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Conference Proceeding

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Most academic libraries provide instant messaging services to their users. For this research project, the authors wanted to discover what occurs during synchronous virtual reference interviews at Iowa State University library. In order to asses the totality of synchronous virtual reference service, the researchers implemented a qualitative, holistic approach that generates a theory about what happens during these interviews. Grounded theory formed the philosophical framework for this qualitative assessment. Classical grounded theory minimizes preconceptions, does not start with a research problem, and does not recommend a literature review before starting a project. Additionally, synchronous learning is a topic of interest in educational research. Analyzing the primary documents, in this case the IM transcripts, involved coding the text. The patterns that developed from these codes became axial or code families. From the code families emerged networks. Three networks emerged: titled teaching and learning; community awareness; and service quality.

This assessment illustrated that reference services provided essential community mapping and teaching and learning opportunities for users. This research defined community mapping as the service librarians provide during the synchronous virtual reference transaction that point users to a place, a service point, or virtual marker either within or without the library. This service builds users awareness of their surrounding community. Synchronous virtual reference increases users’ ability to access and assess research materials, and builds users knowledge of their campus community. Synchronous virtual reference illustrates the library central role in supporting the teaching and learning experiences of users and in complementing the mission of research institutions.


Published in Proceedings of the 2010 Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment, October 24–27, 2010, Baltimore, MD, by the Association of Research Libraries.