iSchool Capstone

An Assessment of the University of Washington Libraries' Virtual Reference Service

Project tags:

business & systems analysis

information behavior & user research

Project poster

This project attempts to assess the virtual reference services of the University of Washington. The service offers students, staff, and faculty 24/7 access to librarians and advanced graduate students from the UW as well as librarians from across the country, in order to have their information needs answered as fast as possible. With access to OCLC’s Question Point, I looked at a sample of chats that occurred during weeks one, five, and ten of Winter Quarter 2014. Chats were coded according to the category of questions, READ Level, time of day, and session time, and an analysis of the data showed that the majority of questions were labelled as either General Information or Known Item Searches. This could be due to a number of factors, including website design, gaps in information literacy instruction, as well as the recent migration of the UW Library’s catalog to Ex Libris’ Primo and ALMA. In addition to the transcript coding and analysis, I conducted a literature review to gauge what has been written in regards to the evolution of virtual reference services, from overviews of its effect on libraries to best practices of assessment and implementation. 

Project participants:

Jason Cabaniss