A Window into Our Patron's Needs: Analyzing Data from Chat Transcripts

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Internet Reference Services Quarterly, ISSN: 1087-5301, Vol: 11, Issue: 4, Page: 19-39

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Van Houlson; Kate McCready; Carla Steinberg Pfahl
The Haworth Press
Social Sciences
article description
This article provides an analysis of transcripts of chat reference transactions. The data analyzed for this study were from 631 chat reference transcripts from the University of Minnesota Libraries-Twin Cities Campus collected from January to May for both 2003 and 2004. Specifically, the patrons' statuses, the length of sessions, the type of chat transactions, and the types of questions asked were examined. The findings determined that though a majority of patrons seeking assistance from the chat reference service were undergraduates (41%), graduate students used the service a surprising amount (28%). Overwhelmingly, most students needed assistance finding specific items or wanted to know how to find a resource. However, 17% of the undergraduates using this service were seeking in-depth reference assistance. The analysis has allowed for the transformation of chat reference services (including staffing and training) and also informs decisions about library services, Web sites, and collections. © 2006 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.