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Ava Brillat's picture

Reference Research Review 2014

We are pleased to present the Reference Research Review for 2014!  Research articles related to reference published in the last year have been carefully chosen by our diligent committee members and collected into our bibliography.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments.  A big thanks to our committee for creating a wonderful bibliography!




Ava Brillat, Chair

Reference Research Review 2014


Baro, E. E., Efe, B. U., & Oyeniran, G. K. (2014). Reference inquiries received through different channels: The challenges reference librarians face in university libraries in Nigeria. Reference Services Review, 42(3), 514-529. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-09-2013-0049


To investigate the channels through which librarians in Nigeria receive reference inquiries, the authors distributed an online questionnaire to 67 university libraries. 36 institutions responded, and results indicated that face-to-face traditional reference desk interactions were preferred to other channels such as SMS, instant message, and email. These findings will interest practitioners looking for global perspectives, as well as university libraries in developing countries planning to adopt virtual reference services.


Cassidy, E. D., Colmenares, A., & Martinez, M. (2014). So text me—maybe. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(4), 300-312. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n4.300


In this article, authors developed an analytic rubric to assess the quality of text/SMS reference services. Data from a three-year period was assessed for several key performance behaviors, including friendliness and attentiveness. The study results indicated that continued conversations on response time and friendliness in the text/SMS environment are an important component of improving and sustaining quality service. Recommended for librarians seeking another assessment instrument in their reference service evaluation toolkit. 


Chan, E. K. (2014). Analyzing recorded transactions to extrapolate the required knowledge, skills, and abilities of reference desk providers at an urban, academic/public library. Journal of Library Administration, 54(1), 23-32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2014.893113


Focusing on a joint use library, Chan examined reference transactions in order to identify the common skills and knowledge required of reference staff. Using transactional data gathered in Gimlet, the author grouped transactions into four categories: Facilities, Technical/Equipment Assistance, Quick Searches, and Research-oriented assistance.  Librarians providing reference in joint use facilities can benefit from the included assessment, which can lay the foundation for continued reference desk training and professional development.


Chan, T., & Johns-Masten, K. (2014). A study of Gimlet use in reference transactions. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 19(2), 73-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10875301.2014.938212


Librarians at SUNY Oswego surveyed reference staff about their experiences with Gimlet, a web-based program that tracks reference transactions. Surveys (not included in the article) were distributed internally as well as externally on nationwide library listservs. Conclusions are limited by small response rates (eight internally and twenty externally); however, the overall consensus was that Gimlet was easy to use and improved productivity, although the report generator could be improved.


Chow, A. S., & Croxton, R. A. (2014). A usability evaluation of academic virtual reference services. College & Research Libraries, 75(3), 309-361. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/crl13-408


This study assessed the usability of virtual reference services delivered via chat, e-mail, phone, text, and Skype. Thirty-one undergraduate and graduate students asked prepared reference questions through each service, then rated them on usability and satisfaction. A variety of factors made chat the most appealing, including real-time interaction and the easy sharing of links. Skype and texting were much less popular than expected. 


Faix, A., MacDonald, A., & Taxakis, B. (2014). Research consultation effectiveness for freshman and senior undergraduate students. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 4-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-05-2013-0024


Using survey tools, the authors queried freshmen and seniors who attended a mandatory instruction session and research consultation and compared the results to students who only attended an instruction session.  Results revealed that weaknesses in information literacy skills can be more fully addressed by librarians in later research consultations. Reference librarians can benefit from this case study as it reveals gaps in reference assessment and preparation that can effectively reconcile future problems in research consultations.


Feldmann, L. M. (2014). Academic business librarians’ assistance to community entrepreneurs. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 108-128. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-04-2013-0021


Business librarians in the academic environment can find themselves straddling a wide and more varied patron base due to their work with business community members outside of academia.  The author researches the collaborative efforts of academic business librarians through a combination of survey and follow-up interviews.  Additionally, Feldmann interviews community patrons who received reference services from academic business librarians.  Academic business librarians can benefit from the information on collaborative relationships revealed through the interviews.


Jaeger, P. T., Gorham, U., Bertot, J. C., Taylor, N. G., Larson, E., Lincoln, R., . . . Wentz, B. (2014). Connecting government, libraries and communities: Information behavior theory and information intermediaries in the design of LibEGov.org. First Monday, 19(11). http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i11.4900


To better understand the role of public librarians as e-government intermediaries, researchers collected data regarding the information behaviors of the public, public librarians, and government agencies. The collected interviews, surveys, and site visits were used to develop a website, which proved to be more effective for some user groups than others. This article illustrates the challenges of a “one size fits all” approach to delivering government information and services. Librarians can use the findings to inform reference service improvements.


Luo, L., & Park, V. T. (2014). Text 4 health. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(4), 326-333. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n4.326


This study places sensitive health-related reference questions in a 21st century user-interaction context. Insightful observations include that patrons may feel more comfortable asking health-related questions via text (or chat) rather than face-to-face or email because it provides a greater level of anonymity. The results of the authors’ work can help staff determine how to better approach these questions and how to develop policies and procedures for successful service implementation. 


Luo, L. (2014). Text a librarian: A look from the user perspective. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 34-51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-10-2012-0067


This article addresses a gap in reference research by examining text message reference from a user perspective. Authors surveyed users and non-users of a nationwide text reference system called My Info Quest and determined that most non-users were unaware of the service, whereas most users—although utilizing the service occasionally—were satisfied with service quality. Reference librarians can benefit from both the detailed literature review and the information gathered on non-users, which can help with marketing and outreach for text reference services.


Stone, S. (2014). Breaking the ice. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(1), 44-49. doi:10.5860/rusq.54n1.44


This study demonstrates that social media outreach initiatives can increase user information seeking requests. The author collected statistics of Facebook reference interactions and found a significant correlation between the numbers of interactions with Facebook friends than with non-Facebook friends. The author’s insights on information seeking behavior and strategies for alleviating library anxiety can benefit reference staff considering expanding their social media services and involvement.


Tang, Y., & Tseng, H. W. (2014). Distance students’ attitude toward library help seeking. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(3-4), 307-312. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2014.04.008


Authors Tang and Tseng explore the library help seeking attitudes of distance students through survey data analysis. A survey was distributed to students enrolled in distance learning courses with self-report questions focused on library usage and help-seeking. Interestingly, distance students living close to their campus exhibit similar help seeking behaviors as campus students, preferring to commute to the library in person. Additionally, more outreach and promotion is needed to make all students aware of library assistance services. 


Telia, A., & Oyedokun, T. T. (2014). An evaluation of online reference services through social networking sites in selected Nigerian university libraries. The Reference Librarian, 55(4), 343-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2014.947889 


Targeting undergraduates in selected Nigerian universities, the authors sought to determine awareness and preferences of online reference services. Survey results from 387 respondents indicated that Facebook, Twitter, and Ask a Librarian were the most preferred methods and more convenient than traditional desk reference services. The authors also draw a correlation between service awareness and service use. Recommended for reference librarians looking for international perspectives.


Vardeman, K. K., & Barba, I. (2014). Reference in 160 characters or less: The role of text messaging in virtual reference services. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 19(3-4), 163-179. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10875301.2014.984098


In this longitudinal study at Texas Tech University Libraries, three years of usage data were downloaded from the text reference service Mosio. Ingoing and outgoing messages were coded by content. One-third of the questions were reference while the rest were simpler queries. Forty-six percent occurred after regular business hours. The authors conclude smart phones make chatting more appealing than simple texting. Therefore, text reference will remain a niche rather than a cornerstone service.


Yang-woo, K. (2014). Typology of ambiguity on representation of information needs. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(4), 313-325. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n4.313


The reference interview is a process of disambiguation of user queries for information.  In this article, the authors discuss a process of disambiguation of user queries gathered by information systems and services.  Although focused on information systems, disambiguation can be aided by increasing user input, clarifying user queries and clustering search results.  The process and discussion of disambiguation can help reference librarians understand how to further facilitate more effective interactions between users and information systems. Whether it’s face-to-face or virtual reference or a search engine or database query, how a user’s question is interpreted is key to providing meaningful answers.

2014 Reference Research Review17.77 KB