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Can u help me plz?? Cyberlanguage Accommodation in Virtual Reference Conversations

Laura Christopherson

ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA, October 9-12, 2011


Virtual reference services (VRS), often using instant messaging technology, are convenient for users and allow libraries to expand their patron base and the services they provide. Instant messaging is one of several new media that seem to encourage the production of cyberlanguage-non-standard English replete with abbreviations of all kinds and surrogate face-to-face cues such as emoticons. Research suggests one way librarians can increase patron satisfaction, and thus use of services, is to speak the patron's language. Using communication accommodation theory, which includes the notions of convergence (speaking another's language) and divergence (divorcing one's speech from another), this research seeks to uncover accommodative tendencies of librarians when faced with patron use of cyberlanguage. Frequency of cyberlanguage use by both patrons and librarians was obtained and compared via linear regression. Results do not support convergence but instead suggest that future work explore the possibility of divergence.

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