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Reference Research Review 2010

Reference Research Review: 2010

An annual bibliography highlighting selected works in the reference literature.

Items selected and annotated by members of the American Library Association, RUSA/RSS Research & Statistics Committee (2010-2011).

Arndt, T. S. (2010). Reference service without the desk. Reference Services Review, 38, 71-80. doi: 10.1108/00907321011020734
A critical examination of reference use at a small liberal arts college led to the removal of the reference desk and the institution of a consultative service. The librarian who oversaw this transformation describes the marketing, staffing, and assessment components of the change in service. The article ends with a list of questions to use to initiate a dialog on examining one’s own reference model.

Barratt, C. C., Acheson, P., & Luken, E. (2010). Reference models in the electronic library: The Miller Learning Center at the University of Georgia. Reference Services Review, 38, 44-56. doi: 10.1108/00907321011020716
The authors tested several types of reference delivery to identify models that best fit the users of the learning commons on their campus. The statistics gathered on types of and numbers of transactions for each model as well as a user survey showed that students rated the in-person reference desk in the learning commons as their first choice for research assistance.  The report provides baseline information to librarians charged with reference delivery in a learning commons.

Burger, A., Park, J., & Guisu, L. (2010). Application of reference guidelines for assessing the quality of the Internet Public Library’s virtual reference services. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 15, 209-226. doi: 10.1080/10875301.2010.526479
Burger, Park, and Guisu describe a research project examining the efficacy of reference services offered by the Internet Public Library (IPL). Methodology entailed a transcript evaluation of 528 virtual transactions based on six elements of quality criteria specified by IPL. Findings indicate close adherence to IPL guidelines, which the authors equate to a high level of service. With added implications for virtual reference practitioners, authors discuss the efficacy of socio-emotional content in achieving satisfactory online reference transactions.

Dinkens, D., and Ryan, S. M. (2010). Measuring referrals:  The use of paraprofessionals at the reference desk.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36, 279-286. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2010.05.001 
This is a carefully presented case study of one library’s use of a non-librarian, tech-savvy person at the reference desk eight hours per week.  The study is quite descriptive and is interesting for the numbers derived, from how many actual reference desk questions require a librarian to how approachable the non-librarian was.

Ferrer-Vinent, I. J. (2010). For English, press 1: International students' language preference at the reference desk. The Reference Librarian, 51, 189-201. doi: 10.1080/02763871003800429
Using surveys of non-native, English speakers, Ferrer-Vinent examines patron preferences for reference service in English or their primary languages. The author found that for the initial interaction, students preferred transactions in English, but follow-up assistance in their primary language. This study can help guide reference departments in thinking about how to better serve their ESL and international student populations.

Ge, X.  (2010). Information-seeking behavior in the digital age: A multidisciplinary study of academic researchers.  College & Research Libraries, 71, 435-455.
The author reports on an examination of the extent that electronic resources affect the research process used by social science and humanities researchers.  This qualitative study consists of interviews with 30 diverse participants (interview guideline is included as an appendix).  The study specifically evaluates the relevance of Ellis’s information seeking model (starting, chaining, browsing, differentiating, monitoring, and extracting) and concludes that the model might be expanded to include preparation and planning and information management.

Gerke, J. & Maness, J.M. (2010). The physical and the virtual:  The relationship between library as place and electronic collections.  College & Research Libraries, 71, 20-31.
This study presents a statistical analysis of factors related to patron satisfaction with electronic resources, as measured by LibQUAL+™ responses. Factors that most significantly related to user satisfaction with electronic collections were the frequency of library website use and the physical library that users visited.  This result suggests, perhaps unexpectedly, that despite the shift to the electronic library, investment in other library resources, such as personnel or facilities, still have value to users.

Gerlich, B. K. & Berard, G. L. (2010). Testing the viability of the READ scale (Reference Effort Assessment Data)©:  Qualitative statistics for academic reference services.  College & Research Libraries, 71, 116-137.
The authors report on their nationwide study of the READ scale as a means of collecting reference statistics, both on and off the reference desk.  Data was gathered from 170 individuals at 14 diverse academic libraries.  An anonymous survey to solicit feedback on the scale was also part of the study.  The authors suggest that use of the scale could transform how reference statistics are gathered and interpreted. [Note:  this paper was presented at the 2008 ALA Annual Conference at the Research and Statistics (RSS) Committee’s Annual Reference Research Forum.]

Hahn, J. (2010). Information seeking with Wikipedia on the iPod Touch. Reference Services Review, 38, 284-298. doi: 10.1108/00907321011045043
To test the use of the mobile version of Wikipedia for academic purposes, six undergraduates received iPod Touch devices with a Wikipedia app for five days. Downloaded files from their iPod search logs were coded using FRBR subject entities. Supplemental surveys indicated that all participants used Wikipedia at least once for research and found the library’s Wikipedia app easy to use. The study paves the way for a larger-scale investigation on how students engage with mobile apps.

Hudson, A. (2010). Measuring the impact of cultural diversity on desired mobile reference services. Reference Services Review, 38, 299-308. doi: 10.1108/00907321011045052
A librarian at a culturally diverse campus conducted a survey to examine the types of mobile device-based reference services students desired. The 103 respondents reported using mostly smartphones. African American females and white males were most likely to contact a live reference service for assistance. White females requested e-publications. African American males tended to engage with librarians in short texting sessions. The findings make a strong case for contextualizing reference services to a culturally diverse population.

Ismail, L. (2010). What net generation students really want: Determining library help-seeking preferences of undergraduates. Reference Services Review, 38, 10-27. doi: 10.1108/00907321011020699
Identifying help-seeking behaviors and preferences among net generation undergraduates (ages 18-22) provided the impetus for this study. In a survey released to all students, the net generation respondents noted preferences for research help in convenient locations (e.g., the student center), but did not express preferences for research advice delivered through social media (e.g., Facebook or IM).  The findings emphasize the need to avoid assumptions about users when making decisions on technology. Survey included.

Kadir Wan Dollah, W. A. and Singh, D. (2010). Determining the effectiveness of digital reference services in Malaysian academic libraries. The Reference Librarian, 51, 329-354. doi: 10.1080/02763877.2010.501427
The authors analyze the effectiveness of digital reference services based on factors such as users' awareness, usage, and perception of the service. Based on a questionnaire, researchers found that most students were aware of their university's digital reference service, as well as gathered information about how they learned about it and how they access it. This study can provide a method for other reference departments to analyze the use of this particular reference services.

Kargbo, J. A. (2010). Undergraduate students' problems with citing references. The Reference Librarian, 51, 222-236. doi: 10.1080/02763871003769673
Kargbo analyzes undergraduate students’ use of different reference styles at Fourah Bay College. The author conducted a survey of students in the Faculty of Arts asking  what style they used most often, who taught them to use the style, and which reference style was used in their departments. The article demonstrates a breakdown in the student and faculty expectations and the role librarians can take to assist students.

Kocevar-Weidinger, E., Benjes-Small, C., Ackermann, E., & Kinman, V. R. (2010). Why and how to mystery shop your reference desk. Reference Services Review, 38, 28-43. doi: 10.1108/00907321011020707
Mystery shoppers evaluated reference staffs at two universities of comparable size. The researchers collected qualitative and quantitative data on behaviors and knowledge exhibited by the librarians as noted on forms completed by the shoppers.  The aggregated data from the sites over two semesters showed a decline in favorable shopper ratings, possibly due to new reference staff. The article serves as a detailed guide on mystery shopping for librarians who wish to implement it. Evaluation forms included.

Lee, M., Ritterbush, J., & Sivigny, R. (2010). Reference at the commons: A case study. Reference Services Review, 38, 81-89.doi: 10.1108/00907321011020743
Trends in the volume of reference transactions in the library of a small private college are examined in relation to overall enrollment, library visits, and the location of the reference desk. Statistics recorded over a period covering twelve academic years showed that an increase in in-person reference encounters correlated with high gate counts and the re-location of the reference desk close to the entrance.  These results suggest that visibility of a reference service is a factor worthy of consideration.

Luo, L., & Bell, L. (2010). Text 4 answers: A collaborative service model. Reference Services Review, 38, 274-283. doi: 10.1108/00907321011045034
The authors evaluated the cross-library collaborative SMS, My Info Quest, in its first year of service to determine the advantages and challenges as perceived by participating members. Respondents to a survey (not included) identified benefits of the service as longer hours, lower cost, cross-communication with other librarians, and an alternate route to information for their patrons. The major challenges were scheduling, accountability, policy dissemination and compliance, and sustainability. This case study highlights potential issues involved in a consortial virtual reference service.

Martin, P. N., & Park, L. (2010). Reference desk consultation assignment: An exploratory study of students' perceptions of reference service. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 49, 333-340. Retrieved http://www.rusq.org/
This study examined student perceptions of reference consultations to gain a clearer understanding of the students’ attitudes toward reference services. An informal, anonymous survey consisting of open ended questions was distributed to the students who had sought reference assistance as the result of a class requirement.  The study found that requiring students to visit the reference desk convinces most students of the value of reference consultations and also produces higher quality student research and writing.

Mestre, L. S.  (2010). Librarians working with diverse populations:  What impact does cultural competency training have on their efforts.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36, 479-488. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2010.08.003
Mestre explores, through surveys and follow-ups, how diversity awareness librarians attained knowledge and expertise in this diversity area.  She concludes that most of the job training is on the job, with very little in the way of guidelines, support, or contacts.

Meyer, E., Forbes, C., & Bowers, J. (2010). The research center: Creating an environment for interactive research consultations. Reference Services Review, 38, 57-70. doi: 10.1108/00907321011020725
The authors describe the transformation of a traditional reference service into a research center that provides uninterrupted, in-depth consultations to its users.  A section on evaluation methods outlines the indicators used by librarians to document the success of the center.  Reference specialists considering a move to a consultative service will find this case study useful as a guide.

Nemeth, E.  (2010). Complementary value of databases for discovery of scholarly literature:  A user survey of online searching for publications in art history.  College & Research Libraries, 71, 223-235.
The author provides results from an international survey of art historians.  The purpose of the survey was to assess value of field-specific research databases and specialized metadata.  Almost 2000 respondents answered most questions on a sixteen question survey.  Though alternative web searching options complement the research process, survey results affirm that users in this discipline value the authoritativeness of peer-reviewed publications and field-specific databases.

Oakleaf, M., & VanScoy, A. (2010). Instructional strategies for digital reference: Methods to facilitate student learning. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 49, 380-390. Retrieved from http://www.rusq.org/
The researchers examined whether librarians are using digital reference services to not only answer questions but to teach students and identified eight instructional strategies librarians can apply in digital reference transactions. The researchers collected 1,474 instant message reference transactions and examined them for the use of instructional strategies. The study found that while a majority of the transactions involved the use of an instruction strategy, the number could be increased through professional development activities. [Note:  this paper was presented at the 2009 ALA Annual Conference at the RUSA Research and Statistics (RSS) Committee’s Annual Reference Research Forum.]

Pearce, A., Collard, S., & Whatley, K. (2010). SMS reference: Myths, markers, and modalities. Reference Services Review, 38, 250-263. doi: 10.1108/00907321011045016
With the implementation of a short message service (SMS) for answering reference questions, librarians at New York University used the SMS transcripts to investigate the nature and scope of transactions. A major finding was that their SMS did provide a venue for in-depth transactions. The duration of many interchanges categorized as reference requests lasted hours and involved multiple messages. These findings broaden the potential for using SMS as a reference delivery method.

Shachaf, P. (2010). Social reference: Toward a unifying theory. Library & Information Science Research, 32, 66–76. doi: 10.1016/j.lisr.2009.07.009 
Shachaf proposes a framework in which to analyze, evaluate and understand social reference, referring primarily to Q&A sites. She analyzes three interactions, each from a different Q&A service. Transactions are included in the appendix. She also provides an overview of different reference models and how these models can help in the development of a social reference framework. This article provides an analysis of Q&A sites’ similarities and dissimilarities to traditional library reference services.

Smith, D. A., & Oliva, V. T. (2010). Becoming a renaissance reference librarian in academe. Reference Services Review, 38, 125-151. doi: 10.1108/00907321011020770
In an attempt to discover how academic reference librarians who are generalists become knowledgeable about specialized fields, the authors posted a survey to academic library listservs. Respondents, mostly generalists, indicated that they: feel confident in handling specialized reference questions, participate in ongoing education (e.g., reading journals and meeting with faculty), spend many hours at the reference desk, and feel an advanced degree is not necessary.  Trainers and managers of reference librarians will find this study informative.

Wang, H., Tan, Y., & Knight, C.  (2010). Contemporary development of academic reference librarianship in the United States:  A 44-Year content analysis.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36, 489-494. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2010.08.004
The authors used position announcements from 1966-2009.  They reported on such issues as:  (1) number of reference position as opposed to other library positions; (2) what educational level is required; (3) what duties and responsibilities were listed as part of the reference position; and (4) the job titles for these positions.  All of the results were of interested to anyone involved in the development of requirements for reference librarians.

Wilson, S., & McCarthy, G. (2010). The mobile university: From the library to the campus. Reference Services Review, 38, 214-232. doi: 10.1108/00907321011044990
Librarians in a mid-sized Canadian university surveyed students before and after the development of access to library user services via personal mobile devices. Reference services such as access to research help and texting from the catalogue were rated as desirable in the follow-up survey. The systematic approach used to assess services pre/post development provides a model that could be replicated by librarians considering the adoption of mobile services. Survey not included.

Zink, S. D., Medaille, A., Mundt, M., Colegrove, P. T., & Aldrich, D. (2010). The @One service environment: Information services for and by the millennial generation. Reference Services Review, 38, 108-124. doi: 10.1108/00907321011020761
The authors describe a new model for a help desk created when library services merged with media production, computing, and information technology functions. The combined use of students, mostly from the millennial generation, and information professionals to staff the service provided an opportunity to study interactions in the workplace. Excerpts from interviews give librarians an inside view from twenty staff members on themes such as collaboration, shared learning, and challenges.