Dissonance between Perceptions and Use of Virtual Reference Methods

Tara Mawhinney, Sandy Hervieux


This multimethod study investigates differences in question complexity and type between live chat, email, and texting by comparing findings from user interviews and virtual reference transcripts, with the goal of better understanding how different delivery methods can meet user needs in the context of an academic library. Findings reveal dissonance between perceptions and use of chat and email. Interviews suggest users consider chat to be for basic queries whereas transcripts coded using the READ Scale, a well-known reference assessment tool, show question complexity to be highest in chat. Our analysis also found statistically significant differences in the presence of reference interviews and instruction for chat, email, and texting. Rebranding chat more explicitly for intermediate and advanced queries may succeed in attracting users who consider chat only for basic queries, thus narrowing the gap between user perceptions and actual use.


Assessment and Evaluation; Reference Services

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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