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Motivations and Uses: Evaluating Virtual Reference Service from the Users' PerspectivePomerantz, Jeffrey; Luo, Lili (2006)The questions of whether chat reference service is beneficial enough to users to justify the costs of offering it, and how valuable it is to users in fulfilling their information needs, have been primary concerns for librarians providing the service, for library administrators managing the service, and for funding agencies paying for it. The present study combines a traditional evaluation of the user's satisfaction with the reference encounter, with details of the user's information use and the user's motivation for using the chat reference service. This evaluation study assesses the effectiveness of chat reference service in meeting users' information needs.
Peer Review of Chat Reference Transcripts: Approaches and StrategiesPomerantz, Jeffrey; Luo, Lili; McClure, Charles R. (2006)NCknows is a collaborative statewide chat-based reference service, launched in North Carolina in February 2004. The authors were contracted by the State Library of North Carolina as program evaluators for the NCknows project. This article reports on one component of the overarching evaluation effort: an analysis of the transcripts of NCknows chat sessions. This analysis was performed as a peer review, where NCknows librarians critiqued transcripts from the service. This study has three main findings: (1) The quality of reference service being provided by NCknows is high overall. (2) NCknows librarians are more engaged with users than are 24/7 staff members, but they are no more skilled in research or use of information sources. (3) Public librarians provide superior service, but academic librarians provide superior referrals. The implications of these findings for staffing chat reference services are discussed, with respect to librarians' credentials and the participating libraries' service philosophies.