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An Analysis of Sources Used to Answer Reference Questions. A presentation for the Ninth Annual Reference Research Forum of the Research and Statistics Committee of MOUSS (Management and Operation of User Service Section) of RUSA (Reference and User Services Association)

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An analysis of sources used to answer reference questions
An Analysis of Sources Used to Answer Reference Questions

A presentation for the Ninth Annual

Reference Research Forum of the

Research and Statistics Committee of

MOUSS (Management and Operation of User Service Section) of

RUSA (Reference and User Services Association)

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Barbara Costello

Reference Librarian

Government Documents

Librarian

Assistant Professor

duPont Ball Library

Stetson University

DeLand, Florida

Robert Lenholt

Reference Librarian

Electronic Services Librarian

Assistant Professor

duPont Ball Library

Stetson University

DeLand, Florida

Jane Bradford

Reference Librarian

Coordinator of Instruction

Associate Professor

duPont-Ball Library

Stetson University

DeLand, Florida


Introduction &

Background

Rob Lenholt


Stetson University

  • Founded in 1883, Stetson is the first private university in Florida

  • Located in DeLand, Florida -- 25 miles from Daytona Beach and 35 miles from Orlando

  • 2,100 FTE

  • More than 60 majors and minors in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Business Administration, and School of Music

  • Awards undergraduate and Masters level degrees.


The duPont-Ball library

Holdings

  • 338,000 volumes

  • 353,000 microforms

  • 9100+ unique

    periodicals titles



Reference Librarians

Reference Desk

Open 68 hours a week

Reference services are provided by five full-time and two part-time Librarians.

We wish to thank all our Reference Librarians for assisting in the study. The desk is manned by only one Librarian per shift

Logging and recording every reference question and source used was asking a lot from them but everyone participated and no one complained.


Reference collection
Reference Collection

9,587

Printed

Reference

Titles



An analysis of sources used to answer reference questions1
An Analysis of Sources Used to Answer Reference Questions

Research Problem

To test the hypothesis that print reference sources are used much less frequently than electronic sources by reference librarians to answer patron queries.


An Analysis of Sources Used to Answer

Reference Questions

The results of this analysis should provide

evidence of at least three things:

  • The extent to which the print reference collection is being

    used by reference librarians (what percentage of reference questions were answered wholly or in part by print reference sources).

  • Which items in the print reference collection are being used and to what extent?

  • What electronic sources are being used: databases, catalog, web pages?


Literature Review

A review of the literature produced no other studies that sought to compare the same data we collected. Three articles touched on the subject of print versus electronic reference sources, but none provided the evidence- based results we derived.

  • Tenopir, Carol and Lisa Ennis, “Reference Services in the New Millennium: University Reference Services from 1991 – 2001”, Online, v. 25, no. 4 (July/August 2001), p. 40-45.

  • Smith, Judith and Emma-Jane Templeton, “ A Comparison of the Range and Value of Use of the Internet with Traditional Reference Sources in Scottish Public Libraries”, Journal of Information Science, v. 25, no. 1, (1999), p. 27-33.

  • Lynn, Susan, “A Comparison of Print vs. WWW-based Ready Reference Sources. 1999. Thesis. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

    A full bibliography of the sources used for the review of the literature can be found at: http://www.stetson.edu/departments/library/ALA2003.html


Methodology

Jane Bradford


This was our High-tech Data Collection Instrument for the Fall 2002 study

Insert scanned photo of legal pad


Sample of Spreadsheet Used for Fall 2002 study

Fall 2002 data compilation



Example of Questions Asked That Resulted in Using Librarian 2002 Data Collection Process

as a Source Category


Lessons Learned from Fall 2002 2002 Data Collection Process

Data Collection Process and Results

What We Learned from Fall Term

  • Essential to have one person monitoring spreadsheet and assigning categories.

  • Need a Beta testing period before beginning in earnest.

  • Need a comments column.

  • Make notes of questions and sources during busy times at Reference Desk.


Changes in Data Collection Methodology 2002 Data Collection Process

from Fall Term to Spring Term

  • Spreadsheet filled out at the Reference Desk

  • Column on spreadsheet added for comments

  • Column on spreadsheet added for gender of patron


Spring 2003 Spreadsheet Sample 2002 Data Collection Process


Methodology: 2002 Data Collection Process

Data Collected for Fall 2002, Spring 2003,

and Combined Data

  • Total number of reference questions

    (fall term, spring term, and total of both terms)

  • Number of sources used to answer each reference question

  • Totals in the 23 categories of answer sources

  • List of specific titles of sources used

  • Gender of patrons (for spring term)


Methodology: 2002 Data Collection Process

Statistics Determined with Fall 2002, Spring 2003, and Combined Data

  • Percentage of each category of reference source used compared to the total number of questions asked

  • What specific sources were being used and how many times each was used

  • The percentage of reference questions asked by each gender

  • The average number of sources used to answer reference questions


Results of Study 2002 Data Collection Process

Barbara Costello


Fall semester 2002
FALL SEMESTER 2002 2002 Data Collection Process

Results of Study


FALL SEMESTER 2002 2002 Data Collection Process


Spring semester 2003
SPRING SEMESTER 2003 2002 Data Collection Process


SPRING SEMESTER 2003 2002 Data Collection Process


Comparison of Study Results by Gender and University Population by Gender

Study Results by Gender

University Population by Gender


Total both semesters
TOTAL – BOTH SEMESTERS Population by Gender


TOTAL – BOTH SEMESTERS Population by Gender


Library’s Web Page Population by Gender

for Journals Holdings



Summary of significant findings
SUMMARY OF SIGNIFICANT FINDINGS Pages

Online sources in all categories used to answer questions totaled nearly 60%.

The “Reference Book” category accounted for less than 10% of the sources used.

The total number of reference titles used to answer questions is less than 2% of the total number of reference titles owned.

“Librarian” was a source category used nearly one-quarter of the time.


Online v print resources used by reference librarians
Online v. Print Resources Used by Reference Librarians Pages

Online sources in all categories

used to answer questions totaled nearly 60% of all sources used.

The “Reference Book” category accounted for less than 10% of all sources used.


Print reference titles used v print reference titles owned
Print Reference Titles Used Pagesv. Print Reference Titles Owned

  • Only 1.8% of Reference titles owned were used.

  • Implications

    • Budget allocation

    • Space allocation

    • Reduce print collection

    • Shift more funding to database purchasing


Librarian category
LIBRARIAN CATEGORY Pages

  • “Librarian” as source used to answer question

  • 23.6%, or nearly one-fourth, of all sources used

  • Explanation?

    • Knowledgeable librarians

    • Simple questions

  • Implications

    • Marketing tool for library

    • Training of new librarians


Areas for additional research
AREAS FOR ADDITIONAL RESEARCH Pages

  • A more detailed analysis of the “Librarian” as a source category

  • Conduct a similar study that omitted “Librarian” as a source category, to focus on how the library’s collections (print v. online) are being used.

  • Expand the study to include the initials of the reference librarian, making possible an analysis of the gender of the librarian v. the gender of the patron asking the question.

  • Further analysis of print reference works being used, possibly through a reshelving study of reference books, as a basis for collection development decisions.

  • An analysis of what students want to know, i.e., what questions are students asking and how can library reference services better address the students’ information needs.


Thank you, Questions and Pages

Web Site Information

  • Thank you for attending our presentation.

  • Questions???

  • Want to try this at home?

  • The handout lists the URL for our web page, which contains:

    • Contact information

    • This presentation in PowerPoint format

    • This presentation in Word format

    • Complete data tables of our study in Excel format

    • Complete bibliography of literature review

      http://www.stetson.edu/departments/library/ALA2003.html


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