Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

A Study of Web-Based Interactive Reference Services Via Academic Library Home Pages

Academic journal article Reference & User Services Quarterly

A Study of Web-Based Interactive Reference Services Via Academic Library Home Pages

Article excerpt

This study addresses the strategic issue of access and policy in developing Web-based interactive reference services via academic library home pages. It examines the current status of Web-based interactive reference services in the United States through a national survey. The study finds that less than one-half of the surveyed institutions (67 of 143 or 46.9 percent) use Web-based interactive reference as an extension of their traditional reference services. Web-based interactive reference services are primarily used to provide brief factual information, basic guidance in conducting library research on a topic, and to answer questions about library resources, services, policies, procedures, and facilities.

**********

The widespread availability of the Internet has expanded the possibilities for librarians to provide reference services to their users. Gray states that "... reference service has the longest history of networked delivery, first by telephone and now through the Internet.... Most of these virtual services operate through electronic mail, but some experiments have also been undertaken using videoconferencing, shared work spaces, mail lists, and chat rooms in an effort to create interactions more closely approximating those that take place in a face-to-face reference transaction." (1) The need for reference services has even caught the attention of the CNN news media. Larry Keller of CNN.com/career writes, "With seemingly infinite research data at the fingertips of everybody linked to the Internet, you might think reference librarians are doomed to go the route of door-to-door salesmen and elevator operators. Instead, many Internet users have found the information glut daunting and confusing. And frequently, it's a reference librarian they turn to make sense of it." (2) The problem that today's reference librarians face is to discover and explore the impact and implications that the Internet holds for delivering library reference services.

In light of the recognition of the need for these services, the author has conducted a study to learn the current status of Web-based interactive reference services provided through academic library home pages in the United States. The two research questions under investigation are the following: (1) What is the percentage of academic libraries providing Web-based interactive reference services through their home pages? and (2) How do academic libraries provide Web-based interactive reference services through their home pages?

For the purposes of the study, Web-based interactive reference services are defined as reference services in which librarians and users are able to interact using e-mail, videoconferencing, a discussion forum, or a chat room during the virtual reference interview process. Because reference resources and reference guides posted by librarians on their library home pages represent one-way communication only, the listings of these resources and guides are not included as a part of this study.

The research is further based on three assumptions: (1) an academic library may or may not provide Web-based interactive reference services through its home pages; (2) an academic library may provide Web-based interactive reference services differently through its home pages; and (3) Web-based interactive reference services may not be the same as face-to-face reference services in terms of the clientele served.

The significance of this study is that it addresses the strategic issue of access and policy in developing Web-based interactive reference services through academic library home pages. The findings of this study will prove useful to academic libraries planning to initiate or to improve existing Web-based interactive reference services. This article is timely in that it reports on a national survey conducted in the year 2001.

Review of the Literature

This review of the literature focuses on the concept of access and policy relating to issues of reference service and the Internet. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.