Digital Reference ServiceIntroduction : Reference work has been one of the popular and core functions for a library. Today, the majorrevolutionary change came in libraries and especially in reference services with the impact ofinformation technology and Internet. The information could be available in any format like printor digital and also textual to multimedia. Many experts have defined digital reference services. Some of the are: 1. According to James, “digital reference service is provision of direct, professional assistance to people who are seeking information, at the time and point of need.” 2. According to Smith, “ Emphasis on use of print as well as digital reference services provided over the Internet and can involve the use of both print and digital resources.” 3. Hirko defines, “A library service that provides answers to computers questions via electronic means which such as emails, web forms, interactive chat and application sharing.” Many libraries today provide reference services electronically over Internet through their websites , Digital reference services, outline reference services, web-based reference services, livereferences services, virtual references services Chat services and many more Some of the namesprovide references services electronically .Need of dig. Ref. services : The no. of people visiting physical lib. Location has declinedsignificantly and the no. of people accessing lib. Website and using the internet to find info. Has grown enormously. Personal contacts with users have diminished since the lib. Began providing web-based access to the library catalogue and other collection. It is necessary to provide the information to the users at the point of need whatever the user may be. Digital reference extends services to physically challenged people who can’t visit the library.Technology how allows users to submit their queries at any time for many any place in theworld. Digital reference service provides an opportunity to libraries to be the heart of the onlinecommunity who are the present and future users of the library virtually.Objectives: It allows users to contact library, online and in real-time so, user can receive information by sitting at home. It should identify and articulate the information need.
Should develop effective search strategy, that is, recognize the order of the topic, and provide proper information to the user. User should satisfy with information provided. Should provide good quality information to users. Librarian should analyze and critically evaluate the information. So, user can get authoritative and authentic information.Advantages: Services to remote users. Distributed service Convenience Expanding the scope of services while expanding hours of service. Additional communication option. Capability to reach more people.Forms of Digital Reference: 1. Email 2. Web Forms 3. Chat using commercial applications 4. Chat using instant messaging 5. Video-base Reference Service 1. Email –The increase in digital reference volume over all types of libraries is dramatic and mayperhaps be related to new methods of question submission. While the proportion oflibraries providing email addresses is roughly comparable to what has been observed inthe past, the percentage of libraries offering detailed forms. 2. Web Forms –Web forms are created for digital reference services in order to help the patron bemore productive in asking their questions. It helps the librarian locate exactly what thepatron is asking for. Creation of web forms requires design consideration.Following aspects are mostly found in web forms. A return email address to send the answers to question. What sources that patrons have consulted. How the patron is planning to use the information.
The patron is the library patron or not. A name to personalize the interaction. A date by which that information is needed. 3. Chat using commercial applications –Several applications exist for providing chat base tool service. Some of theseapplications are: Virtual reference Toolkit, 24/7 reference, Question point, etc. Theseapplications process functionality such as instant messaging, co-browsing, web page anddocument publishing, customization of pre-scripted messages.Real-time chat techniques involve how to communication digital reference, as thereare no oral cues. Since communication is mediated through software, and reference istaking place on the World Wide Web. 4. Chat using instant messaging – Instant messaging or online chat is one of the most popular forms of computercommunication. It is more immediate than email if you can type pretty well.For eg. Messaging librarian use messengers like, Yahoo messenger, Google talk, MSNmessenger etc. 5. Video-base Reference Service –A video-based Virtual Reference (VR) also called VideoHelp. A client /serverinfrastructure was adopted for the VideoHelp system and timestamps were used toachieve the video synchronization between the librarians and patrons. A client/serverinfrastructure was adopted. On the server side, as session manager, implemented usingJava socket, Video sharing.Implementation and Maintenance of Digital Reference Service :Staff Training – In training program that promises to make any library staff member regardless of education orexperience and proficient in providing virtual reference. Virtual Reference Training provides theguidance for developing a program that will help all librarians develop confidence at the virtualdesk.Recruiting New Librarians – When recruiting new staff is possible, careful consideration should be given to thoseapplicants who can bring critical new skills directly from library school. Those responsible for
recruiting can reasonably have high expectations of today’s entry level librarians. Many recentlibrary school graduate bring to the employment market specific technology skills that did notexist just a few years ago.Interface Design – The online reference desk should be designed to allow access to resources and expertise for the greatest number of people, regardless of language, technical capability & physical impediments. Take the potential limitations of hardware and technical sophistication of end users into consideration when planning the site. Minimum hardware requirements for use of the use of the service should be clearly stated. Clearly state who answers the questions and state what the service will not do. Determine whether it is necessary to maintain patron anonymity by stripping away all personal information.Creating and Testing the service (prototype) – Computers, software, trained staff, etc. these are basic and very important aspects in creatingthe Digital Reference Service. Today many libraries are computerized and having Internetfacility. Today many software are freely available on net. So, library can download it use it. Digital reference service need to be pretested before final implementation and makingavailable to people. Digital reference service on implemented fully needs to be maintainedconsistently over the period in order to make it successful.Facets of Quality for Digital Reference Service – The facets are intended as a set of standards for organization to achieve in creating andmaintaining digital reference services participating in the Virtual Reference Desk (VRD). The 1997 Virtual Reference Desk Expert Panel identified the original facets of quality. Thelist was based upon user transaction and service development/management. To be included in theVRD Network all services must fulfill the base level of requirements for each facet of quality.Each “Facet” has different section. These sections present each facet of quality, its definition, itis participated in three levels that is Base, Current Practice and Goals.Legal Issues- It is important for all librarians to familiarize themselves with the current state of publicinformation legislation in their region, and when it affects the scope of services offered to sharethe information with their patrons. Digital Reference and Freedom of Information.
National Information Policies. Pubic Information Legislation. Related Legislation. Copyright. Copyright is a policy issue as well but it comes up often enough that it is best to address itseparately. What types of material can be sent to which patrons without violating the letter or thespirit of the copyright, law or the licenses you may have with database vendors?Methods of Evaluation: It’s essential that the evaluation of reference service begins with examining why the service isbeing evaluated in the first place, and what the organization hopes to gain by conducting theassessment. The evaluation itself can be conducted in several ways. Such methods are in format, such as the compilation of user feedback, and eBay-type ratingsleft by users, etc. Other more format types of evaluation include surveys and questionnaires,observation, case studies, and interviews.Following are some methods of evaluation. 1. User Feedback 2. Rating 3. Survey and Questionnaire 4. Observation 5. Interviews 6. Case Studies 1. User Feedback – User Feedback includes suggestions given by users, their reply on service and on answer, which they received from library, thank you note send by users etc. User feedback is very important. This feedback is helpful in to change and to improve service. 2. Rating – Users give rating to service, that means library give rating scale like 1-5 and user have to ranked service as per his opinion. He give rating between 1-5 and on the basis of these ratings library evaluate the service.
3. Survey and Questionnaire – Surveys are perhaps the most prevalent form of reference evaluation, and are the favored instrument for digital reference services. Surveys can be sent within minutes or days of a transaction, or even pop up at the conclusion of interaction. 4. Observation– For virtual services observation has taken the form of sending questions with predetermined answers to services to test their responses. With the advent of chat reference, and offer an important opportunity to both identify problems and provide valuable training examples for staff. 5. Interviews – Much information can be gained from both individual and focus group interviews, but they are labor-intensive and expensive to conduct. Interviews are difficult for digital reference services, as their users can be attributed across the globe, and are usually anonymous. 6. Case Studies – Case studies frequently used when researching new services or products, and are often presented in academic journals and at conferences. Typically, a combination of the above evaluative methods is used to examine services for a case study.Conclusion: Digital Reference Services have freed reference services from the reference desk. Digitalreference can be employed as a means to provide a human presence in an online environment toassist users at a point of need and to make librarians work less invisible.