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Smiling Online :)

I attended a webinar this afternoon presented by Lynn Sillipigni Connaway (OCLC) and Marie Radford (Rutgers) titled Smiling Online: Applying face-to-face reference skills in a virtual environment. The information they presented in this webinar came from the research project they have been working of the past 2 years, Seeking Synchronicity where they have been conducting extensive research interviewing librarians, patrons, and non-users of virtual reference services (vrs) as well as mining the data from hundreds of transcripts.

Here are some of my notes from today's session:
Age groups identified:
Boomers - born between 1945 - 1964
Gen X - born between 1964 - 1979
Millennials - born between 1979 - 1994
(subgroup of Millennials - Screenagers - born between 1988 - 1994)

Contrasting the differences between Adults and Millennials in reference to chat:
Millennials approach chat (vrs) as a social engagement
Adults approach chat (vrs) as a more formal, goal oriented process

Millennials more open to trying new things.
Adults more apprehensive, want to know what they're getting into
On average, Millennial tendencies in vrs:
-abrupt endings (no good-byes)
-impatience - want something instantly
-rude or insulting - but seeing this decline
Can't determine from research if these tendencies are just because of age or a characteristic of generation as a whole.

Reasons for choosing VRS:
1. convenience, convenience, convenience
-immediate answers
-lack of cost
-available 24/7
2. enjoy medium
-millennials find much more enjoyment
-lack of intimidation (of face-to-face interaction)
Millennials want quick answers
-greater connection to the librarian
-opportunity for dialogue
-elimination of geographic boundaries
-less intimidating than the ref desk
-librarians reactions more clear
-easier to express thanks to a librarian

Non-Users: Reasons for not using VRS
-may use libraries not necessarily vrs
-qualities of the individual librarian - appeared knowledgable/trustworthy
-(FtF) perception that librarian is too busy
Boomers and Millennials - Reasons for not using vrs:
1. Didn't know it was available
-service availability
-librarian can help
-24/7 availability
2. Satisfied with other information sources
Boomer concerns:
-computer literacy - not good enough
-complexity of chat environment

Important to both VRS Users and Non-Users
1. Librarian Qualities
-knowledge of sources and systems
-positive attitude
-good communication skills
2. Accuracy of answers/information
*they found that is boost accuracy if the librarian clarified the question
-answer specific question asked
-clarify question before you push general info
-make sure it has specific and exact answer to user's question

For all types of queries:
-clarify the question
-use a follow-up question (does this answer..., do you have another question...)
-finalize interaction with the user

Implications for Practice
1. Communication critically important!
-difficult process
-generational differences
-user education
2. Greetings - crucial moment, capture it!
-chance to establish personal relationship
-use self-disclosure to build rapport
3. Recognize that any user may be impatient at times
-question complex?
-context - what do they need this info for? assignment, research, son's homework?
4. Encountering Rude or Impatient Behavior
DO use common sense and intuition
DO remain polite, use humor, if ok
DO apologize as appropriate
DON'T take it personally
DON'T mirror rudeness
DON'T reprimand user
5. Encourage Non-User to try VRS
-creative marketing
-promote full range of reference options
-reassure young people chat is safe

In Conclusion:
-use basic interpersonal skills
-chat and FtF are very similar interactions
-relax about time pressure
-be yourself and show your smile

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