Digital Reference Service

Digital Reference Service

Nadim Akhtar Khan (University of Kashmir, India), Sabiha Zehra Rizvi (Government Medical College Srinagar, India) and Samah Mushtaq Khan (University of Kashmir, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch477
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Introduction

Advances in information and communication settings have greatly influenced the service patterns adopted by present day libraries to a greater extent. Changes in the means and modes of accessing information by the users have posed many challenges to the information professionals in catering user demands for specific information. Libraries and Information centres are adopting the change in order to be relevant and current. They are utilizing the latest technology for delivering different types of services especially Digital Reference Services (DRS).Digital reference refers to the provision of human intermediated service to users over a digital network. Sometimes referred to as virtual reference or e-reference, digital reference has become a topic of interest in the library community; it has even been called the first mature application of the digital library, even though its development has been in large part parallel to digital library research and development (Lankes & Shostack, 2002). According to (Reference and User Services Association [RUSA] Guidelines, 2010) DRS is reference service initiated electronically, often in real-time, where patrons employ computers or other Internet technology to communicate with reference staff, without being physically present. Communication channels used frequently include chat, videoconferencing, Voice over IP, co-browsing, e-mail, and instant messaging. According to Bertot, McClure and Ryan, the term Digital Reference Service refers to a network of expertise, intermediation and resources put at the disposal of a user seeking answers in an online/networked environment (as cited in Kadir & Singh, 2005).While as Wasik, (1999) defines Digital reference as Internet-based question and answer services that connect users with individuals who possess specialized subject or skill expertise.

Although digital reference lacks the face-to-face communication that is an integral part of reference service. It generally comprises four elements: The user of the service, the interface, in the form of an e-mail, a web form, a videoconference, etc., a librarian, or information professional and Information resources, print or electronic (Berube, 2003). The DRS is emerging as a new powerful method of delivering reference and information service to a vast number of clientele distributed globally. It includes seamless access to global resources and the collection of knowledge for reference access, coupled with complementary access to information on the Internet. The Chapter focuses on the concept of DRS in the light of the richness of the background information available on the topic. It also provides an insight into the modes of providing digital reference in present times. The chapter further highlights the importance of the concept in modern libraries by presenting various trends and initiatives at global level .The chapter can be useful for present day reference managers in knowing the fundamentals of DRS, exploring various possibilities of adopting DRS and gaining an insight about various challenges and opportunities associated with the concept.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Reference: Refers to the provision of human intermediated service to users over a digital network.

Digital Reference Service (DRS): Reference service initiated electronically, often in real-time, where patrons employ computers or other Internet technology to communicate with reference staff, without being physically present.

Knowledgebase: These are used to preserve questions and answers for reuse, in searchable database or archive.

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