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Smiling Online: Applying face-to-face reference skills in a virtual environment. Presented by Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist OCLC Research Marie L. Radford, Ph.D. Associate Professor Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

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Smiling Online:Applying face-to-face reference skills in a virtual environment

Presented by

Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D.

Senior Research Scientist

OCLC Research

Marie L. Radford, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


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Seeking Synchronicity:Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives

  • Why people use – or choose not to use – VRS

  • Ways to encourage non-users to try VRS

  • How to communicate with users of different age groups

  • How to boost accuracy and satisfaction with your VRS

  • How to handle impolite and impatient users


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Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives

  • Four project phases:

    • 8 Focus group interviews

    • 850 QuestionPoint chat transcripts analyzed

    • Online surveys

      176 VRS librarians

      184 VRS non-users

      137 VRS users

    • 283 telephone interviews


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Libraries

  • Meet the information needs of differing groups

    • Largest groups

      • Baby boomers (1945-1964)

        • Cohort #1 (Born 1946 – 1954)

        • Cohort #2 (Born 1955 – 1964)

      • Millennials (1979 – 1994)

        • Screenagers (Born 1988 -1994)



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Facilitators – DifferencesMillennials (n=296) vs. Adults (n=76)

  • Millennials demonstrated these behaviors less often than Adults

  • On average(per transcript)

    • Thanks

    • Self Disclosure

    • Closing Ritual

  • On average (per occurrence)

    • Seeking reassurance

    • Polite expressions


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Facilitators – DifferencesMillennials (n=296) vs. Adults (n=76)

  • Millennials demonstrated these behaviors more often than Adults

  • On average (per occurrence)

    • Agree to suggestion

    • Lower case

    • Greeting Ritual

    • Admit lack knowledge

    • Interjections/Hedges

    • Slang


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Barriers – DifferencesMillennials (n=296) vs. Adults (n=76)

  • Millennials demonstrated these behaviors more often than Adults

  • On average (per transcript)

    • Abrupt Endings

    • Impatience

    • Rude or Insulting



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VRS User Demographics Online Surveys (n=137)

  • Majority Respondents

    • Female

    • Caucasian

    • 29-65 years old

    • Suburban public libraries


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VRS UsersReasons for Choosing VRS (n=137)

  • Convenience, convenience, convenience

    • Immediate answers

    • Lack of cost

    • Available 24/7

      • Important to Screenagers

    • Efficiency

  • Enjoy medium

    • Millennials find much more enjoyment

    • Lack of intimidation


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VRS Users Other Generational Differences

  • Millennials

    • More “desperate” needs for quick answers

    • Multi-tasking

  • Screenagers

    • Greater connection to the librarian

    • Opportunity for dialogue

    • Elimination of geographic boundaries

    • Less intimidating than the reference desk

    • Librarian’s reactions more clear

    • Easier to express thanks to a librarian


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VRS Non-User Demographics Online Surveys (n=184)

  • Majority Respondents

    • Female

    • Caucasian

    • 12-28 years old

    • Suburban and urban public libraries


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VRS Non-Users Why they Choose Among Modes

  • Convenience, convenience, convenience

    • Working from home

    • At night or on weekends

    • Millennials especially value convenience


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VRS Non-Users Why they Choose Among Modes

  • Qualities of the individual librarian

    • Knowledge (FtF)

    • Trustworthy sources (FtF)

    • Persistence (FtF & telephone)

    • Friendliness (FtF & telephone)

  • Perception that librarian is too busy

    • More prevalent with Boomers


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Reasons for Non-use of VRS

  • Boomers & Millennials

    • Do not know

      • Service availability

      • Librarian can help

      • 24/7 availability

    • Satisfied with other information sources

  • Boomer concerns

    • Their own

      • Computer literacy

      • Typing speed

    • Complexity of chat environment


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Important to both VRS Users & Non-Users

  • Librarian Qualities

    • Knowledge of sources & systems

    • Positive attitude

    • Good communication skills

  • Accuracy of answers/information


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One Simple Way to Boost Accuracy

  • For ready reference queries,

  • answer specific question asked!

    • Before you push a general info. page…

    • Make sure it has specific & exact answer to user’s question


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Other Simple Ways to Boost Accuracy

  • For all types of queries

    • Clarify the question!

    • Use a follow-up question!

      • E.g., “Did this completely answer your question?”



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Implications for Practice

  • Communication critically important!

    • Difficult process

    • Generational differences add to complexity!

  • Need user education for more realistic expectations


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Avoiding Impatient or Rude Behavior

  • Greetings – crucial moment

    • Chance to establish personal relationship & trust

    • Use self-disclosure to build rapport

  • Recognize that any user may be impatient at times

    • Question complex? Tell them “this may take some time” & ask if they can wait

    • Don’t force instruction


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Do

Use common sense & intuition

Remain polite

Apologize as appropriate

Don’t

Take it personally

Mirror rudeness

Reprimand user

Encountering Rude or Impatient Behavior?


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Encouraging Non-users to Try VRS

  • Creative marketing

    • Promote full range of reference options

    • Reassure young people that chat is safe

  • Build positive relationships 1 person at a time, whether FtF, phone, or online


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In Conclusion

  • Use your basic interpersonal skills

  • Chat & FtF – very similar interactions

  • And, most importantly…

  • Relax about time pressure

  • Be yourself & show your smile :) <grin>


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Additional Resources

  • Boomer Nation: The Largest and Richest Generation Ever and how it Changed America, S. Gillon. New York: Free Press, 2004.

  • College Student Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, OCLC, Dublin: OH, 2005

  • Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584-2069, N. Strauss & W. Howe. New York: Morrow, 1991.

  • Generations at Work, S. Luck. http://dps.dgs.virginia.gov/Forum2006/Presentations/S201%20PPSluck%20Generations.ppt

  • Growing Up Digital, D. Tapscott. www.growingupdigital.com

  • Millennial Behaviors and Demographics. Sweeney,R. http://library1.njit.edu/staff-folders/sweeney/Millennials/Article-Millennial-Behaviors.doc

  • Millennial Net Values: Disconnects between Libraries and the Information Age Mindset, R. Mcdonald & C. Thomas. http://dscholarship.lib.fsu.edu/general/4/

  • Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, W. Howe & N. Strauss. New York: Random House, 2000.


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Additional Resources

  • Net Generation Students and Libraries, J. Lippincott. In Educating the Net Generation, Educause 2005.

  • Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources, OCLC Dublin: OH, 2005.

  • Playing the Future: How Kids’ Culture Can Teach Us to Thrive in an Age of Chaos, D. Rushkoff.  New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

  • Sense-making the Information Confluence:  The Hows and the Whys of College and University User Satisficing of Information Needs, Brenda Dervin, Ohio State University, Principal Investigator; Lynn Silipigni Connaway and Chandra Prabha, Co-Investigators. Institute for Museums and Library Services Research Grant, 2003-2005. http://www.oclc.org/research/projects/imls/default.htm

  • “Screenagers” and Live Chat Reference: Living Up to the Promise, M.L. Radford & L.S. Connaway. (February, 2007). Scan, 26(6), 31-39.

  • Studying Students: The Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester, N. Foster & S. Gibbons. Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries, 2007.


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End Notes

  • This is one of the outcomes from the project

    Seeking Synchronicity:

    Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives

  • Funded by IMLS, Rutgers University, & OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

  • Special thanks to Jocelyn DeAngelis Williams, Patrick Confer, Timothy J. Dickey, Julie Strange, Susanna Sabolcsi-Boros, Mary Anne Reilly, Jannica Heinstrom, and Andrea Simzak.

  • This presentation is available at project web site: http://www.oclc.org/research/projects/synchronicity/


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Questions & Comments

Lynn Silipigni Connaway

Marie L. Radford


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