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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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 Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • 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 Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • 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 Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • Multiple Case Study Method

  • Selection of Cases & Informants

    • 7 Cases

  • Data Collection

    • Email Surveys

    • Telephone Interviews

    • Examination of Documents


Method continued
Method Continued Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • Analysis of Results

    • Case Descriptions of Each Case

    • Comparison of Cross – Case Findings

      • Similarities

      • Differences

    • Iterative Process

    • Examination of Documents


Results
Results Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • 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 Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • 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 Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • Funding – Budget Cuts

  • Low Use

  • Staffing

  • Technical Problems

  • Institutional Culture


Reasons for discontinuing service
Reasons for Discontinuing Service Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

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


Reasons for discontinuing service1
Reasons for Discontinuing Service Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services


Csi cyberspace mystery
CSI Cyberspace Mystery Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • Why did these services have such low volume?


Exhibit a volume
Exhibit A - Volume Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services


Exhibit b marketing of service
Exhibit B – Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference ServicesMarketing of Service


Exhibit c marketing of service low vol
Exhibit C – Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference ServicesMarketing of Service –Low Vol.


Exhibit d hours of service
Exhibit D – Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference ServicesHours of Service


Exhibit e length of service giving vr a fair trial
Exhibit E – Length of Service Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference ServicesGiving VR a Fair Trial


Giving vr a fair trial
Giving VR a Fair Trial … Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • Shortest services ran 6 months (2 services)

  • Longest run was 26 months

  • Average of 17 months


Exhibit f service evaluation
Exhibit F – Service Evaluation Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services


Impact of closing services
Impact of Closing Services Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference 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 Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • 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… Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

  • 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 Unsolved Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference ServicesOngoing 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 Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference 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… Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference ServicesFuture Directions for Cases


Conclusion
Conclusion Untimely Demise of Seven Virtual Reference Services

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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