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Cross-cultural Analysis of Virtual Reference (SIGs TIS, III)

Pnina Shachaf [Organizer] School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University Noriko Hara [Organizer] School of Library and Information Science, Indiana University Lokman Meho School of Library & Information Science, Indiana University Nahyun Kwon School of Library & Information Science, University of South Florida Bin Li School of Information and Library Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Yukiko Sakai Keio University Shinanomachi Media Center, Tokyo, Japan David Lankes [Moderator] School of Information Studies, Syracuse University

Sparking Synergies: Bringing Research and Practice Together @ ASIST '05 (ASIS&T 2005)
Westin Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina, October 28 - November 2, 2005


Virtual reference and its potential for collaboration is an emerging area of interest for both researchers and practitioners (Bao, 2003; Pomerantz et al., 2004). The potential of virtual reference in a global context for international collaboration among libraries has been discussed and is being implemented by many organizations including the Library of Congress (The Library of Congress, 2003). However, the studies in this area largely represent experiences in Anglo-American countries and are discussed and presented mainly at conferences in the United States, such as American Library Association (ALA) and Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) conferences. These studies analyzed reference transactions, policies, and types of technologies used in virtual reference, to name a few. However, the generalization of findings in these studies to other countries should be made with caution as communication is culturally embedded, and communication during the online reference transaction is no exception. Thus, virtual reference may significantly differ from one country to another.

Despite the fact that practitioners have begun collaborative virtual reference around the globe, little attention has been given to the impact of cross-cultural (inter-cultural and intra-cultural) communications on reference transactions. In an effort to bridge this gap, this panel will present a series of virtual reference case studies from Middle Eastern and Far Eastern countries to identify similarities and differences. Specifically, the research panel will analyze e-mail transaction transcripts because e-mail is the most predominant form of virtual reference services offered in these countries. Given the nature of the study, the International Federation for Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) Digital Reference Guidelines (IFLA, 2004) will be used as a framework of analysis for the study. In addition to this framework, the taxonomy of e-mail reference interview developed by Abels (1996) will be used as well.

This panel will present the following cases: Virtual reference in China will be analyzed and presented by Bin Li; the Israeli virtual reference case will be presented by Pnina Shachaf; Noriko Hara and Yukiko Sakai will focus on the Japanese experience; Virtual reference in Korea will be analyzed and presented by Nahyun Kwon; and Lokman I. Meho will discuss the case of virtual reference in Lebanon.

The implications of the cases and the analyses presented in this panel are relevant to research and practice and involve:  Expanding the research in virtual reference to a more global context;

 Identifying commonalities and differences in virtual references among the compared four countries;

 Contributing to the international and comparative librarianship research;

 Describing cases from countries that are underrepresented in the virtual reference literature;

 Enhancing or expanding the existing IFLA Digital Reference Guidelines; and

 Describing challenges that may originate upon implementation of global collaborative virtual reference services


Abels, E. G., (1996). The e-mail reference interview. Reference Quarterly, 35(3), 345-58.

Bao, X.M. (2003). A study of web-based interactive reference services via academic library homepages. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 43(3), 250-256.

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (2004). Reference work section: IFLA digital reference guidelines. Retrieved January 16, 2005 from

The Library of Congress (2003). Global reference network. Retrieved January 16, 2005 from

Pomerantz, J., Nicholson, S., Belanger, Y., & Lankes, R. D. (2004). The current state of digital reference: validation of a general digital reference model through a survey of digital reference services. Information Processing & Management, 40(2), 347-363.

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