OCLC and Rutgers will study virtual reference services with support from IMLS grant.

OCLC and the Rutgers University School of Communication, Information and Library Studies are the recipients of a $684,996 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to study virtual reference services (VRS). Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Library and Information Science, Rutgers, and Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., Consulting Research Scientist, OCLC, are the two principal investigators.

This study, "Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives," will study and evaluate the sustainability and relevance of virtual reference services. VRS are human-mediated, Internet-based library information services.

The rapidly increasing public use of remotely accessed, digital reference resources, such as full-text indexes and databases, has increased the demand on libraries to provide reference services online, and this project aims to improve libraries' ability to respond to the demand.

Dr. Radford described the goal of the international project as studying "VRS users, non-users, and librarians to create a fuller understanding of their behaviors, needs, and preferences in virtual environments."

"Ultimately," she said, "the success of VRS depends on identifying these needs and exceeding expectations."

The project will develop a theoretical model for VRS that incorporates interpersonal and content issues and will make research-based recommendations for library staff to increase user satisfaction and attract nonusers. It will also make recommendations for VRS software development and interface design and produce a research agenda for user-centered VRS.

"With some recent discussion of whether VRS is necessary or useful, this study is very timely," Dr. Connaway commented. "This is a great opportunity for us to begin to understand why virtual reference services are not used, as well as why they are used."

The National Leadership Grants for Libraries program enhances the quality of library services nationwide by supporting innovative projects that can be widely replicated. Areas of funding include education, research, digitization, and library-museum collaboration.

More Information

Institute of Museum and Library Services

National Leadership Grants for Libraries

Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D.

Marie L. Radford, Ph.D.

For more information:

Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D.
Consulting Research Scientist
OCLC Research

Marie L. Radford, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Rutgers School of Communication, Information and Library Studies
+1-732-932-7500 ext. 8233