International Live Chat Study finds 30% Ready Reference Questions

July 8, 2006 at 8:23 pm 2 comments

Although many folks have declared Ready Reference to be dead in this Googleized reference environment, our research reported preliminary results of a large international study that found 30% of the live chat questions to be of this type! Another interesting finding, users were inappropriate (rude, impatient, goofing off, inappropriate questions or language) in less than 1% of the transcripts!

Since returning from ALA in New Orleans I have been scrambling to get caught up (OY!) & have been wanting to post these finding and others reported in 2 presentations that Lynn Connaway(of OCLC) and I gave at the conference. The PowerPt. slides have just been posted to the “Seeking Synchronicity” grant website and can be viewed by clicking on the links below. Both presentations provide preliminary results from our 2 year grant project, supported by IMLS, which is now 3/4 through the 1st year of a 2 year study.

The 1st presentation was for the QuestionPoint User’s Group Meeting on 6/25/06 and was called “Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Transcripts”

This presentation discussed the results of our analysis of 256 live chat transcripts (selected randomly) from QuestionPoint and conduct of 7 focus groups (live chat reference users, non-users, and librarians). As can be seen in the ppt, we did the following analyses of the chat transcripts (& here’s a glimpse of some of our results, see ppt for more).

Geographical Distribution (the most questions were received by California, Maryland, and Australia; the most questions referred/answered were by California, Australia, and Maryland)

Type of Library Receiving Question (most by Consortium, Public, University, Medical, Law, State)

Type of Question Asked (using Katz/Kaske/Arnold categories) (Subject Search, 37%; Ready Reference 30%; Procedural, 25%; Inappropriate <1%)

Subject of Question (using Dewey Decimal Classification (Social Science, 42%; History & Geography 21%; Science 11%)

Service Duration (Mean 13 min. 53 sec.; Median 10 min. 37 sec.)

Interpersonal Communication (found dimensions that facilitators or were barriers to positive chat interactions, see ppt for more detail).

The 2nd presentation was for the Library Research Round Table forum on 6/24/06 and was called “Face-Work in Chat Reference Encounters.” We’ve analyzed an international sample of 226 live chat transcripts from QuestionPoint using a framework from the work of the great sociologist Erving Goffman (yes, Erving not Irving!). Results of this research provide us with a way to help understand how import ritual behavior (like greetings, closings, apologies, polite behavior, etc.) is in live chat as well as in face-to-face reference encounters.

Hope the above tantalizes you enough to take a look at the ppt slides. Handouts will also be available soon at the grant website!

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2 Comments

  • 1. Janie L. Hermann  |  July 13, 2006 at 11:02 am

    I was tantalized and the slides were very informative and interesting. Please keep us updated for when the handouts are posted.

  • 2. Robert J. Lackie  |  July 13, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    Great explanations and data backing up the presentations, Marie–thanks for sharing and leading us to the PPT slides, too. Good luck with the IMLS grant project–I can’t think of anyone who would do a better job with it, and you present this type of complex info so well to your diversified audiences!


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