Warning message

The launch of the new ALA Connect, scheduled for April 25, 2018, has been delayed due to technical issues. During final testing some critical issues related to navigation, tagging, and the structure of parent-child relationships were discovered.

The vendor is working to resolve these issues. We apologize for the delay and thank you for your patience.

While we're waiting to get started, please check out the resources and training on the support site. We'll keep you updated, in particular, we will communicate when we have a firm launch date.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact Pam Akins, Community Engagement Specialist, at alaconnectmigration@ala.org.
Go to:
Online Doc
Meeting Request
Cynthia Robin Levine's picture

Reference Research Review 2015

Thanks to everyone on the committee who worked diligently to put together this Reference Research Review, designed to highlight significant research on reference published in scholarly journals during the 2015!  

Reference Research Review 2015


Armann-Keown, V., Cooke, C. A., & Matheson, G. (2015). Digging deeper into virtual reference transcripts. Reference Services Review, 43(4), 656-672. doi:10.1108/RSR-04-2015-0024

A large Canadian library analyzed virtual reference service transactions in order reflect on how to improve its services, distinguishing this article from many studies that focus on creating knowledge-bases as a result of virtual reference. Librarians used NVivo software to analyze and code approximately 3,500 VR transcripts. Their findings led to substantive changes to their library website, re-training on staff VR reference interview techniques, and ensuring that staff were up-to-date on library procedures and policies, etc.


Baruzzi, A., & Calcagno, T. (2015). Academic librarians and graduate students: An exploratory study. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 15(3), 393-407. doi:10.1353/pla.2015.0034

As an exploratory study on how academic librarians interact with graduate students, this paper provides helpful documentation of the types of support provided to this population. The researchers surveyed academic librarians across the country and analyzed the results using SPSS. Although most academic librarians provide some kind of graduate student support, this study provides practical suggestions on leveraging the types of these interactions to maximize graduate student success. 


Chan, T., & West, B. (2015). Where does it fit in? The use of print reference in upper division library instruction. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 20(3), 151-162. doi:10.1080/10875301.2015.1082529

This article reports on a study of academic librarians investigating how they incorporate print reference into library instruction sessions.   The authors surveyed national listservs, asking both qualitative and quantitative questions, and then coded results into five categories related to material format, collection development, instruction, and marketing.  The researchers advise librarians who desire to continue integrating print into instruction to acquire more unique print materials, but also note that their findings indicate the overall continuing decline in their use. 


Charbonneau, D. H. (2015). Health disclaimers and website credibility markers: Guidance for consumer health reference in the Affordable Care Act era. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(3), 30-36. 

In light of the Affordable Care Act, this study explores the current state of health resources available on public library websites. Using a coding instrument, Charbonneau analyzed 105 Michigan public library websites to assess their online health resources, in particular for health disclaimers and credibility markers. The findings included a lack of both on library websites, a fact that has significant implications for public libraries and librarians providing access to health information for their communities.


Colón-Aguirre, M. (2015). Organizational storytelling among academic reference librarians. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 15(2), 233-250. doi:10.1353/pla.2015.0016

This study focuses on the organizational storytelling of academic librarians. This type of storytelling has been important in organizational studies but has not been researched in the library science field. Colón-Aguirre interviewed twenty academic reference librarians and used analytic induction to categorize stories into four different themes, based on the role these stories played in the library and among colleagues. Offering a unique perspective, this paper has value for all types of reference librarians, but especially those involved with training new staff.


Drabinski, E., & Rabina, D. (2015). Reference services to incarcerated people, part I: Themes emerging from answering reference questions from prisons and jails. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 55(1), 42-48.

Drabinski and Rabina’s article focuses on the information needs of incarcerated individuals, a population they describe as information poor. Using data collected from reference letters sent to the New York Public Library’s Correctional Services Program, the researchers used qualitative content analysis to discover what types of people were sending reference requests and what type of information was requested. They found that incarcerated people frequently needed more information than what was available in the prison library, a finding that has important implications for any librarians working with this patron population.


Dukić, D., & Strišković, J. (2015). Croatian university students' use and perception of electronic resources. Library & Information Science Research, 37(3), 244-253. 


This article reports on a study conducted at a higher education institution in Eastern Croatia designed to gain insight into students’ perceptions of electronic resources.  It used an online rating survey instrument (included in the article’s appendix) which collected student demographic information as well as data on their frequency of use and perceptions of different types of electronic resources.  Results should be understood in the context of this specific institution, but may, in combination with other studies, be of interest to those trying to understand how different categories of users perceive and make use of electronic resources.


Farrell, B. (2015). Using interviews to improve relationships with library partners: A case study. Reference Services Review, 43(2), 251-261. doi:10.1108/RSR-01-2015-0001

Reference services in library learning commons are enhanced by their academic partner services located within the library. Farrell conducted formal interviews with each of the academic partners in her library as a means of not only establishing relationships, but also ensuring that lines of collaboration and communication remained open to find ongoing points for partnering on student learning initiatives.


Fuller, K., & Dryden, N. H. (2015). Chat reference analysis to determine accuracy and staffing needs at one academic library. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 20(3), 163-181. doi:10.1080/10875301.2015.1106999

The authors examine chat transcripts to measure accuracy and evaluate critical staff skills and recommended staff types for providing chat reference.  Their methodology draws on prior studies to code transcripts by query type, accuracy, instruction provided, and need for referrals.  The article’s findings suggest that generalists can handle the majority of questions asked, with referrals to subject specialists as needed.  The study has useful practical implications for suggesting core skills needed in chat reference.


Gibbs, C., Kooyman, B., Marks, K., & Burns, J. (2015). Mapping the roadmap: Using action research to develop an online referencing tool. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(4), 422-428. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2015.05.004

Librarians from the University of South Australia studied the impact of an online reference tool on students’ ability to cite sources.  Using another library’s online citation tutorial as a guide, the researchers planned the design and layout of the Roadmap to Referencing tool and tested students after its implementation.  Researchers used Google analytics, student feedback gathered in surveys, and an online discussion forum to create a foundation for the online citation tool.  Librarians looking for a case-study focused on creating online reference tools will find this article informative.


Greenberg, R., & Bar-Ilan, J. (2015). “Ask a librarian”: Comparing virtual reference services in an Israeli academic library. Library & Information Science Research, 37(2), 139-146. 


Researchers at University of Haifa’s library sought to explore differing characteristics of two types of virtual reference (VR) interactions (email and chat), as well as the perspectives of librarians on the value of VR as compared with face-to-face reference.  The chat and email reference services were studied using content analysis of transcripts that were classified according to question and answer types.  Reference staff members responded to a series of open-ended questions to elicit their thoughts on the differences between VR and face-to-face reference.  Librarians seeking to understand the roles played by different reference communication channels may find this article useful.



Kemp, J., Ellis, C., & Maloney, K. (2015). Standing by to help: Transforming online reference with a proactive chat system. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(6), 764-770. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2015.08.018

The University of Texas at San Antonio implemented a pro-active chat service, much like chat services used by for-profit companies, and found that their chat statistics increased significantly.  The researchers gathered monthly chat reference statistics before implementing the pro-active chat service, including stats for ‘missed’ questions, and scored the questions received on the READ scale.  Researchers then compared the questions and scored them on the possibility of triggering a pro-active chat session based on chat service parameters.  Reference librarians interested in increasing chat service use may find this methodology and solution useful.


Lundrigan, C., Manuel, K., & Yan, M. (2015). “Pretty rad”: Explorations in user satisfaction with a discovery layer at Ryerson University. College & Research Libraries, 76(1), 43-62. 


This mixed-methods study focused on user satisfaction with Summon. Two online surveys and a series of focus groups were implemented in sequence. Over 6,000 users, mostly full-time undergraduates, responded to the second survey (which is included in the appendix.) Eighty-nine percent reported being moderately, very, or extremely satisfied with Summon. Graduate students reported a slightly higher preference for subject-specific databases. The researchers recommend marketing web-scale discovery services to the users most likely to benefit from them.


Maloney, K., & Kemp, J. H. (2015). Changes in reference question complexity following the implementation of a proactive chat system: Implications for practice. College & Research Libraries, 76(7), 959-974. doi:10.5860/crl.76.7.959

This study reexamined the tiered reference service model. A review of several studies found that most questions could be handled by non-professional staff. However, complex queries still come through chat services. After putting pro-active chat boxes on all of their library pages, the researchers sampled chat transcripts over the course of two semesters and coded them on six levels of difficulty. They found that the pro-active nature of the chat service dramatically increased the number and complexity of reference questions.  ​ 

Mayer, J. (2015). Serving the needs of performing arts students: A case study. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 15(3), 409-431. doi:10.1353/pla.2015.0036

This article describes the information behaviors and research needs of upper-level performing arts students at a large public university. Using focus group interviews, Mayer details the unique needs of music, theater, and dance students and suggests potential ways that reference librarians can meet these needs. Mayer’s research provides rich information, often using students’ own words, which is of benefit not only to performing arts librarians, but also to reference and instruction librarians in other areas. 


O'Kelly, M., Garrison, J., Merry, B., & Torreano, J. (2015). Building a peer-learning service for students in an academic library. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 15(1), 163-182.


O’Kelly et. al. outlined the design and training required to begin and maintain their innovative peer-to-peer reference consultation service. Using survey data from both students using the service and those staffing it, as well as descriptive statistics for the two years the service has been in place, these researchers demonstrate the value of their program and give practical advice for reference librarians looking to try something new. 

O'Neill, K., & Guilfoyle, B. (2015). Sign, sign, everywhere a sign: What does "reference" mean to academic library users? Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(4), 386-393. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2015.05.007

Researchers at Regis University studied students’ interpretation of reference service signs in order to come up with a name for the reference desk that would make more sense to students. Researchers created a survey to capture how the library was being used by students as well as to determine how users interpreted the term ‘reference.’ Librarians seeking for information to better market reference services will find the discussion of the survey results helpful.


Schneider, E., & Hutchison, B. (2015). Referencing the imaginary: An analysis of library collection of role-playing game materials. The Reference Librarian, 56(3), 174 188. 

doi: 10.1080/02763877.2014.1002716

Role-playing game rulebooks are structured similarly to encyclopedias and atlases, which makes them reference books. Sixty-four important titles in this genre were identified from multiple sources, including Amazon and Reddit, and searched in OCLC to identify holdings. More than 90% of OCLC participants carried none of these titles. The titles that were present tended to be poorly cataloged. Increased collection of such books is recommended since they are useful for the academic study of role-playing games.


Scimeca, R., & Labaree, R. (2015). Synoptic reference: Introducing a polymathic approach to reference services. Library Trends, 63(3), 464-486. doi:10.1353/lib.2015.0005

As interdisciplinary studies expand across academic campuses, libraries need to consider how this impacts the reference interview. Librarians need to be prepared to address the interdisciplinary nature of students’ research inquiries by understanding and teaching the way different disciplines communicate and by taking a synoptic, or comprehensive view of research questions, particularly those involving the use of discovery tools and disciplinary-integrated search engines. 

Shah, C., Radford, M. L., & Connaway, L. S. (2015). Collaboration and synergy in hybrid Q&A: Participatory design method and results. Library & Information Science Research, 37(2), 92-99. 

doi: 10.1016/j.lisr.2015.02.008

This article describes the use of the Participatory Design Method in which experts from different backgrounds participate in semi-guided discussions to explore new design ideas.  This research method, which has not been customarily used in library science research, was used to explore the potential strengths of integrating two types of systems for answering user questions: VRS (Virtual Reference Services) which is a one-on-one model based in libraries, and SQA (social question and answer), where the responses come from a crowd or community of peers.  This article will be of interest both to librarians interested in different models for answering user questions, as well as those interested in learning about the participatory design approach to developing new systems.


Swoger, B. J. M., & Hoffman, K. D. (2015). Taking notes at the reference desk: Assessing and improving student learning. Reference Services Review, 43(2), 199-214. doi:10.1108/RSR-11-2014-0054

Chionski and Emanuel’s one-minute paper tool was used by Swoger and Hoffman to assess reference transactions and gage student learning during the course of a reference transaction. Based on their findings, the Milne Library created a Reference Notes form that both librarians and students contributed to during the reference interview. A written record may improve student overall comprehension and retention of the research skills they learn with librarians.


Yang, S., & Dalal, H. (2015). Delivering virtual reference services on the web: An investigation into the current practice by academic libraries. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 41(1), 68-86. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2014.10.003

Yang and Dalal conducted a comprehensive survey of academic libraries focusing on the virtual reference services being used.  The researchers selected a random sample from the Peterson’s guide to select 4-year colleges.  Researchers then recorded how the chosen academic libraries advertised their virtual reference services, where chat boxes were located, and how service was provided, as well as whether or not the library also had other forms of virtual reference.  Librarians interested in the state of virtual reference at academic libraries in the US will find this article very informative.


Reference Research Review 2015.docx32.51 KB