Reference Transaction Handoffs

Nora Wikoff


This article describes a content analysis of virtual reference transcripts taken from the NCknows virtual reference service. The analysis sought to determine why librarians consider some questions to be unanswerable at the time they are submitted by users. Questions were coded by a classification of question causes and by how complete the reference interview was in the transaction. The transcripts were then coded according to the reasons given for ending the chat early. The analysis showed that most reference interviews were incomplete and that the most common explanation for why librarians could not answer questions at the time was that they were already busy assisting other users. The study indicates that more North Carolina librarians should be hired to staff the service and that librarians should make a greater effort to conduct a complete reference interview so that more questions can be answered while users are still online.

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