"You don't want to be a dead-end" VRS Librarians on Collaboration & SQA
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"You don't want to be a dead-end" VRS Librarians on Collaboration & SQA



Presented at iConference, 15 February 2013, Fort Worth, Texas (USA).

Presented at iConference, 15 February 2013, Fort Worth, Texas (USA).



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  • Cyber Synergy: Seeking Sustainability through Collaboration between Virtual Reference and Social Q&A Sites$250,000 for 2011-2013Funded by IMLS, OCLC, & Rutgers UniversityCo-PIs Marie Radford (RU), Lynn SilipigniConnaway (OCLC), & Chirag Shah (RU)http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/synergy.html
  • -Questions used critical incident technique (Flanagan, 1954)-Remember a time when you had a difficult face-to-face or virtual reference question that required subject knowledge within your expertise that you successfully answered. Describe this interaction and why you felt it was successful.Filled info need JQ: “We were able to giver her exactly what she needed” (L11)Content expertise JQ: “I knew the subject area” (L09)Tech expertise JQ: “I was familiar with the resource beforehand” (L20)User satisfaction JQ: “There were lots of happy faces so the user seemed pleased.” (L09)Instruction JQ: “It was an opportunity to educate the patron” (L04)
  • -Remember a time when you had a difficult face-to-face or virtual reference question that required subject knowledge which was outside of your area of expertise. Describe this encounter and what you did in this situation. What alternatives did you have, how did you decide to handle the question, and why?Referral JQ: “I wound up referring him back to the local YA person” (L16)Tech difficulty JQ: “I didn’t have a great facility with that specific school’s website interface” (L20)Content difficulty JQ: “She needed to know how to perform an artery tap…[so] no matter the searching, I was not going to be confident that my answer was going to be complete” (L15)Time JQ: “But as usual, the paper was due too soon for me to answer” (L02)User unfamiliarity JQ: “It’s kind of challenging when the students don’t even know how to use the database” (L13)
  • -How often do you consult a subject expert (e.g., librarian colleague, other expert) to help you answer a difficult reference question? How do you communicate with them?More than once a week (n=11), less than once a week (n=6), less than once a month (n=1)E-mail (n=17), face to face (n=11), chat (n=9), phone (n=6)-Remember a time when you successfully sought help via collaboration with a colleague in answering a difficult reference question (either face to face or in VR). Describe what happened and what were the important factors that helped you decide that it was successful?Face to face (n=12), e-mail (n=6), chat (n=4), unknown (n=3)Face to face JQ: “We are constantly passing questions all over that desk” (L15)Unknown JQ: “I called in this colleague” (L11)Comprehensive answer JQ: “The librarians in the energy program collaborate constantly…its easy to leave out a facet of the question” (L13)Comprehensive answer JQ: “It was the kind of question where I could give an okay answer and I knew this colleague could give a great answer” (L20)Lacks expertise answer: “It was a patent question. Definitely out of my area of expertise.” (L06)Time JQ: “At the end of my shift, another librarian came” (L24)Follow up JQ: “I spoke to her afterwards about what she did” (L21)
  • -Generally, what are key factors that determine whether or not you are going to refer a question to another librarian? *Probe if not mentioned: Have you ever referred because you are only able to give an incomplete answer or wanting to give a more in-depth answer than you could?Librarian: lacks expertise (n=16), is not a local librarian (n=5), availability/ease/convenience (n=1 each)Lack of expertise JQ: “Sometimes it is dealing with stats or gov docs, so I knew I didn’t know what questions to ask, so they needed more of a subject expert.” (L10)Local policy JQ: “If it’s about a library policy for example that I can’t find on their website, I will offer to transfer the call to that library or have them call [the library] themselves” (L03)User: needs more info (n=8), has time (n=4)Time JQ: “The student is willing to devote the time to it” (L21)More info JQ: “You’ve exhausted the resources that you are aware of and you don’t want to be a dead-end for the patron” (L23)-What would encourage or discourage you from seeking collaboration with other colleagues/subject experts? What (system, policy, or personal) realities prevent or enable you to engage in collaboration?Level: individual (n=17), organizational (n=13)Level JQ: “Librarians are very generous in their knowledge. That knowledge allows librarians to proceed without ego or embarrassment about their answers. Institutionally, there is a mandate that we collaborate, an expectation that we will collaborate.” (L07)Facilitators: willingness to help (n=19), know who to ask (n=5)Willingness to help JQ: “There are librarians who’ve told me I can ask them whenever I need to or call them at home” (L01)Know who to contact JQ: “Having a listserv enables me to feel that’s an accepted avenue for assistance and collaboration. I think that having the email listserv would encourage me to collaborate because it’s very quick and reaches a large amount of people in a short time.” (L20)Availability JQ: “That ever-present hanging out on chat enables us to communicate quickly” (L15)Barriers: unwillingess to collaborate (n=9), insufficient time (n=2), do not know who to contact (n=2)Unwillingness JQ: “There are librarians who are hostile in body language and sometimes verbally if it interferes with their other duties. They have made it very clear that I should not ask and so I do not.” (L01)Unwillingness JQ: “I have heard that in someplaces people won’t admit that they need help. The whole point is getting the person what they need, not whether I have the knowledge.” (L17)Not knowing JQ: “What discourages yo is that you just can’t know what everybody’s expertise is.” (L22)
  • -What do you think of the idea of consulting subject experts who are not librarians in answering reference questions? Why do you feel this way? *Probe if not mentioned: ask about crowdsourcing like SQA sitesAuthoritative: professor (n=5), other (10)Objective answer (n=5)Convenient (n=3)Authority JQ: “I think libraries need to focus on thinking about the ways in which people nowadays conceptualize information seeking and take into account information sources and indexes that are not traditionally purchased by librarians in answering those questions. I think it's about sharing content knowledge and expertise with people who aren't looking at information in a very library content-specific way. “ (L01)Objective JQ: “I think it's wonderful to call in subject experts to respond with information in that subject area. I feel this way because with my own personal experience, not even in the library world, when I want to know something, the best way to find out is to have a conversation with the person themselves (someone who has researched or written something). The danger is with facts and opinions.” (L02)Convenient/effective JQ: “In theory it's a great idea, but in practice, I don't really do it. I'll send them to library resources instead. This is because I'm trying to get them to use their library. But I do know that often in person subject experts can be quicker and more effective than library resources. So this question is actually causing me to think more about this issue.” (L08)-What question types do you think are suitable for SQA sites?Ready ref: closed (n=3), fact based (n=6)Experience (n=6), opinion based (n=3)Starting point (n=1)Specific topics: everyday (n=4), pop culture (n=2), medical (n=2), technology/computer (n=1), anonymity was preferred (n=1)Ready ref JQ: “I think that questions with clear, knowable answers or yes/no things make great questions for Social Q & A sites.” (L15)Experience JQ: “I think do-it-yourself type of questions like roasting pumpkin seeds or quick fixes for pipes that won't stop dripping. Can you tell me how or can you lead me to the right source, parenting tips, relationship tips are a good way to use them. A conversation you might have if you met up with friends in a coffee shop. I don't think they're completely not useful for serious research, but there is a danger in that it's not clear that it's someone's opinion and not based on a good source.” (L02)-How do you compare SQA services with VRS?Authoritative: comes from answerer (n=7), comes from source (n=5)Not authoritative: comes from answerer (n=7), comes from source (n=5)Tone: objective (n=3), opinion (n=3)Timing: Synchronous (n=3), Asynchronous (n=1)“I think each has it's strengths and weaknesses. Clearly, VR is one on one live support with someone who has very refined expertise around very complicated databases. Yahoo is more of a social site, you don't have the knowledge of the subject background of the person answering. That being said, it's public...at libraries the VR questions are under proprietary software that's not made public, so you can do a Google search to find SQA answers that are shared. I think my institution does a good job personalizing answers, which is something that Yahoo Answers actually does well--there's pictures and sort of a friendly environment around it. Which is something that I think a lot of librarians don't do...they don't think about sharing a photo of the librarian answering the question.” (L01)“I think that the Social Q&A services do provide peer opinions and suggestions. I do think they serve a purpose in that way, and I think there's a separation from professional reference service in that you have someone who's seeking authoritative and objective resources as their goal with professional reference service.” (L20)

"You don't want to be a dead-end" VRS Librarians on Collaboration & SQA "You don't want to be a dead-end" VRS Librarians on Collaboration & SQA Presentation Transcript

  • iConference 15 February 2013 http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/synergy.html“You don’t want to be a dead-end” VRS Librarians on Collaboration & SQA Lynn Silipigni Connaway Senior Research Scientist OCLC Marie L. Radford connawal@oclc.org Associate Professor Rutgers University Chirag Shah mradford@rutgers.edu Assistant Professor Rutgers University chirags@oclc.org The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Cyber Synergy: Seeking Sustainability through Collaboration betweenVirtual Reference & Social Q&A Sites •Possible collaboration with SQA community •Evidence to model new library collaborative services •Sustainability vital •Three phases • Transcript analysis • 1000 Yahoo Answers Q&A pairs • 500+ QuestionPoint chat/Qwidget transcripts • 150 Telephone interviews & analysis • Construct design specifications The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Librarian Interviews – Preliminary Results •50 Total interviews - VRS librarians •25 Interviews analyzed for preliminary results • Phone interviews 8/12 - 9/12 • Responses analyzed 10/12 - 11/12 • Analysis - constant comparative method & Critical Incident Technique •Themes • Difficult reference encounters • Collaboration • Social Question & Answer (SQA) • VRS and SQA compared The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Difficult reference encounters WITHIN librarian’s expertise • Librarian usually able to answer (only 4 referrals) • Answering question convenient due to librarian’s subject knowledge or familiarity with technological resources • User seemed satisfied • Librarian able to instruct & connect with user The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Difficult reference encounters OUTSIDE librarian’s expertise • Librarian usually ended up referring user • Difficulties were due to: - Librarian or user’s lack of subject knowledge - Unfamiliarity with technological resources - Lack of time to answer question The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Collaboration Results •Demographics • Frequency hard to track - some more VRS than others • Most collaborated more than once a week • Modes of collaboration: e-mail, FtF, chat, phone • Collaboration themes • FtF most often reported, then e-mail, then chat • Reasons for collaboration • More comprehensive answer • Lacks expertise • Lacks time • Sometimes followed up (8 of 25) The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Collaboration (cont.) •Reasons to collaborate • Librarian: lacks expertise, not local librarian, referral seen as option or easy/convenient • User: needs more information, has sufficient time •Facilitators & barriers • Seen on individual or organizational level • Facilitators: willingness to help, know who to contact, other librarians available • Barriers: unwillingness to collaborate, insufficient time, do not know who to contact The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Crowd-sourcing? •Consulting experts acceptable if: Expert is authoritative Question requires objective answer Convenient •Question type suitable for SQA? • Ready ref., experience or opinion based, starting point for in-depth research • VRS is _______ and SQA is not (comparison) • Authoritative • Complex • Objective • Synchronous The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Next Steps The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Next Steps •Continue interviews •VRS librarians •VRS/SQA users Nee help with English please? •Further analysis SQA questions Answer Question •Subject •Question Type ANSWERS(0) •Questions failing to obtain answers •Design sessions with experts •Specifications for system design The world’s libraries. Connected.
  • Marie L. Radford: mradford@rutgers.edu ??Lynn Silipigni Connaway: connawal@oclc.orgChirag Shah: chirags@rutgers.edu ? ?Questions? ? ? ?? The world’s libraries. Connected.