Full Record – Author

Ref Type: Journal Article

Authors: Lee,Ian J.,

Title: Do virtual reference librarians dream of digital reference questions?: A qualitative and quantitative analysis of email and chat reference

Publication Full: Australian Academic & Research Libraries

Year: 2004 Volume: 35 Issue: 2

Start Page: 95 Other Pages: 110

Descriptors: Reference services/Automation, Use studies/Instant messaging (Internet), College and university libraries/Reference services, Use studies/Electronic mail, College and university libraries/Australia, Reference services/Australia, Library & Information Science,


Virtual reference in an Australian academic library was examined using qualitative and quantitative analyses of email and chat transcripts. Forty-seven chat transcripts and a matched sample of email were analysed to examine questions of usage, question type, the reference interview and communication processes involved with these interactions. Results show that the usage of synchronous virtual reference in this sample is very low with a call rate of approximately one call for every four hours of availability. Email and chat show similar usage rates when hours of availability are taken into account. Chat enquiries tended to have higher proportions of research and reference enquiries. Email questions tended to have a higher proportion of administrative questions. Techniques of the reference interview are used far more frequently in chat than in email transactions. Chat and email transcripts were compared quantitatively using various metrics including duration and total word number. The average call length for a chat transaction was 22 minutes. Barriers to communication within a virtual environment are discussed. Reprinted by permission of the publisher.


PD: Bibliographic footnotes; Table

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Retrieved Date:January 1, 1970

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Issn Isbn: 0004-8623