START Conference Manager    

ASIST 2012 Annual Meeting 
Baltimore, MD, October 26-30, 2012

Convergence and Synergy: Social Q&A Meets Virtual Reference Services
Marie Radford, Lynn Connaway and Chirag Shah

Tuesday, 8:30am


This paper presents a preliminary analysis of online information services that examines the intersection of two areas of research: Virtual Reference Services (VRS) and Social Q&A (SQA). This project embraces the idea of a synergic collaboration within and between VRS and SQA to provide higher quality content to information seekers and a higher level of sustainability. Preliminary findings are described that emanate from a grant-funded project: "Cyber Synergy: Seeking Sustainability through Collaboration between Virtual Reference and Social Q&A Sites," which is being supported by the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Early stages of the grant project activities include VRS transcript analysis and interviews with online Q&A end users (students) and experts (university librarians). Preliminary analysis reveals that VRS questions address a broad range of subjects, predominantly social sciences and technology. Largest numbers of question types are Procedural and Ready Reference. An analysis of accuracy for the subset of Ready Reference questions was found to be high, 90 percent correct, although only 75 percent were found to be correct with citation cited. Interviews with information seekers and providers in both VRS and SQA environments revealed important differences in how experts and end-users perceive online Q&A services, leaving clues as to how it may be possible to start bridging these systems.