Tuesday, June 26, 2007

See It, Hear It, Touch It: Learning Styles in Virtual Reference

Speakers

Marie Radford
Blog: Library Garden

Lynn Westbrook
UM Alumna, UT Prof

Eileen Abels
IPL

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RUSA (RSS / MARS)
IS

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Joe Thopson, Moderator
What do we know about users' communication and learning styles that is important for guiding decisions about library services?

Marie: Talking about results from a research study on users of virtual ref services, non-users of same, and librarian viewpoints.

Virtual Library Users:
* Most likely audience - younger people. The millenials. Heaviest virtual reference user by far. 75 million people, and oldest are 27. By 2010, outnumbering the Baby Boomers. Affity for screens.

* Like choice and selectivity. Don't pay attention to spelling and grammar. Use shortcuts. Everything is personalized and customized. Think TiVo, YouTube, ringtones. Convenience.

* EXPERIENCIAL in terms of learning. Don't want to have time wasted. Want to see results. Prefer group work.

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* What do we do? Offer as many services as we can. If they want to chat, if they want to come in, we have to offer all of these options. Wait for their teacher moment. Appeal to their desire to save time. Answer their question and then "Do you want me to show you how I did this?"

* Most effective IMers are those that use it all the time. Building personal relationships with them. If they like our service they will return and tell their friends.

Eileen: Match your services to the types of users you're serving.

Lynn: Social comfort, affective comfort is something to think about when communicating on the Internet. Where to librarians fit in? Has to do with understanding how communication is done on the Internet: what's safe? This may not be part of their mental model. MEDIA PORTRAYAL of Internet communiation.

Joe: How do the communication styles of librarians influence the provision of reference services.

Eileen: Who offers chat reference service? Does every librarian have to? THink about the comfort level of a librarian when deciding who does chat reference -- maybe some are gung-ho about it, and others are in-person people. Think flexibly about who offers reference. Through training efforts in digital reference (hands-on expereince), librarians DID change their preferences. Training can help change communication style preferences. BEFORE COURSE: preferred face-to-face. AFTER COURSE: e-mail gained a lot of preference, SMALL increase in chat live reference. THe IMMEDIACY made it unnerving.

IPL as a training tool. LIS Students answer real e-mails from around the world. Set them loose on training questions first, before sending them to real questions. OVERALL: using GOOGLE immediately. Thinking about the QUESTION not the source. Revealed a lack of analysis of a question, and a lack of thinking about appropriate sources.

Marie: Users have these characteristics too. In a survey of 200 virtual ref. librarians, they said 96% CHAT is the best way to develop relatonships is through chat when face-to-face is not perfect. REALLY? Yes -- stretch yourself, find out about it. People surprised and pleased when a librarian comes back with Internet acronyms. LOL!

Lynn: Think about what makes us uncomfortable with doing chat reference. When we're not library as place any more, -- when we communicate in chat, we're trying to find ways to communicate the fact they we are here to help, it's our job. There's a feeling that LOL causes us to lose that role even more -- but it's not. More than anything, MEETING THEIR NEED communicates that. Communicate: "What you're saying matters. I hear you."

Marie: Getting THEIR NEEDS MET is important. Instruction can get in the way -- that's our need. So, answer their question, then ask, "Do you want to know how?" Only 25% of users use more more than 1 search term. (Librarians use 6 - 8).

Joe: What threatens or supports the users' self-efficacy in the exchange?

Lynn: What's self-efficacy? We want them to leave feeling stronger about thier skills (in ADDITION to meeting their current needs). This requires 3 things: hwo they see themselves, how they see information tools, and how they see information processes. Understanding what's there is important, they view of what info is available.

Use open questions: it engages and involves them. It makes them active in the information exchange. What would make this useful to you? Lets them talk about it and gives them control over it. Maybe differentiated choices if they're not doing well with open-ended questions. You may find they haven't thought through the different FORMS of information.

Keep your purpose, role and relationship clear. Acknowledge their own knowledge, preference, requirements. Don't rush to close.

Eileen: commonly used terms. REFERENCE? What's that? THink like your user group? BIBLIOGRAPHY, ABSTRACTING, INDEX.

Marie: Hesitant to do a referral. Don't be. Suggest e-mail. Suggest another library. Doing a disservice by answering inappropriately. The average chat: 12.5 minutes. Same mean of face-to-face. This might take some time -- let them know that, and that you're not a robot.

Joe: What might be problematic or supportive in what librarians are doing?

Marie: What do screenagers do? How do librarians behave to screenagers? Less likely to confirm "that's an interesting question", less likely to refer, less likely to say they made a mistake. Invite them to return. Limit time. Send people to Google. REPRIMANDING.

Your positive approach will result in better behavior. Teach users how to use VR. Ultimately, 1 on 1 interactions we forge are the future.

Eileen: Make sure your website makes it clear what needs to be offered.

If we continue to use Google and free resources, what happens to our collection budget? We ought to be using them.

Lynn: We might be three steps ahead finding a tool that would be really useful -- make sure we bring them along.

Joe: What are your thoughts on librarian screen names?

Eileen: Using 1st names is very positive. Makes it personal. At NYPL, there's Nick and Nora. Use user's 1st name.

Lynn: When you close, provide a way to get in touch with you later. Who is that person?

Joe: be honset about who and where you are, especially if you're in a consortium.

What's the best way to ask clarifying questions on chat?

Lynn: give people viable options. I can help you with, we can go here, or there -- which would be the best for you? There's good information in books and journals -- which would you prefer? Come up with viable choices that allows them to give a quick answer.

Marie: Accuracy is boosted considerable by clarifying. "Have I completely answered your question" at the end? Send sample answers and see if it's what they want. Low instance of impatience. It may be us projecting that impatience.

Joe: Do you have ideas for training staff to recognized and adjust to VR users' communications?

Eileen: practice. Few LIS schools provide that hands on experience. Come together, discuss 'favorite questions', get feedback.

Marie: lots of mirroring behavior skills in face-to-face, so try to do the same online. Look at their behaviours, and do the same. PLEASE written out looks like a command.

Lynn: Get librarians to be the customer, have staff go online to commercial sites with chat services to understand what it's like to be the user. How does the relationship we're trying to develop differ from those commercial experiences? What was comfortable? What wasn't?

Eileen: You don't know what they're doing. 10 seconds staring at a screen is a LONG time. They are probably be doing a lot of other things as well.

Lynn: Short-term memory plummets while multitasking. If they're out there doing other things, they don't have that deep understanding and engagement.

Joe: How do users & librarian's expectations influence virtual reference transactions (esp. in light of speed of Google, etc)

Lynn: Expectation that everything out there is seemless and lfuid. Everything comes together. That expectation leads to an expectation that search engines will be consistent over and over again with the same terms. If it does, users think it's their own problem, when it's just that the search engines do things differently. It's not McDonalds -- you go in and it may be different.

They expect to have flexibility and options and control over which product and what the results look like. Natural tension: there should be consistency, but flexibility.

Communciation patterns: task and social communication. New ways to interact wiht us. They're setting the norms with those things. Very narritive approach to what we do: opening, clarification discourse, closing, etc. We have a narrative. THEY don't have that. They come, they go, they dip in and dip out in bits and pieces. They expect privacy and control.

Marie: User has a narritive too, but a different ending: give me what I want so I can go. People DO want independent information seeking -- they're frustrated when they come o us. Looking at it from their perspective, it's not just dictionary.com, it's mobile communications, immediacy, instant gratification. They may not know when it's a quick question or a long question -- we have to share that with them.

Eileen: SEE PEW INTERNET SURVEY for information about expectations. Self service is a big trend: develop guides / tutorials, discipline oriented to meet those expectations.

Joe: time expectations. If you think it's going to take time, tell users how long it's going to take. If you're still going, come back, and tell them.

What are some learning opportunities for picking up dig ref skills, and how do they reflect the importance of communication styles?

Eileen: On ALA website, professional association opportunities. Successful in talking about general VR topics. ALA not good at differentiating between software norms, public/academic/school norms. The IPL as training tool - there are opportunities there. Librarians can get training just as LIS students can.

In classes, we provide opportunities for telephone/web, cheat sheets, and online tutorials to teach these topics.

Marie: With VR, there's a lone ranger approach. Maybe try to double-team it. If there's a team, ask someone else to be in the same office. Learn best when watching someone else doing something. Others have tricks. Experienced and new librarian partnerships are valuable.

Lynn: This is a staged effort. Pulling pieces together gradually -- get more sophisticated and involved as you learn.

Joe: Useful if you can find someone from local organization to provide training instead of vendors; can talk about things that work or don't, how it works in the context of the specific environment. The VR Adventure -- see VR committee's homepage.

Recommendations for proposing chat VR to administrators? How can we best leverage traditional and virtual reference services to attract young patrons?

Marie: Reference is alive and well. Go to where they are, where they need you. Build relationships one-on-one.

Eileen: Have data to convince administration. Show what peer institutions are doing. Have a plan in mind. Recommend something simple with a free instant messenger.

Joe: What about reluctant staff?

Eileen: You ca't force librarians to do it -- if they don't feel comfortable with chat, they won't do it justice. They should be exposed to it -- training, watching -- they may change their mind.

Marie: Shadowing. Less experienced vs. More experienced is a really powerful combinations. Resources & Comfort with Chat.

Joe: What questions are OKAY for librariarians to ask?

Lynn: If we both start from the same place, we're okay. Try to protect each other's face. Positive face to make people feel welcomed, compitant, but negative so they don't take advantage of you. We can't expect too much form them: they may not understand how to verbalize their need. We need to tell them why we're asking. When you can't help, explain why. No "here's the policy". It's a partnership.

18 comments:

CogSci Librarian said...

Eric -- great post!! Wish I'd been at the session: it's *exactly* what I teach my students in reference. In fact, I'd like to point my students to this blog post next semester. Ok?

And I'm going to try & work in some practice with IM reference for my students either in my basic or advanced reference class.

Great ideas!!

Eric Frierson said...

No problem. It was nice running into you at ALA! Isn't it great how Facebook can connect people? I met Ken Liss on Monday in the same fashion -- a familiar, but unfamiliar face coming down the escalator!

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Stephen Francoeur said...

Eric, I'm glad you were live blogging this. What a great job. You must have been typing fast and furious. As someone who can't get to out-of-town conferences easily (family obligations), I really really appreciate reports like this.

Marie L. Radford said...

Eric
Thanks so much for blogging our program! I rarely get a summary of my remarks that is so accurate and complete. I appreciate your work!

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