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Quality Measures of Library Reference Service.

Quality Measures of Library Reference Service.

The Virtual Librarian Service and its professional librarians offer 7 day a week email reference service. The librarians do not operate a chat service, hunched over our laptops 24 hours a day, demanding that the student who needs help stay in their seat to engage, right now, in long conversations in short tiny chat boxes. Regardless if the student is at work or in less than perfect conditions. Rather, the Virtual Librarian Service duty librarian monitors the client custom email coming to the reference librarian at all hours of the day and night, every day, even holidays. Replies are by email usually within minutes, or sometimes hours from the time of the student sending a reference help request. Reference request replies are predicated on knowledgeable librarians who know the client’s resources and how that content supports the unique programs and often the course assignments.

What does that mean for our client institutions and their thousands of students? It is a measure of the quality of service that the librarians are embedded in the very fiber of the institution. It means that our librarians are familiar with our client’s educational programs, courses, degree levels, leadership team and other institutional services such as writing centers and student success resources. It means an interpretation of the library eresources and how those titles support the reference question. It means the duty reference librarian knows who and how to forward the student reference query to inside the college or university. And for those clients with repeat library users, especially at the graduate level, a relationship forms between their librarian for both student and instructors. And we interpret that reference experience, because the librarians are embedded in the college or university, in the library orientation and information literacy programs that they create and deliver.

What is the opposing idea? An institutional library may outsource to an online reference service who employ a team of librarians who operate in a chat service environment. The librarians are not part of the academic institution and thus the library reference chat is less of a quality experience than one with a librarian who is embedded in the college or university. A good cafeteria style of service if what you want to do is advertise a livechat service modelled on the needs of admission departments.