RUSA RSS Research and Statistics Committee (Reference Services Section) Committee
This year, the Research & Statistics Committee hosted the 22nd Annual Reference Research Forum on Sunday, June 26th at the Orange County Conference Center in Orlando, FL. After a double-blind review process, the committee selected 3 research teams to present their results. Laura Hibbler from Brandeis University described findings from a study that involved interviewing first-year students at three different points while they were working on a research paper. By interviewing students over the span of the time that they were working on their research essays, the librarian was able to ask students to reflect on the steps they had taken and students were able to provide a more complete picture of their research process. Tara Tobin Cataldo from University of Florida looked at the the role that formats or “containers” play in students’ determination of credibility of digital information. Amanda L. Folk from University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg presented research on whether Dweck’s theory of intelligence might shed light on student motivations for seeking help from a librarian. The committee also reviewed and posted an annotated bibliography of articles relating to reference research for the 2015 Annual Reference Research Review.
CALL FOR PRESENTATIONS: 2017 REFERENCE RESEARCH FORUM
The Research & Statistics Committee of the Reference Services Section of the
Reference & User Services Association (RUSA) invites submission of reference
service research project proposals for presentation at New Discoveries in
Reference: The 23rd Annual Reference Research Forum at the 2017 American
Library Association Annual Conference in Chicago, IL. Researchers and
practitioners from all types of libraries, library school faculty and
students, and other interested individuals are encouraged to submit a
The Reference Research Forum is a popular and valuable ALA Annual Conference
program. Attendees have the opportunity to learn about innovative research
projects conducted in reference services including user behavior, electronic
services, reference effectiveness and assessment, and organizational structure
For examples of projects presented at past Forums, please see the Committee’s
The Committee employs a blind review process to select three projects for 20-
minute presentations, followed by open discussion. Identifying information
will not be shared with reviewers until after final selection of projects.
Selected submissions must be presented in person at the Forum during ALA
Annual in Chicago, IL.
Criteria for selection:
1. Originality: Potential for research to fill a gap in reference
knowledge or to build on previous studies
2. Quality: Research design and methodologies
3. Impact: Significance of the study for improving the quality of
NOTE: Research projects may be in-progress or completed. Previously published
research or research accepted for publication will not be accepted.
Proposals are due by December 28th, 2016. Notification of acceptance will be
made by Monday, February 6th, 2017. The submission must not exceed the stated
word count limit.
Submissions will be accepted using our online form at:
FORM PAGE 1: Contact Information
Fill out the fields for the primary contact’s name, title, institutional
affiliation, mailing address, and email address. Additional research team
members should also be noted in the appropriate field.
FORM PAGE 2: Research Description (250 Word maximum)
The research description must not include any personally identifiable
information, including your name, or the name of your institution. Please
include these elements:
1. Title of the project
2. Explicit statement of the research problem
3. Description of the research design and methodologies
4. Findings or results if available
5. Brief discussion of the originality, unique contribution, potential
impact, and significance of the research (if you use semi colons between items
in a list, you need to make sure the entire list is a complete sentence.)
Proposals that exceed the word count or that do not follow the format
described above will be automatically rejected.
Questions about the Forum should be directed to the 2016-2017 committee
David Ward (email@example.com) and Cindy Levine (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
We are pleased to present the Reference Research Review for 2014! Research articles related to reference published in the last year have been carefully chosen by our diligent committee members and collected into our bibliography. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. A big thanks to our committee for creating a wonderful bibliography!
Ava Brillat, Chair
Reference Research Review 2014
Baro, E. E., Efe, B. U., & Oyeniran, G. K. (2014). Reference inquiries received through different channels: The challenges reference librarians face in university libraries in Nigeria. Reference Services Review, 42(3), 514-529. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-09-2013-0049
To investigate the channels through which librarians in Nigeria receive reference inquiries, the authors distributed an online questionnaire to 67 university libraries. 36 institutions responded, and results indicated that face-to-face traditional reference desk interactions were preferred to other channels such as SMS, instant message, and email. These findings will interest practitioners looking for global perspectives, as well as university libraries in developing countries planning to adopt virtual reference services.
Cassidy, E. D., Colmenares, A., & Martinez, M. (2014). So text me—maybe. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(4), 300-312. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n4.300
In this article, authors developed an analytic rubric to assess the quality of text/SMS reference services. Data from a three-year period was assessed for several key performance behaviors, including friendliness and attentiveness. The study results indicated that continued conversations on response time and friendliness in the text/SMS environment are an important component of improving and sustaining quality service. Recommended for librarians seeking another assessment instrument in their reference service evaluation toolkit.
Chan, E. K. (2014). Analyzing recorded transactions to extrapolate the required knowledge, skills, and abilities of reference desk providers at an urban, academic/public library. Journal of Library Administration, 54(1), 23-32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01930826.2014.893113
Focusing on a joint use library, Chan examined reference transactions in order to identify the common skills and knowledge required of reference staff. Using transactional data gathered in Gimlet, the author grouped transactions into four categories: Facilities, Technical/Equipment Assistance, Quick Searches, and Research-oriented assistance. Librarians providing reference in joint use facilities can benefit from the included assessment, which can lay the foundation for continued reference desk training and professional development.
Chan, T., & Johns-Masten, K. (2014). A study of Gimlet use in reference transactions. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 19(2), 73-87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10875301.2014.938212
Librarians at SUNY Oswego surveyed reference staff about their experiences with Gimlet, a web-based program that tracks reference transactions. Surveys (not included in the article) were distributed internally as well as externally on nationwide library listservs. Conclusions are limited by small response rates (eight internally and twenty externally); however, the overall consensus was that Gimlet was easy to use and improved productivity, although the report generator could be improved.
Chow, A. S., & Croxton, R. A. (2014). A usability evaluation of academic virtual reference services. College & Research Libraries, 75(3), 309-361. http://dx.doi.org/10.5860/crl13-408
This study assessed the usability of virtual reference services delivered via chat, e-mail, phone, text, and Skype. Thirty-one undergraduate and graduate students asked prepared reference questions through each service, then rated them on usability and satisfaction. A variety of factors made chat the most appealing, including real-time interaction and the easy sharing of links. Skype and texting were much less popular than expected.
Faix, A., MacDonald, A., & Taxakis, B. (2014). Research consultation effectiveness for freshman and senior undergraduate students. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 4-15. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-05-2013-0024
Using survey tools, the authors queried freshmen and seniors who attended a mandatory instruction session and research consultation and compared the results to students who only attended an instruction session. Results revealed that weaknesses in information literacy skills can be more fully addressed by librarians in later research consultations. Reference librarians can benefit from this case study as it reveals gaps in reference assessment and preparation that can effectively reconcile future problems in research consultations.
Feldmann, L. M. (2014). Academic business librarians’ assistance to community entrepreneurs. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 108-128. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-04-2013-0021
Business librarians in the academic environment can find themselves straddling a wide and more varied patron base due to their work with business community members outside of academia. The author researches the collaborative efforts of academic business librarians through a combination of survey and follow-up interviews. Additionally, Feldmann interviews community patrons who received reference services from academic business librarians. Academic business librarians can benefit from the information on collaborative relationships revealed through the interviews.
Jaeger, P. T., Gorham, U., Bertot, J. C., Taylor, N. G., Larson, E., Lincoln, R., . . . Wentz, B. (2014). Connecting government, libraries and communities: Information behavior theory and information intermediaries in the design of LibEGov.org. First Monday, 19(11). http://dx.doi.org/10.5210/fm.v19i11.4900
To better understand the role of public librarians as e-government intermediaries, researchers collected data regarding the information behaviors of the public, public librarians, and government agencies. The collected interviews, surveys, and site visits were used to develop a website, which proved to be more effective for some user groups than others. This article illustrates the challenges of a “one size fits all” approach to delivering government information and services. Librarians can use the findings to inform reference service improvements.
Luo, L., & Park, V. T. (2014). Text 4 health. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(4), 326-333. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n4.326
This study places sensitive health-related reference questions in a 21st century user-interaction context. Insightful observations include that patrons may feel more comfortable asking health-related questions via text (or chat) rather than face-to-face or email because it provides a greater level of anonymity. The results of the authors’ work can help staff determine how to better approach these questions and how to develop policies and procedures for successful service implementation.
Luo, L. (2014). Text a librarian: A look from the user perspective. Reference Services Review, 42(1), 34-51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/RSR-10-2012-0067
This article addresses a gap in reference research by examining text message reference from a user perspective. Authors surveyed users and non-users of a nationwide text reference system called My Info Quest and determined that most non-users were unaware of the service, whereas most users—although utilizing the service occasionally—were satisfied with service quality. Reference librarians can benefit from both the detailed literature review and the information gathered on non-users, which can help with marketing and outreach for text reference services.
Stone, S. (2014). Breaking the ice. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(1), 44-49. doi:10.5860/rusq.54n1.44
This study demonstrates that social media outreach initiatives can increase user information seeking requests. The author collected statistics of Facebook reference interactions and found a significant correlation between the numbers of interactions with Facebook friends than with non-Facebook friends. The author’s insights on information seeking behavior and strategies for alleviating library anxiety can benefit reference staff considering expanding their social media services and involvement.
Tang, Y., & Tseng, H. W. (2014). Distance students’ attitude toward library help seeking. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(3-4), 307-312. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2014.04.008
Authors Tang and Tseng explore the library help seeking attitudes of distance students through survey data analysis. A survey was distributed to students enrolled in distance learning courses with self-report questions focused on library usage and help-seeking. Interestingly, distance students living close to their campus exhibit similar help seeking behaviors as campus students, preferring to commute to the library in person. Additionally, more outreach and promotion is needed to make all students aware of library assistance services.
Telia, A., & Oyedokun, T. T. (2014). An evaluation of online reference services through social networking sites in selected Nigerian university libraries. The Reference Librarian, 55(4), 343-367. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02763877.2014.947889
Targeting undergraduates in selected Nigerian universities, the authors sought to determine awareness and preferences of online reference services. Survey results from 387 respondents indicated that Facebook, Twitter, and Ask a Librarian were the most preferred methods and more convenient than traditional desk reference services. The authors also draw a correlation between service awareness and service use. Recommended for reference librarians looking for international perspectives.
Vardeman, K. K., & Barba, I. (2014). Reference in 160 characters or less: The role of text messaging in virtual reference services. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 19(3-4), 163-179. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10875301.2014.984098
In this longitudinal study at Texas Tech University Libraries, three years of usage data were downloaded from the text reference service Mosio. Ingoing and outgoing messages were coded by content. One-third of the questions were reference while the rest were simpler queries. Forty-six percent occurred after regular business hours. The authors conclude smart phones make chatting more appealing than simple texting. Therefore, text reference will remain a niche rather than a cornerstone service.
Yang-woo, K. (2014). Typology of ambiguity on representation of information needs. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 53(4), 313-325. doi:10.5860/rusq.53n4.313
The reference interview is a process of disambiguation of user queries for information. In this article, the authors discuss a process of disambiguation of user queries gathered by information systems and services. Although focused on information systems, disambiguation can be aided by increasing user input, clarifying user queries and clustering search results. The process and discussion of disambiguation can help reference librarians understand how to further facilitate more effective interactions between users and information systems. Whether it’s face-to-face or virtual reference or a search engine or database query, how a user’s question is interpreted is key to providing meaningful answers.
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
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 http://www.rusq.org
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 http://www.rusq.org
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 http://www.rusq.org
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 http://firstmonday.org
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.