Virtual Reference in an Academic Environment: Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis of Users’ Information Needs

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Title: Virtual Reference in an Academic Environment: Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis of Users’ Information Needs
Alternative Title: Information needs and information seeking behavior in an academic virtual reference environment: a quantitative and qualitative study
Author: Li, Rowena ; Faber, Toby ; Puacz, Jeanne Holba ; Stephens, Wendy
Abstract: This study investigates patrons' information seeking behavior and information needs demonstrated in the virtual reference environment, by examining the usage patterns and service effectiveness of virtual reference services in a large academic library. Both live chat and e-mail reference questions are analyzed quantitatively by mapping peak usage times, usage patterns, question types, and response times. Complete transcripts are considered qualitatively by examining the process of the reference interview, the correctness and completeness of the response, the authority of sources cited and recommended and the inclusion of follow-up inquiries. The results of an online survey asking patrons’ experience with virtual reference service are also analyzed. By examining virtual reference service provided by one large academic library, this study can provide insight into patrons' information seeking behavior and information needs for virtual reference service generally applicable to all academic libraries. Recommendations for service improvement to better meet patron information needs are proposed in response to this study’s findings.
Description: Rowena Li, a school media specialist at Bayside High School in New York, is a Ph.D. student in information science at the University of North Texas. She received her Master Degree of Library and Information Science from Queens College, CUNY, in 1997. She has worked in her current position for more than four years. Prior to that, she worked as a senior reference librarian at Queens Borough Public Library in New York, a prospect researcher at Queens College Foundation, and a lecturer at Nankai University in China. Her research interests focus upon cross-lingual information retrieval and cultural dimensions of documentations and website designs.
Type: Presentation
Date: 2006-03-23
Contributor: University of North Texas
Publisher: Georgia Institute of Technology
Subject: Access
Virtual reference services
Live chat and e-mail reference questions
Online patron satisfaction survey
Technology assistance requests
Usage data

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