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Discussion Reference Research Review 2015

by Cynthia Robin Levine on Mon, Jun 20, 2016 at 11:15 am

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

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.



Online Doc Minutes Landing Page

by Cynthia Robin Levine on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 08:46 am

Use this as a landing page for uploading minutes.  Simply click on the Edit tab, then scroll down to Add File Attachments (below).  We will collect minutes here.


Online Doc 21st Annual Reference Research Forum (2015)

by Cynthia Robin Levine on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 09:28 am

21st Annual Reference Research Forum (2015)

The Research & Statistics Committee will be hosting the 21st Annual Reference Research Forum on Sunday, June 28, 2015 from 10:30-11:30 am in the Moscone Conference Center, room 2014 (W).  Come join us for our popular event!  We will have 3 wonderful speakers along with time for questions and answers. 

Information Behavior of Foreign-Born Students at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, Frans Albarillo

21st Annual Reference Research Forum (2015)

The Research & Statistics Committee will be hosting the 21st Annual Reference Research Forum on Sunday, June 28, 2015 from 10:30-11:30 am in the Moscone Conference Center, room 2014 (W).  Come join us for our popular event!  We will have 3 wonderful speakers along with time for questions and answers. 

Information Behavior of Foreign-Born Students at Brooklyn College, City University of New York, Frans Albarillo

This presentation reports the results of a survey of immigrant and international students at Brooklyn College, a large public liberal arts college with a diverse campus that serves many foreign-born and first-generation immigrant students. The survey gathers data on students in these communities to investigate common patterns and explore how these students experience the academic library with a focus on language and culture. This exploratory study was funded by a grant from the PSC CUNY and further developed at the 2014 inaugural Institute of Research Design in Librarianship.

Understanding the research needs of mid-level undergraduate students, Reed College, Marianne Colgrove and Annie Downey

How do sophomores and juniors learn to do independent research and what services, resources and curriculum strategies would help? As part of a larger Mellon-funded initiative, the Reed College Library and IT departments collaborated on a needs assessment in order to understand the gap between faculty and student perspectives on the research process. Using both focus group discussions and a student survey, the needs assessment showed that faculty characterize research as a complex, multi-faceted process and emphasize the importance of a researchable question that drives the process. Many students aren’t sure what faculty expect and often invest so much energy in gathering resources that they run out of time to conduct analysis and integrate their assignment into a unified whole. This study also exemplifies how IT and the library can collaborate to conduct a low-cost self-study that informs the development of new research curriculum and services.


Library as Endangered Species in the Information Ecosystem, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Jean Amaral

When students and faculty need information, where do they go? A year-long ethnographic study at an urban community college suggests it may be anywhere but the library. Amaral will present the results of this study, which call for engaging in a creative reassessment of library services in community colleges.



Online Doc 2014-2015 Committee Roster

by Cynthia Robin Levine on Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 01:59 pm

Ms. Ava Marie Brillat (Chair, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015)
Amanda Lea Breu (Member, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016)
Ms. Ava Marie Brillat (Member, July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015)
Mrs. Lisa Antonia Campbell (Member, July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015)
Cindy L. Craig (Member, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016)
Ryan B. Johnson (Member, July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015)
Ms. Elizabeth A. Kocevar-Weidinger (Member, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016)

Ms. Ava Marie Brillat (Chair, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015)
Amanda Lea Breu (Member, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016)
Ms. Ava Marie Brillat (Member, July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015)
Mrs. Lisa Antonia Campbell (Member, July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015)
Cindy L. Craig (Member, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016)
Ryan B. Johnson (Member, July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015)
Ms. Elizabeth A. Kocevar-Weidinger (Member, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016)
Ms. Shu Qian (Member, July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2015)
David Ward (Member, July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2016)


Discussion Summary of Activities, 2014-2015

by Ava Brillat on Mon, Jul 20, 2015 at 09:47 am

This year, the Research & Statistics Committee hosted the 21st Annual Reference Research Forum on Sunday, June 28th at the Moscone Conference Center in San Francisco.  After a double-blind review process, the committee selected 3 research teams to present their results.  Frans Albarillo from the City University of New York presented the results of a survey of immigrant and international student research habits to investigate common patterns and to explore how these students experience the academic library.  Marianne Colgrove and Annie Downey from Reed College presented the results of a

This year, the Research & Statistics Committee hosted the 21st Annual Reference Research Forum on Sunday, June 28th at the Moscone Conference Center in San Francisco.  After a double-blind review process, the committee selected 3 research teams to present their results.  Frans Albarillo from the City University of New York presented the results of a survey of immigrant and international student research habits to investigate common patterns and to explore how these students experience the academic library.  Marianne Colgrove and Annie Downey from Reed College presented the results of a needs assessment to address the gap between faculty and student perspectives on the research process, focusing on the critical sophomore and junior years.  The result of a collaborative project between IT and the Library, their presentation shared the fruits of collaboration and assessment that can in turn be used to develop new research curricula and services.  Finally, Jean Amaral from the Borough of Manhattan Community College presented the results of a year-long ethnographic study, likening the library to an endangered species and revealing the environmental conditions affecting the change and survival of the community college library. Each presentation garnered a number of interesting questions.  The committee also reviewed and posted an annotated bibliography of articles relating to reference research for the 2014 Annual Reference Research Review.


Discussion Reference Research Review 2014

by Ava Brillat on Thu, Jul 2, 2015 at 09:53 am

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 First Monday, 19(11).


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.


Discussion Annotations due May 8th and looking for a volunteer to be chair next year

by Ava Brillat on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 09:32 am

Hello everyone,

Hello everyone,

 Just a quick reminder!  Please work to have your annotations to me by May 8th.  I’ve had a couple of people respond saying they were not able to find any articles in their journal titles.  If you find yourself in that situation, please feel free to submit annotations for any other articles in journal titles not listed below that you think should be included in our Reference Research Review.  Please review the attached requirements to make sure they fit the bill.  Thanks so much for your work! If you find you don’t have time to review your journal(s), now is the time to let me know.  I’ll be happy to help out.

Additionally, I’m looking for a volunteer to be chair next year.  If you are interested, send me an email.  Thank you!

 As a reminder, here’s the journal list:

Library Journal -   Shu
 Public Libraries – Amanda
 RUSQ – Liz
 Library Quarterly –  David
 Portal - Liz
 Journal of Academic Librarianship – Ryan
 College & Research Libraries –  Cindy
 Reference Librarian – Lisa
 Reference Services Review –  Ava
 Internet Reference Services Quarterly –  Cindy
 Library & Information Science Research – Ryan
 Library Trends – Shu
 First Monday – Lisa
 Public Services Quarterly –  David





Ava M. Brillat, MLIS

English, Classics, & Theatre Arts Librarian

Richter Library 347B

University of Miami

1300 Memorial Drive

Coral Gables, FL 33124-0320



Online Doc RRR - 2009 - Annotations

by Cynthia Robin Levine on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 02:45 pm

Reference Research Review : 2009

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 (2009-2010).


Armstrong, A. R. (2009). Student perceptions of federated searching vs single database searching. Reference Services Review, 37, 291-303. doi: 10.1108/00907320910982785

Reference Research Review : 2009

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 (2009-2010).


Armstrong, A. R. (2009). Student perceptions of federated searching vs single database searching. Reference Services Review, 37, 291-303. doi: 10.1108/00907320910982785

This study compared searches in a federated search tool and a single database based on ease of use, perceived relevancy of results, and user preferences. Two sections of college English students completed work sheets designed to elicit information on the above. Fifteen of the 31 student searchers reported that both tools were easy to use and many students were satisfied with their results. These reports suggest that librarians consider teaching students to search in both environments.

Attebury, R., Sprague, N., & Young, N. J. (2009). A decade of personalized research assistance. Reference Services Review, 37, 207-220. doi: 10.1108/00907320910957233

A 10-year longitudinal study tracked information about a library’s Research Assistance Program (RAP), in areas such as usage patterns, investment of librarians’ time, and types of assignments and sources involved in RAP sessions. Data was extracted from the forms completed by students for each session. Academic libraries considering instituting a consultation service, or wanting to benchmark an existing service, will find the data on user demographics (e.g., gender and academic discipline) useful.

Breitbach, W., Mallard, M., & Sage, R. (2009). Using Meebo’s embedded IM for academic reference services: A case study. Reference Services Review, 37, 83-98. doi: 10.1108/00907320910935011

An examination of responses to  virtual reference questions over three semesters in a university library was conducted to test the legitimacy of developing an embedded virtual reference (VR) service. The investigators gathered data using LibStats, an Open Source product. Their analysis showed that embedding Meebo increased usage of VR services, particularly requests for assistance with research. Librarians and staff surveyed on Meebo reacted positively. The findings support the use of free software as a viable alternative to commercial products.

Duke, L. M., MacDonald, J. B., & Trimble, C. S. (2009). Collaboration between marketing students and the library: An experiential learning project to promote reference services. College & Research Libraries, 70, 109-121.

Librarians at Illinois Wesleyan University collaborated with marketing classes to investigate how best to promote reference services to students. The classes, working closely with the library’s marketing team, designed surveys on student knowledge/use of reference services and student research habits. The results of this survey inspired the library to reconfigure the information desk and to offer IM reference. The authors also emphasized that librarians should seek student input for any conversation about (re)designing and promoting library services.

Eakin, L. & Pomerantz, J. (2009). Virtual reference, real money: Modeling costs in virtual reference Services. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 9, 133-164. doi: 10.1353/pla.0.0035

As libraries face budget cuts and look to show return on investment, there is an increased need for tools to analyze the costs of services. This study created a model of the costs to individual libraries of collaborative virtual reference services accommodating various modeling types, as well as many of the relevant contributing costs to the overall budget. Costs can be determined for a start-up service or a service that has already been implemented.

Feldmann, L. M. (2009). Information desk referrals: Implementing an office statistics database. College & Research Libraries, 70, 133-140.

Colorado State University Libraries designed a statistics database to track referrals from an information desk created to replace the reference desk.  The input form and the data recording guidelines were provided. Results indicate a very small percentage of information desk questions are referred, much lower than in previous studies. The librarians plan to use the data to assess the referral model of reference and to provide information on popular research topics and busy periods of the semester.

Fuller, K., Livingston, J., Brown, S. W., Cowan, S., Wood, T., & Porter, L. (2009). Making unmediated access to e-resources a reality: Creating a usable ERM interface. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 48, 287-301. Retrieved from

The authors focused on how to best make the library’s electronic resources available so that patrons can locate them easily.  The library’s existing electronic interface was reviewed through the analysis of query logs and a usability study was then conducted.  The study concluded that even well designed Web sites, while intuitive to librarians, were not so to users, and that user feedback was critical to designing Web sites that made user access to electronic resources easy.

Gronemyer, K., & Deitering, A. (2009). “I don’t think it’s harder, just that it’s different”: Librarians’ attitudes about instruction in the virtual reference environment. Reference Services Review, 37, 421-434. doi: 10.1108/00907320911007029

A sampling of librarians was administered an online survey asking them to react to statements on instruction in virtual reference (VR) transactions. Cross tabulation of responses did not support the hypotheses that attitudes toward complex transactions would relate negatively to VR or that regular use of IM would relate positively to VR. Although limited in reach, the study opens the door to examining broader implications such as how VR shifts the control over a transaction away from the librarian.

Hahn, J. (2009). On the remediation of Wikipedia to the iPod. Reference Services Review, 37, 272-285. doi: 10.1108/00907320910982767

The usability of mobile devices for finding information was examined by documenting the searches of three undergraduate students throughout a semester. The students received Wikipedia iPods programmed to record the search queries and titles of articles found. Logs were downloaded and analyzed. Two of the students completed Internet-based surveys (copy included) reporting their opinions on factors such as efficiency, use of information, and satisfaction with search results and the device. The study provides a model for future research.

Imler, B., & Hall, R. A. (2009). Full-text articles: Faculty perceptions, student use, and citation abuse. Reference Services Review, 37, 65-72. doi: 10.1108/00907320910935002

Perceptions of faculty on the use of full-text articles retrieved from print vs online sources were compared to reports from their students on the sources used using a survey designed for both faculty and students. Responses to a student survey (not included) showed whether students used print or online sources most.  Faculty were asked to what degree they use online sources and were asked to report on the citing of online sources in their students' papers.

Liu, G., and Winn, D.  (2009).  Chinese graduate students and the Canadian academic library: A user study at the University of Windsor.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35, 565-573. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2009.08.001

This paper described a research study at the University of Windsor (Canada) exploring the use of academic libraries and services by Chinese graduate students.  The authors employed qualitative research methods involving twelve graduate students who had completed their initial or subsequent degrees in Chinese universities but are now studying at this Canadian university.  A number of common themes were described which could be extremely useful in reference services, especially with the upsurge in Chinese students in Canadia and the United States.

Luo, L. (2009). Effective training for chat reference personnel: An exploratory study.  Library & Information Science Research, 31, 210-224. doi: 10.1016/j.lisr.2009.04.004

Luo examined which training techniques are effective for chat reference. 286 chat reference providers responded to a survey rating the effectiveness of different techniques. The questions asked in the survey were included.  Contextual information, such as length of experience with chat reference, was also gathered, to correlate effective training techniques with these variables.  Results show the most effective training techniques for chat reference.

Lyons, C.  (2009).  Are we covering our own backyards?:  An analysis of local research guides created by academic business librarians.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35, 421-430. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2009.06.002

Lyons made a good argument for librarians to create user guides to community information for users.  He checked websites of 70 business schools ranked highly by the Wall Street Journal and U.S. News and World Report.  After examining schools for local resources guides, he then analyzed the guides using criteria such as numbers of links, inclusion of local, state and national resources, and categories of the resources found.  Since the use of library guides seems only to be increasing with the use of such software as LibGuides, this article is important for pointing out a possible gap in reference guides.

Maness, J. M., Naper, S., & Chaudhuri, J. (2009). The good, the bad, but mostly the ugly: Adherence to RUSA guidelines during encounters with inappropriate behavior online. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 49, 151-162. Retrieved from

This study examined whether librarians who adhere to the RUSA guidelines for behavioral performance when dealing with patrons mitigate rude or inappropriate behavior.  Chat transcripts were analyzed and coded to determine whether the librarians observed the RUSA guidelines or not, and the analysis then focused on the patron behavior.  The study found a low level of adherence to RUSA guidelines and suggested that the development of specific behavior guidelines for reference librarians may be necessary.

Martin, J. L. (2009). Course instructor perceptions of computer-generated bibliographic citations. Reference Services Review, 37, 304-312. doi: 10.1108/00907320910982794

Familiarity with citation management software among faculty and their evaluation of citations in student papers were the foci of this study. Using a survey and descriptive statistics, the author found that respondents (9.6 percent of faculty) were not familiar with computer-generated bibliographic tools, and they count errors in bibliographic citations against a student’s grade. Understanding how faculty evaluate bibliographies helps librarians teaching research skills, and programs that automate the compilation of bibliographies are part of that teaching responsibility.

McClure, R., & Clink, K. (2009). How do you know that?: An investigation of student research practices in the digital age. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 9, 115-132. doi: 10.1353/pla.0.0033

The authors examined the type of sources used in 100 English composition research essays. In addition to replicating previous studies, the authors examined sources used as they relate to timeliness, authority, and bias. The article also presented the results of focus groups with faculty and students. While students seemed to be most comfortable with the concept of timeliness, there is a need for assistance in understanding the concepts of authority and bias.

Meert, D. L., & Given, L. M. (2009). Measuring quality in chat reference consortia: A comparative analysis of responses to users’ queries. College & Research Libraries, 70, 71-84.

The authors studied the quality of consortia chat reference services at the University of Alberta Libraries. The investigators compared the quality of service provided by local librarians versus consortia staff, through analysis of whether the response met reference standards, and whether the question was answered in real time. The study found that local librarians performed better than the consortia staff, but the authors suggest that consortia staff performance could be improved through provision of better information about the Alberta library and campus.

Meserve, H. C., Belanger, S. E., Bowlby, J., & Rosenblum, L. (2009). Developing a model for reference research statistics: Applying the “Warner Model” of reference question classification to streamline research services. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 48, 247-258. Retrieved from

This study looked at how to best classify patron transactions in order to better provide reference services.   Staff at each service point in the library collected and categorized data using a form developed for the study based on the Warner Model for classifying reference questions. The study concluded that this was an effective method for collecting statistics, evaluating the effectiveness of services, and can allow the library to make better decisions regarding staffing levels.

Moradi, I., & Hariri, N. (2009). A survey of Iranian academic reference services in terms of librarians’ discipline: Suggesting an organizational structure. Reference Services Review, 37, 355-362. doi: 10.1108/00907320910982839

To test whether a reference librarian’s discipline (or MLS) affects performance in various services, 75 librarians from 33 branches of the Islamic Azad Universities completed surveys. Using chi square analyses, the authors found differences in service delivery between librarians with an LIS degree and those with a non-LIS degree. In the Iranian model of reference, indexing, abstracting, and document delivery are included as reference services, so these findings are particular to that definition of reference.

Osareh, F., Bigdeli, Z., Mansouri, A., & Khasseh, A. A. (2009). A digital reference desk for the National Library of Iran: A prototype based on content analysis of the digital reference desks of the world’s national libraries. Reference Services Review, 37, 221-233. doi: 10.1108/00907320910957242

In an effort to develop an optimal digital reference desk (DRD) for the National Library of Iran, the content features of DRDs available on the Internet in English representing 33 national libraries were analyzed. The features extracted from the content analysis were cross-referenced with features identified as important to a DRD by a group of Iranian specialists. Agreement between the specialists and the DRD content analysis was less than 50 percent. The findings accentuate the need for user-centered design in DRD development. Tables include lists of all content features.

Puente, M. A., Gray, L., & Agnew, S. (2009). The expanding library wall: Outreach to the University of Tennessee’s multicultural/international student population. Reference Services Review, 37, 30-43. doi: 10.1108/00907320910934977

Librarians examined library use patterns of students, faculty, and staff affiliated with their university’s intercultural/international student centers. An online survey presented questions on research behavior and interest in outreach services, such as library instruction at the student centers and foreign-language library materials. The instrument (not included) was patterned after the Scott Walter survey used at the University of Washington. The study validated Walter’s survey as a method for gathering data on information-seeking behavior in minority students.

Rieger, O. Y. (2009). Search engine use behavior of students and faculty: User perceptions and implications for future research. First Monday, 14. Retrieved from

The author examined search engine usage by faculty and students for research and study purposes. The various testing methods looked for differences and similarities in search engine usage levels and usage types.  The study methods found high levels of satisfaction and usage of search engines among faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates. Variance occurred in usage types between faculty and graduate students and undergraduate students. The study allowed for an examination of user preferences and planning and design for future systems.

Richardson Jr., J. (2009). Good models of reference service transactions: Applying quantitative concepts to generate nine characteristic attributes of soundness. The Reference Librarian, 50, 159–177. doi: 10.1080/02763870902756005

The authors sought to develop a structured vocabulary and assessment methods for building common quantitative models for analyzing and discussing research about the reference transaction.  Models in five disciplines were analyzed, and a rubric of characteristics of good and bad models developed.  Nine qualitative terminological attributes of good models were then applied to three models of reference transaction analysis.  The article presents useful criteria and methodology for choosing, developing, and assessing standardized models for reference research.

Stamatoplos, A. (2009). The role of academic libraries in mentored undergraduate research: A model of engagement in the academic community. College & Research Libraries, 70, 235-249.

This study defined and characterized independent undergraduate research, as distinct from course-related undergraduate research. The author also offers a case study of one library’s involvement in undergraduate research on its campus, and provides recommendations for other libraries interested in engaging with this part of their community.

Strothmann, M., McCain, C., & Scrivener, L. (2009). “Ask a Librarian” pages as reference gateways to academic libraries. The Reference Librarian, 50, 259–275. doi: 10.1080/02763870902873289

The authors analyzed reference assistance web sites for a variety of ARL libraries to determine common characteristics, and specifically how different modes of reference service are promoted through these sites.   The study examined 111 of 123 ARL member libraries’ web sites, and documented which of seven types of information were present on each site.   In particular, the authors focused on whether online modes of reference are promoted more frequently than walk-up services.  The research is a useful examination of how libraries present and conceptualize their reference services online, and has useful implications for reference service marketing.

Walters, W. H. (2009). Google scholar search performance: Comparative recall and precision. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 9, 5-24. doi: 10.1353/pla.0.0034

In this article, Walters compared search results of Google Scholar and of 11 bibliographic databases in the field of later-life migration focusing on their recall and precision. Using 155 known articles, the author evaluated the tools on recall—how well the databases retrieved relevant articles—and precision—how well relevant articles were located and irrelevant articles excluded. For the subject of later-life migration, Google Scholar had the highest recall but lower precision than several of the databases.

Wan, G., Clark, D., Fullerton, J., Macmillan, G., Reddy, D. E., Stephens, J. & Xiao, D. (2009). Key issues surrounding virtual chat reference model: A case study. Reference Services Review, 37, 73-82. doi: 10.1108/00907320910937299

A content analysis of a random sampling of chat transcripts from a two-year period at a university library revealed that subject experts are rarely needed to field questions (only 10 percent of chat questions); co-browsing is important (used in 38 percent of sampled chats); and that peak usage of chat sessions was consistent across time. The study identified major variables related to the management of virtual reference services and a method for measuring those variables.

West, K., & Williamson J. (2009). Wikipedia: Friend or foe? Reference Services Review, 37, 260-271. doi: 10.1108/00907320910982758

The credibility of Wikipedia as a reference tool was tested through a critical evaluation of 106 randomly-selected articles. Articles were rated using a 7-point scale applied to five factors: accuracy, completeness, objectivity, presentation, and overall quality. No factor received a score below 4, however, the raters concluded that inconsistency in quality and coverage is the main drawback of Wikipedia. The article gives librarians concise guidelines for judging any article in Wikipedia.

Xu, C., Ouyang, F., & Chu, H.  (2009).  The academic library meets Web 2.0:  Applications and implications.  The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 35, 324-331. doi: 10.1016/j.acalib.2009.04.003

The authors in this study attempted to determine what types of Web 2.0 applications were being used in academic libraries and for what purposes; they also presented a "conceptual model" of academic library use of Web 2.0 applications.  They checked the websites of  81 library websites at institutions in New York state to determine what types of Web 2.0 applications were being used and for what purposes.  They then analyzed what applications were being used most often and what applications were being used in conjunction with other Web 2.0 applications.  Based on the results of this study, the authors presented their model of Web 2.0 use.  Since many of these applications center around reference services, and since librarians are being challenged to implement services that will attract our younger users, this article is helpful in informing librarians to use these technologies to improve our services.









Discussion Reference Research Review 2010

by Qiana Johnson on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 02:44 pm

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).

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
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
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.




Discussion Reference Research Review: 2013

by Lynda Duke on Fri, May 1, 2015 at 02:43 pm

Reference Research Review, 2012

 Compiled by the RUSA Research and Statistics Committee

Reference Research Review, 2012

 Compiled by the RUSA Research and Statistics Committee

An annual bibliography highlighting selected works in the reference literature.  Items were selected and annotated by members of the American Library Association, RUSA/RSS Research & Statistics Committee (2012-2013).


Bishop, B. W. (2012). Can consortial reference partners answer your local users' libraryquestions? Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(4), 355-370. doi:10.1353/pla.2012.0036

For libraries considering consortial services, this article can provide perspectives on the weaknesses of virtual reference services regarding location-based questions. Using content analysis and unobtrusive testing, the author analyses the ability of librarians to answer location-based questions effectively, especially when the questions are not specific to their location. The implications of this study can effect and inform libraries’ decision to enter into consortial reference services as a way to continue providing virtual reference service in a staffing shortfall.


Bishop, B.W. (2012).  Analysis of reference transactions to inform library applications (apps).  Library & Information Science Research, 34(4), 265-270. doi:10.1016/j.lisr.2012.06.001

Bishop posits that smartphone apps could be created to assist in answering location-driven questions to supplement in-person assistance as staffing decreases in libraries.  He analyzes 129,572 transactions to discover how many and what kinds of questions were located-based.  The article includes the definitions used for coding the transactions.  He determines that "wayfinding" questions could be answered by apps. App development to assist patrons with common questions is a new area for reference research. 


Bonnet, J. L., & McAlexander, B. (2012). Structural diversity in academic libraries: A study of librarian approachability. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 38(5), 277-286.  doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2012.06.002

The authors studied whether patron perceptions of librarian approachability differed depending on librarian age, gender, or race/ethnicity. Results showed that women were perceived as more approachable than men by all users. They also found that librarians were judged more approachable by people belonging to the same age group.  In terms of race/ethnicity, African-Americans tended to rate whites as less approachable than African-Americans; whites showed no significant difference in rating approachability of whites or African-Americans; Asians rated whites and Asians more approachable than African-Americans.  Authors emphasized that the results show a need for variability in the staffing of our reference desks.  


Del Bosque, D., Leif, S. A., & Skarl, S. (2012). Libraries atwitter: Trends in academic library tweeting. Reference Services Review, 40(2), 199-213. doi:10.1108/00907321211228246

Three researchers used a matrix of 19 categories to examine 296 Twitter accounts of libraries from a random sample of Carnegie degree-granting institutions. They found that 55% of the libraries used Twitter to discuss resources, and the number of tweets since implementation of the feed averaged about 334 with great variance. Private institutional libraries used Twitter more than public institutions. Library accounts tend not to use hash tags and showed little two-way conversation. The findings have implications for reference units seeking data to determine a return of investment in Twitter feeds at academic libraries.


Chow, A. S., & Croxton, R. A. (2012). Information-seeking behavior and reference medium preferences: Differences between faculty, staff, and students. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(3), 246-262. doi:10.5860/rusq.51n3

By comparing different user groups, the authors were able to tease out statistically significant differences regarding how information is sought as well as reference medium preferences characteristic of different user groups. The survey instrument is included in the article and the authors share their methodology. The survey has implications to the deployment of reference services in a variety of mediums and can be helpful to libraries seeking to expand the reach of services to their patrons.


Dubnjakovic, A. (2012). Electronic resource expenditure and the decline in reference transaction statistics in academic libraries. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 38(2), 94-100. doi:10.1016/j.acalib.2012.01.001

The author investigated whether increases in availability of electronic resources and gateway counts affected the number of reference transactions in a study of academic libraries, using data from the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) with a sample of 3960 academic libraries.  Results showed that an increase in gate counts corresponded with an increase in reference transactions. Results also showed that the higher the expenditures on electronic resources in libraries, the higher the number of reference questions in those same libraries.  These results contradict theories that because libraries spend so much on electronic resources, they have fewer people in the library asking reference questions. 


King, N. (2012). Nice vs. necessary: Reference collections in ARL member libraries. The Reference Librarian, 53(2), 138-155. doi:10.1080/02763877.2011.607415

This article holistically evaluates academic library reference collection management practices. Using an online instrument to collect both qualitative and quantitative data, the author surveyed primarily heads of reference and determined that most academic ARL reference departments are regularly weeding their collection and assessing the use of electronic and print reference materials. These results can help academic ARL reference departments compare their practices against peer institutions.


 LeMaistre, T., Embry, R. L., Van Zandt, L. L., & Bailey, D. E. (2012). Role reinvention, structural defense, or resigned surrender: Institutional approaches to technological change and reference librarianship. The Library Quarterly, 82(3), 241-275. doi:10.1086/665932

The authors explored occupational responses of reference librarians to increased technology in libraries. The qualitative study employed grounded theory to analyze interviews with librarians and observations of reference transactions in ten libraries of varied types, revealing rich understanding of occupational change over recent decades. Institutional openness to technological change encourages librarians to “reinvent” their role with the support of paraprofessionals; others experience “adverse role changes.” Suggestions for the future role of librarians are provided.


Luo, L. (2012). Professional preparation for "text a librarian”: What are the requisite competencies? Reference & User Services Quarterly, 52(1), 44-52. doi:10.5860/rusq.52n1.44

This article explores the professional competencies needed for text message reference service delivery.  The Delphi study materials are not included in the article. For libraries looking to implement text message reference, the professional competencies can help outline avenues for training.  Additionally, for librarians looking to improve text message reference delivery, the identified competencies can provide a starting point for assessment.


Murphy, S. A., & Cerqua, J. (2012). Implementing the customer contact center: An opportunityto create a valid measurement system for assessing and improving a library's telephone    services. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(3), 299-314. doi:10.1353/pla.2012.0031

This article suggests the use of a contact center to improve reference service and increase patron satisfaction, in particular regarding phone services. Among the tools being used, the Attribute Gage R&R tool is not included in the article but the authors do describe the process of assessment and a detailed overview of the contact center service. For libraries looking to more effectively deploy reference librarians as well as to converge services to a single point, this article provides insight into a possible solution. The data collection services of a contact center are also extremely helpful to continuous improvement and assessment.


Nolen, D. S., Powers, A. C., Zhang, L., Xu, Y., Cannady, R. E., & Li, J. (2012). Moving beyond assumptions: The use of virtual reference data in an academic library. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(1), 23-40. doi:10.1353/pla.2012.0006

It is important to analyze patron types in order to continue improving services and to direct outreach efforts. MSU used patron data from their virtual reference services to test assumptions regarding the make-up of their primary user groups. The variety of methodologies being used by other virtual services emphasizes the importance of local data to decision-making. The methodology described can be helpful for other institutions seeking to re-create a similar study, particularly for parsing data. (Data can then be used to test assumptions of patrons as well as to deploy marketing).


Pellegrino, C. (2012). Does telling them to ask for help work?: Investigating library help-seeking behaviors in college undergraduates. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 51(3), 272-277. doi:10.5860/rusq

In many one-shot sessions, instructor librarians encourage students to ask librarians. This article seeks to determine whether in-class encouragement to refer to librarians influences student behavior. The survey instrument is included in the article. Although the results come from a small academic library, the implication that professor encouragement increases the likelihood of students referring to librarians can be helpful for librarians seeking to increase student engagement via faculty engagement.


Reinsfelder, T. L. (2012).  Citation analysis as a tool to measure the impact of individual research consultations. College & Research Libraries, 73(3), 263-277. Retrieved from

Reinsfelder's study seeks to measure the degree to which research consultations with a librarian impact undergraduate work. Librarians evaluated the quality of sources used in preliminary papers, met with students, and reviewed the quality of final paper sources. A four-factor rating scale (included in article) was used to evaluate citations, and nonparametric statistical tests compared quality of draft and final paper sources. The article provides some evidence to support the positive impact of individual research consultations.


Rod-Welch, L. J. (2012). Incorporation and visibility of reference and social networking tools on ARL member libraries’ websites. Reference Services Review, 40(1), 138-171. doi:10.1108/00907321211203694

To determine whether members of the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) incorporate reference and social networking tools on their websites, and, specifically, on the homepage, the investigator analyzed 125 websites representing ARL. From anywhere on the website,  Email/Ask-a-Librarian dominated as the most available tool (89%) with access to Suggestions, RSS, Live Chat, Facebook, and Twitter available on about half the sites (58%-46%). Availability from the homepage was always less. These results provide baseline data for future studies on positioning access points to electronic reference tools on the website.


Ruppel, M., & Vecchione, A. (2012). “It’s research made easier!” SMS and chat referenceperceptions. Reference Services Review, 40(3), 423-448. doi:10.1108/00907321211254689

This is a follow-up dual survey study to the research conducted previously by Ruppel and Fagan (2002). The first survey asked students in an elective library research course (fall 2010) to respond to questions on the library’s chat service; the second survey asked students in the same course (spring 2011) to respond to questions on the SMS service. The respondents valued high-quality, quick, convenient, easy-to use, personalized reference service regardless of format and the “robust communication” received in face-to-face reference services. Results imply that point-of-need plays an important role in a student’s decision of whether to use virtual or in-person reference services.


Stagg, A., & Kimmins, L. (2012). Research skills development through collaborative virtual learning environments. Reference Services Review, 40(1), 61-74.       doi:10.1108/00907321211203630

The Faculty Librarian at University of Southern Queensland teamed with faculty of the Business and Law program and members from the Learning and Teaching center to create videos referred to as “referencing tutorials” (based on queries often answered by reference librarians) that were embedded into course sites for business distance students. Usage data collected over two years was significant (24,348 visits by 4749 students), and comments elicited from students and faculty indicated they valued the support provided by the tutorials.  The research provides both impetus and guidelines for those librarians considering curriculum-centered, virtual reference delivery.


Ward, D., & Phetteplace, E. (2012). Staffing by design: A methodology for staffing reference. Public Services Quarterly, 8(3), 193-207. doi:10.1080/15228959.2011.621856

This study sought to determine if a methodology for in-person and virtual reference desk staffing could be easily and quickly developed using reference management data. Library staff tracked the mode of communication, duration, university affiliation, question type, and “an open-ended description to provide additional information on the nature of the interaction.” Using that information, the researchers analyzed questions by hour and patron affiliation by hour of day. The researchers found that IM reference represented the bulk of reference transactions, however, multiple staffing models were still needed.








To collect, analyze, and disseminate information on current research needs and statistical procedures in the fields of reference and information services; to sponsor an annual Reference Research Forum.


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