Rutgers University Libraries

Virtual Reference Services

2003-2004

 

Natalie Borisovets

Virtual Reference Services Coordinator

 

 

Summary Statistics

Rutgers Virtual Reference Services

Ask a Librarian Queries Received

12239

Ask a Librarian LIVE 'Chat' Attempts

717

  Total

12956

 

 

Ask a Librarian Answers Sent

12048

Ask a Librarian LIVE Successful 'Chats'

516

LIVE Queries Answered via Email

21

  Total

12585

 

 

Ask a Librarian

 

12239 queries were received via Ask a Librarian, the Rutgers email reference service, in FY2003/2004, down approximately 8.5 percent from the previous year.  This is the first volume decrease recorded since the service began in the Fall of 1998.  Part of the decrease can no doubt be attributed to enhanced services such as the new Interlibrary Loan interface which allows users to query the system about request status and renew and cancel ILLs without staff intervention.

 

Ask a Librarian

FY2003/2004

 

July

Aug

Sept

Oct

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

April

May

June

TOTALS

Questions Received

560

586

2039

1360

1013

779

1108

1366

1088

1027

565

748

12239

Answers Sent

555

583

1913

1361

986

722

1080

1363

1033

1088

587

777

12048

 

A record 2039 queries were received by Ask a Librarian in September 2003.  Of these 1565 (78 percent) were PIN requests

 

AskAL

 

In February and March, training sessions for use of AskAL, the new email reference management software, were held on all campuses.  AskAL is a PHP/MySQL open source database originally developed by the University of Nebraska at Omaha and extensively modified and enhanced by Shaun Ellis of Rutgers Libraries’ Systems to meet the needs of the Rutgers Ask a Librarian service.  Many of the enhancements were the result of suggestions put forth by AAL team members at the training sessions.

 

Among the features of the new system are:

 

 

Ask a Librarian began use of AskAL in April of 2004.  The transition to AskAL meant instant relief from email overload, as all Ask a Librarian questions and answers would no longer automatically be sent to all AAL team member mailboxes.  Team members do have the option to scan the questions and answers in the database, but clearly some of the ‘instant communication and learning’ advantages of the previous system have been lost.

 

Among its many other advantages however, AskAL makes tracking requests virtually effortless.  As a result, all queries sent between April and June received a response—a 100 percent response rate as opposed to the 85.9 percent rate for this same period last year.

 

Response Times

 

The Ask a Librarian request form [http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/ask_a_lib/ask_a_lib_form.shtml] states that "A response will usually be sent within 24-48 hours, except on weekends and holidays."

 

When response times were calculated manually, adjustments could be made for requests received over the weekend and during times when the libraries may have been closed.  AskAL is not currently set up to adjust for this policy, although may be modified to do so in the future.  Despite this, statistics for the April-June period show that 65 percent of all requests are answered within 24 hours and that 81 percent of all requests receive a response within 48 hours. 

 

 

Response Times

April-June 2004

 

Total

within 24 hrs

within 48 hrs

Median

Requests Received

2339

1523 (65%)

1901 (81%)

 

 'Regular'

1261

857 (68%)

1029 (82%)

15.6 hrs

 PIN/Registration

1078

666 (62%)

872 (81%)

18.6 hrs

 

Ask a Librarian Users

 

AskAL allows us to track more precisely just who is using the Rutgers Ask a Librarian service.  Whereas in the past we have estimated that about 10 percent of all queries are submitted by users with no affiliation with Rutgers, according to AskAL only 6 percent of all those using Ask a Librarian services between April and June were non-affiliates.   Rutgers undergraduates were the biggest users (40.2%) of the service; interestingly, during this period only 21 users (0.9%) identified themselves as RU-Online students.

 

 

User Affiliation April-June, 2004

Users: 2339

 

Users

% of Total Users

 RU Undergraduate

 

939

40.2%

 RU Graduate Student

 

647

27.7%

 RU Faculty/Staff

 

409

17.5%

 RU-Online Student

 

21

0.9%

 RU Non US-based Student/Faculty

4

0.2%

  Total Rutgers Primary Users

 

2020

86.4%

 

 

 

 

 RU Alumni

 

97

4.2%

 RU Community/Guest Borrower

 

53

2.3%

 RU Affiliate

 

28

1.2%

  Total Rutgers Non-Primary Users

178

7.6%

 

 

 

 

 No Current Affiliation with RU

 

141

6.0%

 

 

Ask a Librarian LIVE!

 

This was the first full year of operation for the Rutgers Ask a Librarian LIVE chat reference serve.  At Rutgers, Ask a Librarian LIVE is offered as a supplementary reference service, providing assistance to users during hours (7 pm to 10 pm) when many Reference Desks are closed.

 

Service Available: 

Fall Semester:                        September 7th to December 22d

Spring Semester:      January 25th to May 9th [1]

 

Schedule:                    Sunday thru Thursday, 7 pm-10 pm

 

Total Number of ‘Chat’ Attempts:                    717

Total Number of Successful ‘Chats’:            516 (72%)

Live Requests Responded to via Email           21

 

Of the ‘Unsuccessful’ chat attempts, 96 (13%) were users who disconnected from the queue before their calls could be answered, while 73 (10%) were calls that disconnected when the operator tried to answer. Since a transcript which includes an email address and the initial question is usually created for a user who is subsequently disconnected, in some cases the librarian was able to respond to the disconnected user via email.

 

Reference ‘Chats’ per Month

September 2003

92

October 2003

87

November 2003

76

December 2003

43

January 2004

15

February 2004

73

March 2004

46

April 2004

65

May 2004[2]

19

Total

516

 

Reference ‘Chats’ per Day of the Week

 

‘Chat’ Attempts

‘Chats’

Sunday

157

129

Monday

160

118

Tuesday

150

99

Wednesday

132

94

Thursday

118

76

 

Exit Survey

 

236 users (approximately 46% of all users who connected successfully) completed the Exit Survey.  Of these 236, 216 (92%) identified themselves as Rutgers affiliates while 18 (8%) identified themselves as “Other.”

 

Exit Survey Question 1:

What is your status?

 

Rutgers Undergraduate Student:                                                127

Rutgers Graduate Student:                                                            73

Rutgers Faculty:                                                                        11

Rutgers Staff:                                                                            5

Other:                                                                                       18

 

 

 

 

 

Exit Survey Question 2:

The computer that you are currently using is located in:

 

A Rutgers University library:                                                  45

A Rutgers University computer lab:                                        19

A Rutgers University residence hall/apartment:              23

A Rutgers University office/lab:                                              7

Another Rutgers University campus site:                              5

Home or other off-campus site:                                                133

 

Exit Survey Question 3:

Have you previously used:

 

The Rutgers Ask a Librarian LIVE service:                           48

The Rutgers Ask a Librarian email reference service: 37

 

Exit Survey Question 4:

Would you use the Ask a Librarian LIVE service again?

 

Yes:                                                                                         224

No:                                                                                          3

Not sure:                                                                                  7

 

Exit Survey Question 5:

If the Rutgers Libraries were to continue to offer Ask a Librarian LIVE, during which of the following time slots would you be most likely to use the service (pick TWO):

 

7 am to 10 am Monday thru Friday:                                      17

10 am to 1 pm Monday thru Friday:                                      11

1 pm to 4 pm Monday thru Friday:                                      21

4 pm to 7 pm Monday thru Friday:                                      40

7 pm to 10 pm Sunday thru Thursday:                                 170

9 pm to midnight Sunday thru Thursday                                  120                                         

 

Staffing

 

In the Spring of 2004, the Rutgers Ask a Librarian LIVE service was staffed by ten Reference Librarians, eight of whom are also members of the Ask a Librarian email Reference team.

 

  Ka-Neng Au*

  Susan Beck*

  Natalie Borisovets*

  Vibiana Bowman

  Sara Harrington

  Theo Haynes*

  Marty Kesselman*

  Laura Mullen*

  Wen-Hua Ren*

  Karen Wenk*

 

Four librarians who had previously served on AALL opted not to return, most because of professional or personal time constraints.  This placed an additional strain on the remaining librarians who now had to devote at least one evening every other week—in some cases ‘on their own time’—to Ask a Librarian LIVE.  Greater participation is needed especially in light of the expected increased demand for virtual services resulting from the upcoming Rt. 18 construction project in New Brunswick.

 



[1] Service was suspended November 26th and 27th (Thanksgiving) and during the week of Spring Break

[2] Service suspended for the Summer after May 9, 2004.

*Also part of the Ask a Librarian email reference service Reference Team.