Identifying Reusable Resources in Digital Reference Responses

Jeffrey Pomerantz


Are the resources provided in answers to reference questions reusable for answering future reference questions? This study seeks to answer this question as a means to address the scalability problem of human-mediated reference work. Using the Internet Public Library’s archive of over eighty thousand records of answered reference questions, this study identifies (1) what resources are provided in responses to digital reference questions, (2) the extent to which these resources are reusable in future responses, and (3) the useful lifespan of a resource that has been provided. The distribution of resources provided in these answer records was found to display a classic power law distribution. The half-life of these resources was found to be approximately eleven years, far longer than the half-lives of resources in other corpora that have been studied. The relevance of these resources was found to be remarkably high, even after more than a decade.

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