Using Transaction Logs to Study the Effectiveness of Librarian Behaviors on User Satisfaction in a Virtual Setting: A Mixed-Method Approach

Using Transaction Logs to Study the Effectiveness of Librarian Behaviors on User Satisfaction in a Virtual Setting: A Mixed-Method Approach

Nahyun Kwon, Vicki L. Gregory
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1746-9.ch009
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Chat reference is becoming more common and it is important to be able to effectively judge user satisfaction with the results they receive. The behaviors the reference librarian should use to ensure that users are satisfied with chat reference sessions must also be determined. In this paper, the authors indicate that many of these behaviors could be mapped to the virtual environment with great success. The purpose of this paper is to describe and explain the methodology, which is a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, to allow others to adapt this methodology to their own situations.
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Literature Review

Successful reference interview between patrons and reference staff has been emphasized consistently in previous literature as an important factor of reference success. Gers and Seward (1985) demonstrated that reference librarians’ verbal and nonverbal communication skills are very important in delivering effective reference services. This has brought a great attention on reference interview and staff training to teach effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills.

From this research and background, the Reference and User Studies Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association has developed the behavioral Guidelines, known as the Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers. It delineated behaviors that can lead to an effective reference interview. A handful of research studies consistently showed that the use of the behaviors in the Guidelines is positively associated with reference success (Gatten & Radcliff, 2001; Saxton, 2002). Thus, the Guideline has been recognized as a useful staff training and performance evaluation tool. In June 2004, RUSA revised the original 1996 Guidelines to help librarians who provide virtual reference interviews.

To date not a lot is known about the nature of virtual reference interview. For example,

  • How do reference librarians interact with their patron in virtual reference settings?

  • Are they similar to traditional reference services or different?

  • Are the verbal and nonverbal cues in virtual references similar to physical interactions?

  • What are the model behaviors that could lead the virtual reference service more successful?

Among studies that looked into the Guidelines, Gatten and Radcliff (2001) evaluated the effectiveness of the staff training of the 1996 RUSA Guideline in physical reference service settings. Their study was conducted using an unobtrusive observational method where proxies approached the librarians and recorded the occurrence of the behavior and rated their satisfaction with the answers. This type of research can be much easily done in virtual reference setting. Librarians can easily access the interview transaction transcripts that recorded reference interview word by word along with co-browsing process. So far, to our knowledge, there has been little research that assessed the virtual reference interview using this easily available observational data.

The RUSA Behavioral Guidelines are basically an extended version of the 1996 edition. Recognizing the increasing need for a guideline that help the staff who provide digital reference, RUSA revised the guideline. Maintaining the original five-component structure, the revised Guidelines categorized each of the five areas into three aspects: general setting, physical setting, in remote access settings. The important behaviors are classed in 5 categories:

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