Guidelines for Virtual Reference Services Summary

  1. 1. Guidelines for Virtual Reference Services<br />Summary of the ALA MARS Digital Reference Guidelines, RUSA 2004<br />Kimberly A. Reed, MLIS<br />
  2. 2. Introduction<br />Library users expect to access services via the Internet and mobile communications devices.<br />Many libraries are creating virtual reference services using a variety of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 tools and capacities.<br />As libraries move toward more standardized virtual reference organization, professional guidelines can clarify best practices.<br />
  3. 3. Common Questions<br />Amid new tools and service options, librarians have to ask tough questions.<br />What are considered “good practices” in virtual reference service?<br />What should planning for service include?<br />
  4. 4. 1. Definition of Virtual Service<br />Virtual reference is “reference initiated electronically” using Internet based and telephonic technology to communicate questions to librarians. The person making the inquiry is not physically present at the reference desk, so the interaction is virtual and sustained by the technology. <br />
  5. 5. Range of Virtual Options<br />Wide range of options: Instant Messaging (IM), Wiki, Teleconferencing, email. <br />Today options can be received via mobile, called “mobi” app.<br />Responses to queries can take a number of forms that are not virtual, including telephone calls, faxes, mail or anything that works to answer questions in a timely and effective manner.<br />
  6. 6. 2. Preparing for Virtual Reference<br />Virtual Reference involves all of the planning and scheduling of in-person reference.<br />Library must publish and staff reference VR hours & sufficient resources should be available for the VR staff.<br />VR planning, training, selection of software or platform, technology and resources, should be integrated into shared management and committee decisions. <br />
  7. 7. 3. Provision of Service<br />As an extension of reference service, VR should have equal status, and develop quality goals for planning, staffing and management.<br />VR as a point of service should have established procedures for referring questions to other staff, points of service in the library, or information system. Some VR services are part of library consortia that are electronically linked. <br />Selection of technology should try to fit all needs, including patrons and staff with disabilities.<br />
  8. 8. 4. Organization of Service<br />Your reference service now extends into the virtual space of the Internet. It is invisible, but just as real as the desk in the material library.<br />Make a list of all the things that must be provided for at thereference desk, and now extend that to your virtual reference service. <br />Don’t forget to include marketing, stating regular hours, and publishing privacy & confidentiality policies for your library reference users.<br />
  9. 9. What does sustainable mean?<br />VR should be an integrated part of library reference services. It is important that selection of technology, resources and training be shared decisions. All reference staff have to use the tools you select.<br />Create a “sustainable” VR environment by asking simple questions:<br />Sufficient number of trained staff to offer regular VR hours?<br />Staff Must Be Proficient in virtual IT communications.<br />Commitment of resources to train librarians in VR?<br />Technology and virtual space in the library system (usually not a problem, VR is possible wherever you can access the Internet)?<br />
  10. 10. What is Wrong With These Scenarios?<br />‘The guy who did the Wiki and the Facebook page left and no one has touched it since.’<br />‘We offer a wiki, and we try to check it once or twice a day.’<br />‘We tried to create a virtual reference service, but no one could agree about how much we should include, so we just put it on hold.’<br />‘We never had a regular budget for that [VR].’<br />
  11. 11. 5. Privacy<br />Virtual reference service inquiries and communications are granted full privacy and constitutional protection in U.S. public libraries.<br />Privacy policies should be clearly stated in written form and available to all library users.<br />Any storage or retention of reference queries for purposes of study should remove user identifying information that could compromise the right to privacy.<br />Any retention or use of transcripts of VR interaction should be revealed to library users who are assured of confidentiality.<br />
  12. 12. References<br />Reference and User Services Association. Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Services Professionals. Approved by the RUSA Board of Directors, June 2004. <br />Reference and User Services Association. Professional Competencies for Reference and User Services Librarians. Approved by the RUSA Board of Directors, January 26, 2003. <br />Sloan, Bernie. Electronic reference services: Some suggested guidelines. Reference and Users Services Quarterly, 38(1), 77-81. Summer 1998. Electronic version, reproduced with the permission of the American Library Association. <br />