Digging Deeper into Virtual Reference Transcripts
Cooke, Carol A.
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Purpose The purpose of the study is to identify the information needs of patrons in a large Canadian academic library system by analyzing the types of questions asked through the Library’s “Ask A Librarian” system. The results provide information on specific areas of competencies and training for staff providing virtual reference services. Methodology This article looks at virtual reference data collected between January and April 2012 from a large Canadian academic library and provides an analysis of the types of questions asked by library users. The researchers developed a detailed coding scheme for the analysis of question type and referrals made, and used the qualitative analysis software NVivo™ to code and analyze the data. Findings The results of this analysis found that patrons often tap into synchronous online library help when they encounter challenges with online library resources. Specific areas of patron training to be developed were also identified. Finally, areas for staff training were uncovered which will help the library provide a consistent level of service to patrons. Originality This is the first study in the library community to conduct a detailed analysis of the virtual reference transcripts from a large Canadian university using the NVivo™ content analysis software. The study developed and employed more detailed coding categories then has been used in previous studies in order to provide more information about the questions that patrons are unable to complete on their own. The study also captures detailed information pertaining to referrals.