Research Paper: A Usability Evaluation of Academic Virtual Reference Services (Preprint)
The following article was recently accepted for publication in the May 2014 issue of C&RL (College and Research Libraries).
Anthony S. Chow
Department of Library and Information Studies
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, School of Education
Rebecca A. Croxton
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, School of Education
Accepted for Publication: January 2013
Anticipated Publication Date: May 1, 2014
College and Research Libraries Website
This study examined the usability of five virtual reference services – instant messenger chat, email, telephone, text-messaging, and Skype video conferencing – by having 31 undergraduate and graduate students evaluate the usability of the virtual reference services of two different universities. The study’s results suggest that user preference and satisfaction for virtual reference service are highly correlated with the service’s overall usability in terms of effectiveness and efficiency. Online chat was rated highest across all measures including satisfaction and seven different usability factors. Major implications of the study suggest that online chat is the virtual reference of choice for university students and that usability metrics are a good predictor of user preferences centered on high return on investment, speed of transaction, convenience, and minimal effort.
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