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Chat reference1



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  • Text messaging is limited to 160 characters per message, restricting utility to short reference communications. (Article, implementation at Sims Memorial Library at Southeastern Louisiana Univ.)
  • Does the student on the other side of the chat understand that role? Are they going to be receptive to instruction?
  • It’s hard to tell when a student is interested in getting instruction. Most current studies show that instruction can be offered through IM reference, can be effective and that students are receptive to it.


  • 1. Chat Reference: What’s Hot, What’s Not
    Chat Reference: What’s Hot, What’s Not
    Carleen Huxley
    Twitter: cshlib
  • 2. Widescreen Graphics
  • 3. Creating 16:9 Presentations
    • Lack of physical and auditory cues
    • 4. Real/perceived pressure to handle the transaction quickly
    • 5. Instruction
    • 6. Consortia vs. single library
  • 7. “At the heart of any reference transaction is a conversation.” (Lankes)
    The Interview
  • 8. “If text alone could not convey emotion, then old-fashioned letters sent by mail would never have caught on, and the movie would always be better than the book.” (Condit and Desai)
  • 9.
    • Welcoming
    • 10. Gathering Information
    • 11. Confirming/Agreement
    • 12. Providing Answer
  • Show interest
    “Wow! Interesting topic.”
    “Oh boy, tough topic.”
  • 13. Informal Language, avoiding robotic instruction
    “Hi!” vs. “Hello”
    “I suggest you try Eric” vs. “Select a periodical index”
    “Let’s start with a subject search in the catalog..” vs. “Consult our catalog…”
  • 14. Misspelling and lower case letters
    • Don’t call patron on their own misspelling, or at least do so tactfully.
    • 15. Lower case typing is faster, which allows for quicker transaction time during chat.
  • Don’t be overly interrogative
    “Is this for an undergrad or grad class?”
    “Do you need a scholarly article, or just any kind of magazine article?”
    “What kind of information?”
    “How will you be using this information?”
  • 16. Update them regularly
    • Preformatted questions (scripts) for ease and speed while you search.
    • 17. “Still looking… “
    • 18. “Hang on, still searching…”
    • 19. “chug, chug, chug….that’s my computer. ;-)
  • Provide warnings before doing something
    • Pushing pages/links
    • 20. Sending contact information
    • 21. Exiting the chat
  • Getting Used to Multiple Dialogues
    • Don’t always have to wait for a response before sending another question or piece of information.
    Patron: Everytime I try to print my article only the first page prints. Help!!!
    Librarian: Hi, there! Are you getting the article from a library database or the internet?
    Patron: The text is also way small.
    Librarian: Yeesh, that is frustrating.
    Patron: From the database called JSTOR
    Librarian: Is it in PDF format?
    Patron: It is! I’ve tried everything!
  • 22.
  • 23. “It borders on the fatuous to propose that technology can be empolyed to provide a satisfactory alternative to nuances of the interaction between librarian and user.” (M. Gorman)
  • 24. How can I convey complex instruction through a chat/SMS interface?
  • 25. The transition of reference librarian from question answerer to librarian as teacher/learning facilitator.
    Desai, Christina and Stephanie J. Graves. Instruction via Instant Messaging reference: what’s happening?. 2006.
  • 26. Confusion between librarians as contentexperts versus process experts.
    Lankes, David. New Concepts in Digital Reference. 2009
  • 27. Modeling: Here’s the information you need and here’s how I got it.
    Resource suggestion
    Terms suggestion
    Leading: step-by-step
    Lessons: library terminology (peer review)
  • 28. Instructional Techniques
    Desai, Christina and Stephanie J. Graves. Instruction via Instant Messaging reference: what’s happening?
  • 29. Should the librarian provide instruction when the patron hasn’t asked for it?
  • 30. Leading: Start by giving them a carrot
    Provide a brief immediate answer, then introduce instruction with a follow-up.
    Librarian: Here’s a book on creative learning in early childhood. CREATIVE LEARNING IN PRIMARY SCHOOL
    Patron: Ok, thanks I’ll take a look.
    Librarian: To find more, I would recommend browsing the other books on the shelf next to it.
    Librarian: You can also do a keyword search in our online catalog using “creative learning”
    Patron: How do I get to the online catalog ?
  • 31. Short step-by-step instruction
    Don’t overwhelm them with too much info. Pause to ask them if they have received a page you pushed or have located a box on the page, etc.
    Librarian: Have you logged into Academic Search Complete?
    Patron: No, not yet.
    Patron: k, I’m there.
    Librarian: Ok, now type in your search terms…
    Librarian: You might want to try something like
    Librarian: “juvenile diabetes” and nutrition
    Librarian: Be sure to include the quotes around juvenile diabetes, it will really help the search.
    Librarian: Then select the box next to where it says Full Text. Now you’re ready to search!
    Librarian: How did that work for you?
  • 32. On the spot screencast
  • 33. Website annotation tools
  • 34. What will chat reference look like in the future?
  • 35.
    • David Lankes and OCLC collaborative idea
    • 36. Still only in mock-up/concept phase
    • 37. The “digital table”
    • 38. Participatory Reference
    • 39. Collaborative Conversation - “Why should virtual reference necessitate one librarian and one patron?”
    • 40. Patron/User is in control. They invite us into their space!
    • 41. Knowledgebase made public and searchable.
    Scapes Video. Virtual Dave
  • 42.
    • Put the user in control
    • 43. Allow the user to not simply collect information, but to organize the information in a relational manor (like an entailment mesh).
    • 44. Allow the user to determine the conversants.
    • 45. Promote back and forth exchanges.
    Lankes, David. New Concepts in Digital Reference. 2009
  • 46. Thank you!
    Carleen Huxley
  • 47. Desai, Christina M., and Stephanie J. Graves. "Instruction via Instant Messaging reference: what's happening." electronic Library 24, no. 24 (2006): 174-189. (accessed June 15, 2010).
    Fagan, Jody Condit, and Christina M. Desai. "Communication Strategies for Instant Messaging and Chat Reference Services." The Reference Librarian 38, no. 79 (2003): 121-155.
    Hill, J.B., Cherie Madarash Hill, and Dayne Sherman. "Text Messaging in an Academic Library: Integrating SMS into Digital Reference." The Reference Librarian 47, no. 97 (2007): 17-29.
    Lankes, David. "Scapes Video." Virtual Dave...Real Blog.. (accessed June 15, 2010).
    Lankes, R. David. New Concepts in Digital Reference (Synthesis Lectures on Information Concepts, Retrieval & Services). San Rafael: Morgan And Claypool Publishers, 2009.
  • 48. Photo Credit
    Slide 1: Image courtesy of isolethetv on Flickr