Not Dead Yet! A Longitudinal Study of Query Type and Ready Reference Accuracy in Live Chat and IM Reference

by: Marie L. Radford and Lynn Silipigni Connaway

Research reveals that users of virtual reference services (VRS) value accurate answers to their queries and a pleasant interpersonal encounter. Findings from a longitudinal study compare two sets of randomly selected VRS transcripts, one of 850 live chat sessions from 2004 to 2006, and the second of 560 live chat and instant messaging (Qwidget) sessions from 2010. The investigation of the international QuestionPoint transcripts includes comparisons by query type (e.g., ready reference, policy and procedural, subject search) and by accuracy of answers to the subset identified as ready reference (e.g., fact-based queries). Findings indicate that percentages of ready reference queries are remaining stable, having increased slightly from 27% (243 of 915 queries found in 850 transcripts) in 2004–2006 to 31% (179 of 575 queries found in 560 transcripts) in the 2010 dataset. Additionally, accuracy of answers was found to have improved. The percentage of correct and complete responses with citations given by VRS librarians or staff members answering ready reference questions was found to have increased from 78% (141) in 2004–2006 to 90% (151) in 2010.

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Suggested Citation:

Radford, Marie L., & Lynn Silipigni Connaway. 2013. “Not Dead Yet! A Longitudinal Study of Query Type and Ready Reference Accuracy in Live Chat and IM Reference.” Library & Information Science Research, 35(1), 2-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.lisr.2012.08.001. Pre-print available online at:  http://www.oclc.org/content/dam/research/publications/library/2012/radford-connaway-lisr.pdf (.pdf: 773K/28 pp.). [This paper won the 2013 ALISE/Bohdan S. Wynar Research Paper Competition.]