Virtual Reference Service: An Overview Diana Chan The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Library 2005 Library Conference: Balancing the External and Traditional Libraries at Tamkang University, Taiwan Online Information and Education Conference, Thailand Library and Online Resources Technologies – 2005 Xiamen Conference At Xiamen University, PRC
Contents • Trends in Reference Service • Impact of the Internet • What is VRS? • Developments in VRS • Usage Studies on Real Time VRS
1. Trends in Reference Service Anne Lipow- “Early signposts pointing the wrong way” • Decreased circulation statistics • Fewer walk-in users • Staff can’t keep up • Reference desk eliminated • Outsourcing on the rise • Reduced Reference service hours • Search engines: automated reference librarian • Need for large building and staff not clear Anne Grodzins Lipow, “Thinking out loud: Who will give reference service in the digital environment?” RQ37(2) (Winter 1999), pp. 125-9.
2. Impact of the Internet • In 2002: • 73% of college students said they use the Internet more than the library • Only 9% said they use the library more than the Internet for information searching. The Pew Internet & American Life Project. (September 15, 2002). http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/OCT02_Issue/article03.html (accessed September 8, 2005)
INTERNET USAGE STATISTICS – The Big Picture Internet Usage Statistics, the big picture. http://internetworldstats.com/stats.htm accessed Aug 25, 2005
2. Impact of Internet • “In the digital age, the biggest change is increased user expectations. Increasingly, user expect to be able to find everything online, full-text.” (1998) • “Now both reference staff and patrons believe that an answer to almost every question can be found if the right combination of resources and search strategies is chosen from the multitude of Web resources and online services accessible.” (2002) • Carol Tenopir and Lisa Ennis
Impact of Internet In 2001, Carol Tenopir surveyed 70 major American research librarians about how their reference services changed because of electronic resources: • 70 put email above telephone and fax as a communication method for reference inquiries • 21 (30%) offered some form of real time VR • 70 had real time VR in planning. Reference librarians spend more time per transaction… “A single tally cannot capture the varying dimensions and growing complexities of reference services”. Kyrillidou (2000)
3. What is Virtual Reference Service (VRS)? • Internet-based Reference Service • Asking a question online • Live online reference service • Virtual, digital, live, interactive, real time, web-based, synchronous • “Using computer and communications technology to provide reference service to patrons anytime and anywhere” - OCLC’s Question Point (QP)
U.S. Dept of Education’s Virtual Reference Desk Guidelines • Accessibility • Fast turn-around • Clear policies • Interactive • Instructive • Authority • Privacy • Review and evaluation • Publicize service IFLA Digital Reference Guidelines "Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services.“ American Library Association. 2005.
Pros Immediate assistance for remote users Real time VRS is better than email for conducting reference interview Remains anonymous Awareness of the library among the user community Cons Additional staff Less flexible schedule Lack subject expertise No visual or auditory cues Less interactive Typing is slow Some logoff before you finish answering Slow communications Pros and Cons of VRS
Who’s Doing VRS? 1999 • 150 academic libraries, 45% offered VRS • (Janes, Carter and Memmott 1999) • 122 ARL Libraries, 96% provided VRS • L. Goetsch (1999) 2000 • 140 academic libraries, 45% offered VRS. • Libraries with greater financial resources, larger staff, adopted more computer-based services, higher demand for current services • MD White (2000) 2001 • 121 ARL Libraries, 29% provided real time reference • Tenopir and Ennis (2001)
4. Developments in VRS Asynchronous digital reference • Patron submits a question and the librarian responds at a later time Example: Email, Web Form. Synchronous digital reference • Patron and librarian communicate in real time. Example: Chat, Voice over IP, Video Conferencing, SMS, IM.
More VRS Developments • Email & Web Form • Reference Kiosks • Instant Messaging & Short Message Service • Video Conferencing • Voice over IP • Online Chat • Collaborative Reference Services • Commercial Services
Reference Options of 121 ARL Libraries, 2001 Carol Tenopir and Lisa Ennis. “A decade of digital reference 1991-2001” Reference & User Services Quarterly. Spring 2002, 41(3), pp. 264-273
a. Email and Web Form • Describe the services offered • Types of questions it handles, or does not handle • Frequency the mailbox is checked • Response time • Confidentiality • Priorities • How statistics are kept and how service is evaluated
Usage Surveys on Email Reference • A study of 485 Qs at State University of New York at Buffalo Libraries (1993-94) • 70% reference Qs, 30% circulation-related Qs • 90% of Qs were submitted during opening hours. • A study at the University of Central Arkansas • 67% of Qs were by faculty, 25% by non-affiliates, 8% by staff and none by students • A study of 450 Qs at the California State University Chico Library (1997-99) • 21% of Qs were answered using standard reference resources. 15% were papers or projects, 12% factual, 11% OPAC, 9% policies, 7% websites…
b. Reference Kiosks National Library Board, Singapore Place Cybrarian Kiosks in the library so that users can ask librarians wherever they are in the library
c. Instant Messaging (IM) • Brief emails exchanged very fast in real time • Popular IM services: • MSN Messenger • AOL Instant Messenger • Yahoo! Messenger • Google Talk, • .NET Messenger Service • ICQ • IM Clients supporting many protocols: • Gaim • Trillian • Jabber
DukeRef Temple University
c. Instant Messaging (IM) • 53 million adults send instant messages on a daily basis 1 • Provides Just-in-time reference • Less formal, low tech end • How to Do It • Create a profile • Accept imperfection • Use abbreviations • Use online sources, load IM software on public PCs • Best practices for IM • Use a multi-network IM program, e.g. Trillian for Windows, Gaim • Send descriptive links instead of urls, • Employ away messages 1. Sept 2004 Study “How Americans Use IM” by the Pew Internet & American Life Project
IM Usage Survey SUNY Buffalo • Offered IM reference assistance Monday-Friday • Used AOL's free IM software -AIM and Express • Staffed 75 hrs a week by 20 librarians + 4 library school students • Questionnaire results: • 70% of users 18-25 of age, • 69% of users on campus (25% from Cybrary) • 79% satisfied with service • Type of questions • 26% questions are in information literacy category • 23% about using the catalog • 12% are about specific library information (e.g. hours) • 6% of questions are technical troubleshooting, • 5% web navigation • 4% electronic course reserves • 4% finding SUNY Buffalo information. • Many librarians did not receive a single question in their 1 hour shift.
c. Short Message Service (SMS) • A service available on most digital mobile phones • Permits people to send short messages between • Mobile phones • Other handheld devices • Landline telephones
Curtin University’s SMS Users Curtin students and staff with a text-enabled mobile phone Scope 1 SMS equals 160 characters per hour Cost 25 cents (Aus$) per message to Curtin Library service (standard rate for SMS sent to anyone) Report on findings: • 200+ queries in 6 months • 87% received during library opening hours • 71% were explanatory type of reference questions • Patron feedback: • Easy to use (4.2 out of 5) • 100% of clients did not have any problems • 92% claimed they would use it again.
d. Video Conferencing UC Irvine Science Library (1997): • Provided the service to medical students who are working in a computer lab, one hour a day, mostly on Medline searching • Apple VideoPhone Kit (software, camera, microphone, color conferencing capability, Internet, Timbuktu Program) • Audio, video, chat window, whiteboard • Students’ comments : • Excited about this high-tech • Wanted document delivery of full-text articles
Video Conferencing Software A combination of chat software, audio and video applications 2 kinds of software • Software for writing classes • Software for businesses to hold conferences Examples: • Daedalus • GroupWise • Web Publisher • Norton Connect Net • Microsoft NetShow • Microsoft NetMeeting • Reilly WebBoard
e. Voice over IP Since 2003 IM services have voice components • MSN Messenger, AOL IM, Yahoo Messenger Provides free or low-cost talk on internet Negative - call other Internet users using the same software program Positive - make calls to land and cellular-based phones for a modest fee New programs • Skype, Google Talk
Skype • Allows people to talk and IM for free using PC-to-PC connections • Connections require someone else to have Skype software. • Users are identified through names instead of numbers • Skypers use headsets and microphones attached to the computers • Soon to offer video and other communication services
f. Online Chat Web contact center software and web collaboration software: • Page pushing • Co-browsing • Escorting to various sites • Question queuing and routing • Transcripts of each session • An archive of Q&As
Chat Service Agents and Vendors Multiple online agents • Cisco • Lucent • eGain • Netagent • LivePerson • HumanClick • WebAgent • Webline • Software vendors • 24/7 Reference • DOCUTEK Information Systems Inc. • Questionpoint • LivePerson • LSSI Library Systems & Services
Prairie Area Library System Librarian Live Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Chat Debate - Pro Reach out to patrons who • Can’t get to the Reference desk • Never have been reached before Good for • Those who need instant replies • Clarifying a question faster • Assisting users to learn effective ways to search through co-browsing and escorting Of the 107 million people in USA using the Internet, 40-50 million use chat - (NY Times 1998)
Chat Debate – Pro Usage Study of New Jersey’s 24/7 Live Virtual Reference Service 1 • 53.9% of the customers have used the service more than once • 89.9% would use the service again. • Nov. 2002 - Oct 2003 49,503+ chat sessions 1. These data result of 7,000 pop-up surveys.
Chat Debate - Pro More Usage Studies: • Carnegie Mellon University (2001) • 74% reported receiving full information • 88% would use Reference Chat again • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2001) • 90% reported the completeness of answers as very good or excellent • 85% would use it again • Southern Illinois University Carbondale (2001-02) • 82% said the answers were very helpful • 82% rated the service as a very good method of reference help
Chat Debate - Con • Some transactions never finished • System or browser crashes • Co-browsing proprietary db is difficult • Patrons disappear • Time-consuming • Librarians must multi-task • Concerns about quality • Shady reputation • Low acceptance on the web by commercial business • Only 12% offered a chat on websites (Benchmark Portal 2003)
Chat Debate - Con Providers stopped using chat • Vandebilt U • MIT • Los Alamos National Labs • LC’s 11 divisions using QP in June 2002 down to 3 in April 2004
g. Collaborative Reference Service • Extend hours of coverage of participants to 24/7 • Cooperation and collaboration, informal or network arrangement
Examples of Collaborative Reference Service • LC/OCLC QuestionPoint (QP) • People’s Network • LSSI VRD • 24/7 Reference • Convey Systems • Docutek • Calis Distributed Collaborative Virtual Reference System (CVRS) - China
NCknows: the State Library of North Carolina's Virtual Reference project staffed by librarians from throughout N Carolina
Example of a Transcript of an NCKnows Chat Session anonymous: I mean the Silicon Valley are composed of high-tech companies. What arbout Resarch Triangle region. Are they also high tech or just research companies as its name applies? 24/7 Librarian vw: Apart from one being in NC, on the east coast, and one being in VA, on the west coast? anonymous: Is there any difference between Research Triangle and the Silicon Valley in CA? 24/7 Librarian vw: Try copying and pasting the address into a new browser window anonymous: I have this message pops up "Stack overflow at line 1" 24/7 Librarian vw: http://www.rtrp.org/ anonymous: What is the url of this page. 24/7 Librarian vw: Does this answer your question? anonymous: [Page sent - Site Selection Consultants] 24/7 Librarian vw: Here is a website about the Research Triangle region. 24/7 Librarian vw: [Page sent - Research Triangle Region] anonymous: Hi! I'm out of the states. Can you tell me what is the Research Triangle in NC 24/7 Librarian vw: How may I help you? 24/7 Librarian vw: Hello, welcome to our NCknows Reference Service. [24/7 Librarian vw - A librarian has joined the session.] A librarian will be with you shortly. Please remember that while our librarians can help you use your library, they may not be from your specific library system or branch
Busy Collaborative Services • AskUsNow in Maryland (2,900 in Oct 2003) • AskNow in Australia (3,196) • QandA in NJ (5,800) • KnowItNow in Cleveland (3,500 a month, 4% of total ref workload)
Number of Collaborative Reference Services In North America: • 1,730 libraries in 62 collaborative services (as of Jan 2004) • 3,000 - 4,000 libraries using chat software
Index of Collaborative Reference Service • Collaborative Live Reference Services, by Bernie Sloan • Index of Chat Reference Services, by Stephen Francoeur • 500 VR Services (Feb 2004) • LiveRef(sm): A Registry of Real-Time Digital Reference Services, by Gerry McKiernan • 132
OCLC’s QP • Started in 2002 by LC and OCLC • Used by over 1,000 libraries in 20 countries • Over 7,000 QandA Knowledge base • Subscription of $2,000/yr • Questions received - Use best-matching routing to library profiles • Web-based chat, co-browse and cooperative reference tools • A management tool for reference transactions • Respond, assign, refer, route
Usage Study - QandANJ • Statistics: • 25,000 customer questions in 2002, • 50,000 questions in 2003, • Nearly 60,000 questions in 2004, • During a busy hour, may handle 25-30 questions. • In the busiest month (March 2004), more than 7,400 Qs • Pop-up customer feedback form on 8,745 customers, Jan 2002-Oct 2003 • 53.9% of the respondents used more than once • 89.8% of the respondents said they will use again • 60% said they have their questions completely answered • 80.2% were satisfied or very satisfied with the service