CSI Cyberspace:  A Multiple Case Study Investigation of the Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Referen...
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CSI Cyberspace: A Multiple Case Study Investigation of the Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services. Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Rutgers University [email protected] M. Kathleen Kern, MLS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign [email protected] New Reference Research:

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Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Rutgers University [email protected]

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Marie l radford ph d rutgers university mradford scils rutgers

CSI Cyberspace: A Multiple Case Study Investigation of the Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Rutgers University

[email protected]

M. Kathleen Kern, MLS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

[email protected]

New Reference Research:

11th Annual Reference Research Forum,

ALA, Chicago June 25, 2005


Problem statement

Problem Statement

  • Number of chat reference services growing

    • 3000+ chat & IM (Coffman & Arret, 2004)

  • Alive & Clicking!

    • Many services are successful and viewed as integral

  • Clicked the Bucket!

    • However, a number of chat services have died untimely deaths.

  • Why?


Research questions

Research Questions

  • What were the deciding factors for ending these services?

  • Who was involved in making the decision to end the services?

  • How could these failures/false starts have been prevented?

  • What has been the impact of discontinuing these services?

  • What are the similarities and differences among the cases?

  • What lessons can be learned to ensure the success of existing services or newly developing services?


Modus operandi method

Modus Operandi - Method

  • Multiple Case Study Method

  • Selection of Cases & Informants

    • 7 Cases

  • Data Collection

    • Email Surveys

    • Telephone Interviews

    • Examination of Documents


Method continued

Method Continued

  • Analysis of Results

    • Case Descriptions of Each Case

    • Comparison of Cross – Case Findings

      • Similarities

      • Differences

    • Iterative Process

    • Examination of Documents


Results

Results

  • Despite our original & advertised title we had 7 cases not 6.

    • 5 Academic

    • 1 Public

    • 1 Consortium

  • One surprise, all 7 agreed to be interviewed & share their experiences.

  • Another surprise – Most (5-7) had no grant funding!


Starting operating the service common themes

Starting & Operating the Service – Common Themes

  • No additional staff hired.

  • Broad target audience – same as for in-person service.

  • Distance education students a focus.

  • Limited hours of operation.

    • Average 22.4 hours per week

  • User response positive.


Postmortem 5 major reasons for discontinuing services

Postmortem - 5 Major Reasons for Discontinuing Services

  • Funding – Budget Cuts

  • Low Use

  • Staffing

  • Technical Problems

  • Institutional Culture


Reasons for discontinuing service

Reasons for Discontinuing Service

Note: Totals to 8 since Case B listed 2 primary factors (Technical Problems and Low Use).


Reasons for discontinuing service1

Reasons for Discontinuing Service


Csi cyberspace mystery

CSI Cyberspace Mystery

  • Why did these services have such low volume?


Exhibit a volume

Exhibit A - Volume


Exhibit b marketing of service

Exhibit B – Marketing of Service


Exhibit c marketing of service low vol

Exhibit C – Marketing of Service –Low Vol.


Exhibit d hours of service

Exhibit D – Hours of Service


Exhibit e length of service giving vr a fair trial

Exhibit E – Length of ServiceGiving VR a Fair Trial


Giving vr a fair trial

Giving VR a Fair Trial …

  • Shortest services ran 6 months (2 services)

  • Longest run was 26 months

  • Average of 17 months


Exhibit f service evaluation

Exhibit F – Service Evaluation


Impact of closing services

Impact of Closing Services

  • Common Trends

    • Demise had limited impact.

    • Users did not notice.

    • Email reference (phone service) more promotion, more use.

  • Unique Responses

    • Staff relieved, less pressure.


Lessons learned

Lessons Learned

  • If doing a multiple case study, don’t put a number in your title for conference papers.

  • Consortium necessities:

    • Full-time coordinator

    • Variety of libraries

  • Some reference questions are better answered by email.


More lessons learned

More Lessons Learned…

  • Critical factors:

    • Staff training & enough volume for staff to stay primed, comfortable staffing patterns

    • User needs assessment

      • What hours for service?

      • What software?

    • User evaluation

    • Marketing

    • Design prominent & easily identifiable link


The mystery remains unsolved ongoing investigation season 2 future research directions

The Mystery Remains UnsolvedOngoing Investigation… Season 2? Future Research Directions

  • Low volume, what are critical factors?

  • Have identified 3 additional cases.

    • Perhaps more will be identified today.

  • More rigorous examination of documents.

  • Research on successful services – what factors ensured their success?

  • User expectations of service – what hours, days? More on users.

  • More research on non-users


Future directions for services

Future Directions for Services

  • Investigate free & simpler software

    • IM or refTracker

  • Consortia

    • Share Cost

    • Share Staff

  • Continue to scan landscape


There s hope future directions for cases

There’s Hope…Future Directions for Cases


Conclusion

Conclusion

PPT slides will be posted at:

RUSA Reference & Statistics Committee Site

http://www.ala.org/RUSA

Thanks & Questions???

Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Rutgers University

[email protected]

M. Kathleen Kern, MLS, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

[email protected]


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