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During ACRL, Dr. Lynn Silipigni Connaway, a Senior Researcher for OCLC, presented, ‘I would sort of appreciate a little more understanding’ Engaging Net Gen Students in Virtual Reference in which she discussed her study of the use of IM reference service in academic libraries.


Here are some of the highlights of her findings:

NetGens (those who had reported use of Virtual Reference):

  • Studies suggest they are not necessarily as technilogically savvy as we give them credit for being (Barry Dahl also discussed this in his keynote at the Distance Learning Conference.)
  • All reported that they were the least intimidated by VR
  • Consider email for “old people”
  • Most intimidated by the phone
  • Liked AskAway 24 hour service a lot
  • Affinity for instant access
  • Far more likely to recommend VR to others than older generations
  • Like to multitask while using VR
  • Concerned when doing asking questions through VR that librarians are multitasking and not giving good service.
  • Their biggest frustrations were when the librarian would conduct the same Google search they had already tried, when their questions were misunderstood, and slow connections/technology gliches
  • More trust for themselves and Google than librarians
  • Convenience considered most important
  • Wanted all info available electronically
  • 95% say VR access from home is imporant
  • Want repor with the librarian even in virtual realm, prefer working with specific known librarian
  • Good service is important to them
  • Many don’t know they need any help

Non-VR Users (Generally older generations):

  • Reported face-to-face reference assistance most popular, email next most popular
  • Majority had never used telephone reference
  • Most didn’t know VR existed or thought it was too complicated
  • Some familiar with chat from retail sites
  • Many afraid poor typing or computer skills will show, embarrased
  • Felt they needed more guidance, or someone to walk them through it in person
  • Thought asking questions by VR would bother librarian
  • Need to see examples of use, modeling, or to take a class in its use
  • Mistake it for an open forum where others can see what they are asking, concerned about confidentiality

What all users wanted:

  • extended hours of service
  • electronic information
  • friendly librarians
  • relationships with librarians