Say What? An Analysis of Virtual Reference at the University Libraries


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Presentation during the 2011 RIS Summer Workshops (May 24-25), Blacksburg, VA.

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Say What? An Analysis of Virtual Reference at the University Libraries

  1. 1. Rebecca K. Miller<br />RIS Summer Workshops 2011<br />May 25, 2011<br />Say what? AnanalysisDiscussion of virtual reference at the University Libraries<br />
  2. 2. Why VR?<br />
  3. 3. A VR training session for operators<br />An evaluation of VR at VT<br />A critical review of VR at VT<br />A comprehensive, statistically valid analysis of VR at VT<br />This is not…<br />
  4. 4. A contemplative discussion about virtual reference at Virginia Tech, driven by a few statistics and some literature<br />A brainstorming session about the issues that impact us and how we can improve VR (and other) service<br />A time of reflection about where we’ve been<br />Admission: I don’t really know, despite some digging! <br />A time of creative consideration about where we’re going <br />This is…<br />
  5. 5. Overwhelming amount<br />With the phrase “virtual reference,” Summon returns around 500journal articles published between January 2008 and May 2011. Library Lit & Info (Wilson) returns 255 articles.<br /> Ranges from the practical to the philosophical:<br />Pervasiveness of VR<br />Usage (low?)<br />User expectations related to speed/readily available materials<br />Marketing<br />Users and usage statistics<br />User perception<br />User satisfaction<br />Question depth<br />Specific tools (Meebo, Second Life, etc.)<br />Service enhancements<br />Reference interview issues/customer service<br />Instruction opportunity/informing instruction<br />Core competencies for operators<br />Recent Literature<br />
  6. 6. Take a few minutes and consider:<br />Which of these issues impact us here, at Virginia Tech?<br /> What other issues not listed here may impact us?<br />What do you want to know about virtual reference at Virginia Tech?<br /><br />Reflection: Community as context<br />
  7. 7. “So the first step toward improving VR is for librarians to stop acting like computers.” (Zino, 2009)<br />“You’d think I’d get used to the rush one feels at this point in the transaction…the challenge to get it right quickly.” (Harmeyer, 2008)<br />“Taking into account the differences between an in-person transaction and one done over e-mail, chat, or texting, the big thing missing from those in the latter category is the ability to visually demonstrate during the teaching moments of the transaction.” (Steiner, 2010)<br />“The extent to which [reference services] adapts to Google, WorldCat, Facebook, and other social networking tools, the iPhoneand derivatives of handheld devices will ultimately determine future patterns of service and open up the possibilities.” (Bodner, 2009)<br />Thought provoking quotes from recent literature<br />
  8. 8. In October 2004, Luke Vilelle, Dave Beagle, and Buddy Litchfield analyzed VT’s virtual reference service:<br />1 question per 105 university affiliates<br />1.33 questions per hour<br />48% of questions asked by undergrads<br />30% asked by grads<br />12% asked by faculty/staff<br />10% asked by non-affiliates<br />Live Ref = 13.87% of total reference questions<br />Where we’ve been:2004 statistics<br />
  9. 9. A review of October 2010statistics (of taken chats) shows:<br />Total: 349 chats started; 86 email tickets received = 435, total, received<br />1 question per 87affiliates<br />(6,866 faculty + 31,006 students): 37,872 total affiliates<br /> 0.98 questions per hour (out of 441.5 library open hours)<br />Out of the 343 chat transcripts available:<br />42% of questions asked by undergrads<br />36% asked by grads<br />14% asked by faculty/staff<br />5% asked by non-affiliates <br />3% asked by alumnus/na<br />VR = 16.75% of total reference questions (total of 1734 + 435)<br />Where we are?2010 statistics<br />
  10. 10. 2004/2011 Comparison chart<br />*per total open hours of Newman Library, October 2011<br /> Using figure of 435 total questions (email and chat)<br />
  11. 11. October 2011: Grouped by skills<br />Compare with in-person (desk) reference*:<br />BHSS: 701 questions <br />Sci/Tech: 754 questions<br />Torg/Tower: 270 questions <br />*Statistics courtesy of Heather<br />
  12. 12. Sticking with October 2010—a few averages:<br />Response<br />Operator: 40 seconds<br />Visitor: 33 seconds<br />Response length <br />Operator lines: 10.65<br />Operator words: 114.9<br />Visitor lines: 8.58<br />Visitor words: 87.84<br />Other Interesting details<br />
  13. 13. Since March 16, 2011, we’ve received 37 texts:<br />March 2011: 11 text messages<br />April 2011: 22 text messages<br />May (1-22) 2011: 4 text messages<br />LivePerson doesn’t capture ID statistics<br />Message content: <br />Directional, general, quick answer: 28<br />Subject-specific, in-depth answer: 5<br />User rang in, then didn’t respond: 4<br />REF-Texting (Rexting?)<br />
  14. 14. Enhancement through technology<br />Videos & images (Screenr, Jing, tutorials on library site)<br />Web annotation (AwesomeHighlighter, SharedCopy)<br />Demo of Screenr and SharedCopy<br />Personal awareness<br /><ul><li>Log into LivePerson and review your transcripts
  15. 15. Review word counts, response times, and other elements</li></ul>Mining the data…<br />Concepts from the literature<br />
  16. 16. Take a few minutes and consider:<br /> What sort of information can VR transactions tell us about library users?<br /> What sort of information can VR transactions tell us about library services?<br />What else can VR transcripts tell us about our work and planning for the future?<br /><br />Reflection:Future Research<br />
  17. 17. Bodner, S. (2009). Virtual reference reflections.Journal of Library Administration, 49(7), 675-685. doi:10.1080/01930820903260432<br />DeMars, J. M., & Breitbach, W. (2009). Enhancing virtual reference: Techniques and technologies to engage users and enrich interaction. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 14(3-4), 82-91. doi:10.1080/10875300903256571<br />Harmeyer, D. (2008). Virtual reference: Less is more.The Reference Librarian, 48(1), 113-116. doi:10.1300/J120v48n99_11<br />Olszewski, L., & Rumbaugh, P. (2010). An international comparison of virtual reference services. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 49(4), 360-368.<br />Steiner, H. M. (2010). Livening virtual reference with screencasting and screen sharing. Library Hi Tech News,27(4/5), 9-11. doi:10.1108/07419051011083172<br />Sullivan, D. (2008). Is the virtual reference interview dead? Incite, 29(12), 13-14.<br />Walton-Sonda, D. (2009). Virtual reference service: From competencies to assessment. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 40(1), 67-68.<br />Zino, E. (2009). Let's fix virtual reference. Library Journal, 134(2), 94-94<br />Further reading:A (very) small sample<br />