Chat Reference Referral Strategies: Making a Connection, or Dropping the Ball?

Paula R. Dempsey

Abstract

The study analyzes how chat reference providers refer patrons to subject specialists in 467 interactions from two years at a university library. Qualitative analysis showed variation in how referrals are presented: as an option versus a recommendation, putting follow-up in the hands of patrons versus librarians, and apologizing versus promoting benefits. Professional librarians referred more questions to specialists, framed more referrals as benefits, and sent more transcripts (“tickets”) than graduate assistants or paraprofessionals did. Findings show correlations between patrons’ positive responses to referrals and the extent of the reference interview and positive framing of the referral, but not the attempt to assist before referring.

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