“I don't think it's harder, just that it's different”: Librarians' attitudes about instruction in the virtual reference environment

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  • Abstract: Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate librarians' attitudes towards instruction in virtual reference transactions and to review relevant literature. Design/methodology/approach – Librarians who provide virtual reference services are surveyed about attitudes towards providing instruction via virtual reference software. In addition to gathering demographic information respondents are asked to rate agreement or disagreement with statements about virtual references using a six-point Likert scale. Findings – The librarians surveyed see value in providing instruction during the virtual reference encounter, but also identify concerns and barriers. Discussion of Marchionini's concept of exploratory search and Madell and Muncer's study on control in computer mediated communication is used to highlight some characteristics of the virtual reference environment that might require unique pedagogy and reference practices. Research limitations/implications – Most respondents are from academic libraries, potentially limiting its applicability to public or special library settings and the survey does not explore the attitudes of librarians who do not currently provide virtual reference. Practical implications – Findings will be useful for institutional or consortial virtual reference training as well as improving individual practice. Findings may also have policy and/or staffing implications for virtual reference programs. Originality/value – There is limited literature that focuses specifically on either information literacy instruction during the virtual reference transaction or on librarians' attitudes towards providing instruction in the virtual reference transaction.
  • Keywords: reference services, information literacy, librarians, library instruction, virtual work
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  • Gronemyer, K. & Deitering, A.M. (December 2009). “I don't think it's harder, just that it's different”: Librarians' attitudes about instruction in the virtual reference environment. Reference Services Review, 37:4, 421-434. DOI: 10.1108/00907320911007029
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  • 37
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  • 4
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