Seeking Synchronicity

A new membership report from OCLC Research, in partnership with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Seeking Synchronicity distills more than five years of virtual reference (VR) research into a readable summary that features memorable quotes that vividly illustrate very specific and actionable suggestions. Taken from a multi-phase research project that included focus group interviews, surveys, transcript analysis, and phone interviews, with VR librarians, users, and non-users, these findings are meant to help practitioners develop and sustain VR services and systems. The report asserts that the "R" in "VR" needs to emphasize virtual "Relationships" as well as "Reference".

Among the topics addressed are:

  • The exaggerated death of ready reference
  • The importance of query clarification in VR
  • Ways to boost accuracy and build better interpersonal relationships in VR
  • What can be learned from VR transcripts
  • How convenience is the "hook" that draws users into VR services
  • Generational differences in how people perceive reference interactions and determine success
  • The need for more and better marketing

The report is based on a multi-year study funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS); Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey; and OCLC. A rich resource for further exploration of this important topic, it includes valuable statistics, lists of references, additional readings, and specific recommendations for what libraries and librarians can do to move VR forward in local environments.

Today's students, scholars and citizens are not just looking to libraries for answers to specific questions—they want partners and guides in a life long information-seeking journey. By transforming VR services into relationship-building opportunities, libraries can leverage the positive feelings people have for libraries in a crowded online space where the biggest players often don't have the unique experience and specific strengths that librarians offer.

Suggested citation:

Connaway, Lynn Silipigni, and Marie L. Radford. 2011. Seeking Synchronicity: Revelations and Recommendations for Virtual Reference. Dublin, OH: OCLC Research.

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