Convergence and Synergy: Social Q&A meets Virtual Reference Services

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Paper presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, October 26-30, 2012, Baltimore, Maryland.

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  • Image from Microsoft Office Clipart
  • Academic: 18
    Public: 9
    VRS Consortia: 4
    State: 2
    Virtual Library: 1
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    We interviewed 10 reference librarians from Rutgers University who represented multifaceted subject areas including the liberal arts, the arts, the sciences, and business disciplines. Each librarian was a subject specialist, meaning he or she had not only a master’s in library science but also a secondary master’s and/or a doctoral degree. Librarians interviewed provided a mixture of face-to-face and electronic reference services, both synchronous (i.e., chat) and asynchronous (i.e., email-based service) (Shah & Kitzie, 2012, p. 2025).

    We interviewed 24 undergraduate students from Rutgers University and 12 master’s students from different universities, including Boston University, Johns Hopkins, Drexel, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Harvard, Georgetown, Notre Dame, and Northwestern. As in the experts’ portion of the study, convenience sampling was used to obtain these students by offering undergraduates either monetary compensation ($10) or extra credit for those who volunteered to participate in the study as well as offering monetary compensation ($10) to master’s students. Students who volunteered were selected as participants only if they could identify past use of and/or experience with at least one online Q&A platform. Note that the majority of undergraduate participants identified a lack of use or familiarity with VR services, and the majority of both undergraduate and master’s students did not actively participate in an SQA community but rather found answers posted on SQA platforms through a natural language query input into a Google search. For this reason and the fact that such a small sample size was used, we cannot generalize findings from this study to undergraduate and master’s students as a whole (Shah & Kitzie, 2012, p. 2028).

    Shah, C., & Kitzie, V. (2012). Social Q & A and virtual reference-comparing apples and oranges with the help of experts and users. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(10), 2020-2036
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  • Convergence and Synergy: Social Q&A meets Virtual Reference Services

    1. 1. The world’s libraries. Connected. Convergence & Synergy: Social Q&A Meets Virtual Reference Services ASIS&T, 75TH Annual Meeting 30 October 2012 http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/synergy.html Chirag Shah Assistant Professor Rutgers University chirags@rutgers.edu Marie L. Radford Associate Professor Rutgers University mradford@rutgers.edu Lynn Silipigni Connaway Senior Research Scientist OCLC connawal@oclc.org
    2. 2. The world’s libraries. Connected. Where We Are Now VRS SQA
    3. 3. The world’s libraries. Connected. Current Model of Virtual Reference Services (VRS) Question POSITIVES • 20+ years • High quality/accurate • Professionals • Consortium collaborations CHALLENGES • Funding cuts • Monolithic • Collaboration limited beyond consortia • Underutilized Answer
    4. 4. The world’s libraries. Connected. Social Question & Answer (SQA) POSITIVES •Community-based •Collaborative •Publicly available •Low cost •Quick turnaround •Easy build-up of social capital CHALLENGE •No guarantee of quality of answers •Some questions receive no answers
    5. 5. The world’s libraries. Connected. Convergence of VRS & SQA •Similar components •Previous efforts •Slam the Boards •Enquire •Rated best answer 79% of time •Collaboration possibilities intriguing
    6. 6. The world’s libraries. Connected. Cyber Synergy: Seeking Sustainability through Collaboration between Virtual Reference & Social Q&A Sites Partners: OCLC & Rutgers Funded by IMLS for $250K 2-year project
    7. 7. The world’s libraries. Connected. Research Questions • What is the effectiveness of various VRS & SQA services, quality of content provided, & their relative merits & shortcomings? • How does accuracy compare between VRS & SQA sites? • What lessons can be learned from SQA sites that could be applied to VRS & vice-versa? • How can VRS become more collaborative, within & between libraries, & tap more effectively into librarian’s subject expertise? • How can we design systems & services within & between VRS & SQA for better quality & sustainability?
    8. 8. The world’s libraries. Connected. Project Phases Phase I Phase II Phase III Transcript analysis Telephone Interviews Constructing Design Specifications
    9. 9. The world’s libraries. Connected. Phase I: VRS & SQA Transcript Analysis •560 transcripts (296,158 total) •350 live chat •210 Qwidget (IM) •11 coding schemes •1000 Q&A pairs from Yahoo Answers! (>1 million total)
    10. 10. The world’s libraries. Connected. Phase I: Transcript Analysis – Preliminary Results • Subject - Dewey Decimal Classification •Broad range •Social sciences & technology - largest percentages • Type of Question •Procedural & Ready Reference largest percentages • Accuracy •90% accurate for Ready Reference •75% correct with citation included • Difficulty •READ Scale (Gerlich & Berard, ‘07) •Most questions fall 2-3 on READ scale (require some effort & time)
    11. 11. The world’s libraries. Connected. Phase II: Telephone Interviews •Librarians •50 VRS librarians •Users •VRS •50 QP live chat & Qwidget users •SQA •50 services users & expert users
    12. 12. The world’s libraries. Connected. Phase II: VRS & SQA Phone Interview Demographics •Librarians •18 academic • 16 other •VRS/SQA Users •5 VRS only •12 SQA only •56 used both Participant geographic distribution LibrarianVRS/SQA User
    13. 13. The world’s libraries. Connected. Phase II: SQA FtF Interview Demographics •36 SQA student users •24 undergraduate •12 graduate •10 subject librarians •Major themes •Important for success •Topic • Length •Visibility •Timeliness •Clarity • Availability •Verifiability •Relevance, quality, & satisfaction on equal planes
    14. 14. The world’s libraries. Connected. Phase II: SQA Interview Analysis • Exploratory • Uses & experiences in physical & digital libraries & SQAs • Preliminary results • “Goodness” of answers • Synergy of SQA & VRS • Collaboration • Leverage subject knowledge
    15. 15. The world’s libraries. Connected. Phase II: Librarian Interviews •34 phone interviews conducted to date •Major themes •Draft coding scheme developed •Important •Attaining sustained user satisfaction •Teaching search strategies •Better via electronic media •Cite sources
    16. 16. The world’s libraries. Connected. The Takeaway
    17. 17. The world’s libraries. Connected. Goals & Impact on VRS/SQA Services •Improve underutilized services •Understand how to leverage librarian subject expertise through virtual collaborations •Develop guidelines for practice •Make recommendations for evaluation of VRS & SQA •Inform systems design •Connect potential users with SQA services & VRS
    18. 18. The world’s libraries. Connected. Next Steps
    19. 19. The world’s libraries. Connected. Next Steps •Further analysis of SQA questions •Subject •Question Type •Questions failing to obtain answers •Continue interviews •VRS/SQA users •VRS librarians •Conduct design sessions with experts •Specifications for system design ANSWERS(0) Answer Question Nee help with English please?
    20. 20. The world’s libraries. Connected. Funding & Acknowledgements Cyber Synergy: Seeking Sustainability through Collaboration between Virtual Reference and Social Q&A Sites • $250,000 for 2011-2013 • Funded by IMLS, OCLC, & Rutgers University • Co-PIs Marie Radford (RU), Lynn Silipigni Connaway (OCLC), & Chirag Shah (RU) http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/synergy.html • We thank Eric Choi, Alyssa Darden, Kathy Juliano, Vanessa Kitzie, Hanna Lee, and Stephanie Mikitish for their assistance in coding, analysis, and data presentation.
    21. 21. The world’s libraries. Connected. Selected Bibliography Connaway, L. S. & Radford, M. L. (2011). Seeking Synchronicity: Revelations and recommendations for virtual reference. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research. Retrieved on February 26, 2012 from http://www.oclc.org/reports/synchronicity/full.pdf Radford, M. L., & Connaway, L. S. (forthcoming). Not dead yet! A longitudinal study of query type and ready reference accuracy in live chat and IM reference. Library & Information Science Research, 35(1). Radford, M. L., & Connaway, L. S. (2005-2008). Seeking synchronicity: Evaluating virtual reference services from user, non-user, and librarian perspectives. Funded by National Leadership Grants for Libraries program of the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/synchronicity/default.htm Radford, M. L., Connaway, L. S., Confer, P., Sabolsci-Boros, S., & Kwon, H. (2011). “Are we getting warmer?” Query clarification in live chat virtual reference. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(3), 259-279. Radford, M. L., Connaway, L. S., & Shah, C. (2011-2013). Cyber Synergy: Seeking sustainability through collaboration between virtual reference and social Q&A sites. Retrieved from http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/synergy/default.htm Shah, C., & Kitzie, V. (2012). Social Q & A and virtual reference-comparing apples and oranges with the help of experts and users. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 63(10), 2020-2036.
    22. 22. The world’s libraries. Connected. Questions? Marie L. Radford: mradford@rutgers.edu Lynn Silipigni Connaway: connawal@oclc.org Chirag Shah: chirags@rutgers.edu ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

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