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See it, Hear it, Touch it: How do Communication and Learning Styles Affect Virtual Reference?

3 speakers:
Eileen G Abels
Associate Professor
iSchool at Drexel
Drexel University

Marie Radford
Associate Professor & Library Consultant
School of Communication
Information & Library Studies
Rutgers University

Lynn Westbrook
Assistant Professor
School of Information
University of Texas – Austin

Joe Thompson
Project Coordinator: Maryland AskUsNow!
Co-chair, RSS/MARS Virtual Reference Committee

Description: Out increasingly texh savvy virtual reference users have radically different communication and learning preferences. A lively panel of experts will explore new learning options, present recent research findings, and recommend innovative approaches relevant for all types of libraries.

Panel Discussion Sponsored by: RUSA’s MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Committee, RSS Cooperative Reference Committee, and ACRL’s Instruction Section

First, series of 6 prearranged questions – hear responses, then look at audience’s questions.

1. What do we know about users’ communication and learning styles that is important for guiding decisions about library services?

MR: based off her research: Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives
-youngest group, screenages 12-18, millennial group heavy users of chat and im
-most studied generation in history
-like more choice and selectivity
-don’t pay as much attention to grammar and spelling
-grew up in a world that’s customized/customizable – tv, ringtones…
-worship convenience
-want to do it themselves
-very practical, results oriented

-we should offer as broad variety of services as we can
-they want to be assured that our services are secure for them to use – no cyberstalkers
-appeal to their desire to save time
-be positive – tell them what you can do, not what you can’t – they’re very enthusiastic and we want to encourage that
-build personal relationships – we are not robots
-if they like our service they will return and they will tell their friends

EA: very different styles of users, our types and styles are going to have to vary to accommodate

LW: information resolutions – look at what they’re doing in their own environments – social comfort, cyber safety
-many different aspects involved in working on the internet
-need to feel comfortable and safe
-need help w getting to localized info, govt, resources
-we can be that bridge in how they learn and think about getting to info
-talking about people in crisis, social crisis situations

2. How do the communication styles of librarians influence the provision of vr services?

EA: who offers chat reference services? Some libs feel like they’re being forced into this offering this service. Does this differ from those that freely offer it?
-is it different than the different venues of offering the service, phone, email, desk…
-it will be a better service if the libs. Are on the same style
-many of the students going to be libs did change their preferences – communication styles – most preferred at beginning of course ftf, at end of course – digital
-training helps to find what works best for them (libs.)
training tool at Drexel:
-overall they were using google as search tool of choice – not selecting appr. Source/tool
-going straight for an answer not a source – lack of understanding of invisible web
-not determining the authority of the author/publisher of info on the web
-confusing authoritative sites w those supported by ads

MR: -in study next to ftf they found chat to be a great way of building a relationship and get comfortable in using the service (lib side)

EA: -what makes us uncomfortable in doing chat? Letting your hair down
-losing library as place, no physical place
-we’re suppose to step up and have those signs that we will be there as the librarian in the physical space
-we’ve lost that symbolism of what our role is
-looking for the way of saying I’ll help you, this is my job, may feel that we are losing that thru chat
-best communication style is actually getting their need met
-what they’re saying matters, the lib is listening
-need to get that responsiveness across in chat
-we need to let go of the nervousness, they’ll see it

MR: our need is to do the instruction, their need is to get that info
-Only 25% of users use more than one search term

3. What threatens or supports the users’ sense of self-efficacy in an exchange?

LW: what does self-efficacy mean? We take that for granted, we need them to feel better about how they get info, not just getting their need met
-their understanding of what info is and how it’s structured is part of the self-efficacy
-what can we do to help?
-when there is a viable opportunity engage them, make them active in the process
-ask what will make that relevant/useful to them
-give them things that contrast w each other
-“do you need a scholarly article on this or a whole book on it?”
-make them think thru the different parts of the info –make that a teachable moment
-offer differentiated choices
-clarity of purpose, role, relationship
-acknowledgement of domain knowledge, preferences, requirements,
-focus on tool/process, not problem
-rush to closure, no time for scaffolding
-poor reciporcation of self-disclosure, tone
-hiding clay feet – don’t fake it

-understanding library terms – didn’t understand reference – librarians need to think like their users’ do
-barrier of understanding/communication

MR: libs. Are hesitant to do a referral
-a chat question should really be done in email or ftf
-you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t refer
-the average, mean time for chat is 12.5 minutes which is close to the mean of ftf
-apply ftf terms to chat terms

handouts will be provided on the committee’s website

4. What might be problematic or supportive in what librarians are doing?

MR: I’ve been studying this question for 20 yrs.
-what can we do? I can’t overemphasize this
-the way you begin the session is critical, must be positive
-set positive tone from beginning
-develop personal relationship – be personal, personal need, be open
-be prepared

-what to expect from screenagers?
Higher numbers/averages
-polite expressions
-alternate spellings
-educate them that we’re real, not robots

Lower numbers/averages

how do libs. Treat screenagers
-don’t do the correction if they made a mistake…
-seeking reassurance/confirmation self-disclosure
-inviting to return
-informal lang
-abrupt ending
bottom line:
-positive approach will limit problematic behavior
teach users how to use vr
set expectations for vr
ultimately in 1 to 1 interactions we forge the future in vr

EA: what is problematic or supportive
-take a look at the website and make sure that info is easy to get to
-are we meeting the needs of reality in vr
-are services easy to find?
-chat interactions – if we continue to use google, free resources what will happen to our collection budget? May become problematic

LW: we have a lot of barriers to service, various reasons – we know why but the user doesn’t know why
-we need to bring the user w us, explain what we’re doing let them see what we’re doing
-they know their role

audience question: What are your thoughts of users using screen names in chat?
MR: using their first name makes it personal
-younger users like it when you use their first name back
-screen name vs avitar name
-definitely use a personal name
-look like a real person than a robot

LW: -definitely, also let’s them remember you when/if they want to get back to you
-you are somebody, they can send you an email later, follow up
-they can do that if you give them a way to do that

JT: we were asked to add personal names from our cooperative so users know who we are
-use names vs initials – staff we’re afraid – you can use a fake name, that’s ok

aq: what’s the best way of asking a question?

LW: give users viable options
-get them closer to what they want, where they want to go

MR: query clarification – accuracy is boosted a lot by clarifying/paraphrasing
-where have you already looked, good ol’ open questions are good at the beginning
-closed questions are good near end
-boosts accuracy

EA: rather than asking too many questions, make sure you’re getting at the right questions and answers
-it’s frustrating if you’re sending the wrong answer

MR: low percentage of hurry up’s

Aq: ideas for training staff to recognize and ajust to the user

EA: need to practice
-a lot of the schools aren’t providing the hands-on experiences
-training programs should have people working on these
-practice helps with different styles
-providing the opportunity for learning and feedback

MR: we have a lot of these skills developed in other areas, ftf – look at face
-mirror their behavior, look at their behavior and mirror that
-if they say, k – say k instead of ok , little things we can do
-challenge because we can’t see them

LW: I think it’s really useful to get them to be the customer
-libs. Try chatting with other commercial areas, car dealers, cable company
-they will live it and see it from the user’s point of view
-look at some other places that offer chat and try it – it gives you a different perspective

JT: you can try a secret shopper in chat

EA: role reversal
-if you don’t knowwhat they’re searching or doing it may make you impatient

MR: phone conferencing, what are you doing that while your on the phone conference?
-the younger they are the more likelihood they have 10-12 screens open

LW: they’re multitasking…

5. How do user’s and librarian’s expectations influence vr transactions (especially when those expectations may be established thru use of google, wikipedia, im social networks?)

LW: if it doesn’t work for them, then they have failed
-it’s a seemless world that they need to fit into
-mcdonald’s, homogenize look for response
-it gives them an expectation of choice, they feel that they should have options, choice
-natural tension
-choices in process, product, media
net communication pattern influences
-blurring of task and social purposes
-unclear on narrative structure of disclosure
-privacy and control

-we’re use to a narrative approach, beginning, middle, ending
-that’s not the way they function, they come in, im, go out, check back, dip in, dip out
-privacy – they think they have more than they do

MR: the user has a narrative too they just have a different ending
-a lot of the times when they come to us they are frustrated, looking at it from their perspective
-immediacy, instanteousy, instant gratification
-we have to tell them if it’s a quick question or not
-they don’t have that good perspective and we need to share that w them

EA: pew internet researches this a lot and should look at their site
-self-service is a big trend, counter to reference
-develop a well-designed website
-alternatives to meet their expectations

JT: time expecatations during session, tell the user that
-during that keep them in touch of still searching

aq: for EA: is the citation available in your search term
EA: Amanda sfink(?) not sure, email me I’ll get it

MR: end user, 25% were only using one search term – eustof

JT: for EA: how do user expectations effect learning styles

EA: on ala website, listed various partners for learning opportunities
-a partnership approach is the best way to go
-we were successful in the hands-on component but didn’t have specialized training needs for academic or public, best to go thru org and vendor
-in Internet Public Library– got grant to help transform the training materials for lis programs
ipl student assistance, link to training materials
-training opportunities in the classes there were different learning styles
-telephone conference least preferred method
-online tutorial – short – people learned well w those
-using them w end users keeping them under 5 mins. Kept them interest

MR: w vr we have the lone ranger approach
-recommends double teaming
-if there is a team in your lib doing vr ask them to be in the same room w you as you do it to watch what each other does
-they have tricks, learning from each other
-you can learn a lot that way

LW: think of it as a staged effort
-it’s building something, weaving something
-pulling the pieces together gradually
-give yourself permission to do it, growth that is continuous

JT: continuous training is probably the hardest part, refresher training
-instead of vendor training, useful if someone from you own org. does training to provide perspective

Buff Hirko: virtual reference adventure, make sure you visit this site! There’s also a book

MR: moodle and noodle – they are open source blackboard tools

8. How can we best leverage traditional vs virtual including web 2.0 applications and services to attract yound people to physical as well as digital libraries, given their communcication preferendce and learning styles?

MR: how do we attract people to the vr arena
-broad variety of traditional & VRS – ftf, group, phone, chat, im… - promote phone ref now – everyone has a cell phone – tell your students to add lib phone # to their address book – then tell them about lib hours and services
-go where users are – young are online
-more research, pew shown, 90% of younger people go to the internet for info, not turning to the physical for info, also call a friend (someone they know) before a lib
-feeling like they are not welcomed in the lib
-try something different, reinvent –staffing options – software options (free vs fee) – evaluate everything, reassess
-declare all ref alive & well – renew focus on commitment to service excellence(!!!!)
-embrace change & new challenges
-build personal relationships

aq: do you have any ideas of purposing chat to admins that have already decided they don’t want it
EA: conduct user study
-see what peers are doing
-have a plan in mind, design a study – look at software, chat vs im
-not opt for 24/7 initially, have a plan on offering a service

aq: how to encourage reluctant staff to be involved?

EA: you can’t force libs. To offer the service and have a high quality service
-they won’t do it justice
-they should be exposed to it, seen libs. Convert over time
-those that like chat ref are doing that
-go w strengths but expose them

MR: shadow libs. With experienced chat libs and non
-experimental trial to see what users say about it – mostly get positive responses

JT: we make sure to send out positive service comments out monthly

Panelists: if you have questions you want the researchers to address contact them

One last question:
What questions is it perceived ok for libs. To ask about during the vr exchange? What questions is it ok for users to ask?

LW: there’s that face, I’m ok you’re ok
-when asking for clarification, that’s that balancing, it’s helpful
-the way we mess it up is when we assume too much trust, expectations too high
-when we need the facts we need to give them context and recipocate
-when they want to know what they can ask us – we need to tell them that they can ask us anything and pull them thru
-tie them in all the way thru, that partnership

JT: ties in with what were discussing next year in Anaheim
-we would like to hear from you if there is one idea that was useful, helpful – you will take away today
audience: continual training, always getting people back to refresh

-idea of change of state of lib. Stereotype of lib.

-cellphone number

-working on im scripts, can’t have but encourage staff to have a closure statement
EA: let users know you are using a script
JT: scripts were useful to not type so much but also helpful to see tone to use, reminders
MR: using expressions instead of formal lang.

Presentation slides and contact info of this session will be posted at the RUSA website: http://tinyurl.com/2h7d2y

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