<ul><li>Sample:  240  virtual reference chat transcripts:  120  questions from community college users and  120  from univ...
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Comparing Apples to Oranges? Community College and University Cooperation in Virtual Reference

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Poster presented at the ALA Annual Conference, July 12, 2009.

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Comparing Apples to Oranges? Community College and University Cooperation in Virtual Reference

  1. 1. <ul><li>Sample: 240 virtual reference chat transcripts: 120 questions from community college users and 120 from university users. </li></ul><ul><li>Questions Categorized by: </li></ul><ul><li>Difficulty/Level (Warner 2001) </li></ul><ul><li>Level I: Nonresource-based. Questions that do not require a resource to answer. &quot;what is the fine when you have an over due book&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Level II: Skill based. Questions that require a demonstration to answer (i.e., &quot;how-to&quot; questions.) &quot;how do i look for e-books&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Level III: Strategy-based. Questions that require the formulation of a strategy to locate an answer and require selection of resources. &quot;i need help finding academic articles about developmental math classes and their controversies&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Local/Non-local </li></ul><ul><li>Local: questions that involve circulation, policies, or other information about a particular library or institution. &quot;Say, is the Orchard Ridge Campus a Wi-fi hot-spot?” </li></ul><ul><li>Non-local: a question that is not primarily about local policies.  &quot;i need information on how green technology can be an economic stimulus&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Subject </li></ul><ul><li>Questions were assigned a subject if the question was about a topic; other questions (including known-item searches) were not assigned a subject. </li></ul>Virtual reference cooperatives are designed so that librarians from a variety of institutions can help library users from any of the member institutions with their research needs. However, some librarians are concerned that they may not have the expertise or resources to answer questions from institutions that they perceive to differ significantly from their own. Research Help Now is a virtual reference cooperative of 14 community college and university libraries in Michigan.  The researchers analyzed and classified by type a sample of questions submitted from March - May 2009. Abstract Apples & Oranges – They Don’t Compare by Mike Johnson - TheBusyBrain.com , Creative Commons Attribution License ,http://www.flickr.com/photos/thebusybrain/2492945625/. Apple and Pear by Jill Clardy, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License, http://www.flickr.com/photos/jillclardy/2426097697/ Sara Memmott, Eastern Michigan University Ypsilanti, MI Mary Kickham-Samy, Macomb Community College, Warren, MI Sandra C. McCarthy, Washtenaw Community College, Ann Arbor, MI Christine Tobias, Michigan State University Libraries, East Lansing, MI Ann Walaskay, Oakland Community College, Farmington Hills, MI Arlene Weismantel, Michigan State University Libraries, East Lansing, MI A better analogy: apples & pears <ul><li>Do the questions asked by community college and university users of a virtual reference service differ significantly? </li></ul><ul><li>How frequently do these users ask local questions ? </li></ul><ul><li>Do university students ask more complex questions than community college students? </li></ul><ul><li>Do their questions require access to specialized knowledge and skills? </li></ul>Research Questions Question Analysis & Classification Question Difficulty/Complexity Local or Non-local Questions Results Subject of Questions Conclusions <ul><li>Community college library users ask more Level III and subject-based questions than university library users, suggesting that community college students may be more likely to need help with complex tasks, such as the process of writing a research paper. </li></ul><ul><li>University library users ask more Local, Level II, and non-subject based questions.  This suggests that university students may be more likely to need help navigating complex institutions and procedures. </li></ul><ul><li>These results counter the expectation that university library users would ask a higher percentage of complex questions than community college users. </li></ul><ul><li>While these two groups of library users may have slightly different needs, the difference is not great enough to impede collaboration among libraries. </li></ul><ul><li>The majority of all questions are local and procedural . Sharing local information is key to a reference collaboration. </li></ul>Comparing Apples to Oranges ? Community College and University Cooperation in Virtual Reference Patrons Level I Level II Level III Community College 24% 45% 31% University 26% 56% 18% All 25% 50% 25% Patrons Non-local Local Community College 68% 27% University 48% 53% All 58% 42% Patrons Subject-based No Subject Community College 41% 59% University 23% 77% All 32% 68%
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