Report

Service sea change: clicking with screenagers through virtual reference

6 Dec 2007
Description

Web-based reference services such as synchronous, (chat reference or 'Ask-a-Librarian' services) and asynchronous (email) virtual reference services (VRS) have become common features of academic library home pages. In the current economic and technological environment, evaluation to determine the sustainability of VRS is crucial. An international research project, funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc., investigates factors that influence the selection and use of synchronous VRS. This study, one of the first large-scale VRS studies to include both users and non-users of the Millennial Generation, innovatively addresses issues concerning the evaluation, sustainability, and relevance of VRS for academic libraries by soliciting screenagers' perceptions. Three focus group interviews were conducted with "screenagers" - twelve to eighteen year-old non-users of VRS. These potential future academic library users are comfortable in a virtual environment, use instant messaging (IM) for socializing and collaborative homework yet perceive VRS differently than these other virtual encounters. The results of these focus group interviews provide new insights to why screenagers choose not to use VRS and what would make them try VRS. The study identifies ways to increase the visibility and use of VRS, and to improve service, which could help secure funding allocations, and the growth and improvement of services. These results can influence the development of academic library services and systems for the Millennial Generation.

Publication Details
Published year only: 
2007
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