Chat 2.0: Renovating Virtual Reference
Yasmin Morais Sara Sampson
Cataloging Librarian Head of Reference
Charles A. & Hilda H.M. Mason Law Library Georgetown Law Library
University of the District of Columbia
• Review of content analysis
• Impact of study on chat service at
• Ideas for future research
Georgetown Law’s Chat History
• Started as a pilot in January 2005 with limited hours
Wednesday – Saturday
• Full implementation of Live Help in Spring 2005
• Approximately 67 hours of chat service now available
during academic year
– 40 hours during breaks and summer
• Use Timpani software (LivePerson service)
• Content analysis of chat transcripts from 2008
– Data entry and analysis
Definition of Query Types
Four query types:
– Ready Reference
– Extended Reference
Summary of Findings
• Transcripts yielded a total of 2,303 reference
• September, March, and February were top
months for chats
• Students led on all four query types
• After students, alumni led faculty on both
reference and policy queries
• After students, faculty are asking more known
items and technical queries than alumni
• Students use chat service while in the library.
• Students really like this service.
• We answer really tough questions!
• Never assume patrons know what services we
offer (e.g., ILL)
• Never assume patrons know how to find items
in our collection (e.g., e-journal finder)
Impact of Study on
Georgetown’s Chat Service
• Increased Training
– Software features
– Reference Roundtable
– Chat vs. in-person reference
• Change in staffing model
– Multiple back-ups
– Staff chat from offices instead of reference desk
– No change in who staffs reference
• Collaborative Reference
• Virtual Research Consultations
Ideas for Future Research
• How do sub-groups (e.g. part-time students vs.
full-time students) use chat differently?
• Did we give the right answers to our patrons?
• Do they repeatedly ask for things that we don’t
have in our collection?
• Where are the patrons when they use chat?
• What subjects are they asking about?
• Do questions reveal a gap in legal research
Questions or Comments?
• The final version of this presentation will be
posted on the Georgetown Law Library’s
• This project would not have been possible without the help of the following
persons at the Georgetown Law Library:
– Sara Burriesci – Electronic Services Librarian, who facilitated transcript
– Barbara Monroe – Collection Development Librarian for assistance
with the institutional memory of chat at Georgetown
– Todd Venie, Leslie Street, Erie Taniuchi and Marina Veljanovska all
worked very hard to help with the coding of the transcripts.
– Georgetown Law Library’s Scholarly Writing Committee for review of
the draft article
– Georgetown Law Library’s generous two-week scholarly leave
facilitated completion of the draft article, which resulted from the