Cover image for Chat reference : a guide to live virtual reference services
Chat reference : a guide to live virtual reference services
Ronan, Jana.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Libraries Unlimited, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiii, 225 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
Z711.45 .R66 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Functioning as a blueprint, this guide leads the reader through the many decisions and considerations involved in setting up a real-time reference service. Ronan introduces both basic and advanced real-time reference software, offers practical information about features, advantages, and disadvantages, and discusses human and organizational issues.

How does one start a virtual reference service? What types of software are available? This comprehensive guide to live virtual services answers these and other questions. Intended as a blueprint, the book is designed to lead the reader through the many decisions and considerations involved in setting up a real-time reference service. Acclaimed expert Jana Smith Ronan introduces both basic and advanced real-time reference software, offers practical information about features, advantages, and disadvantages, and discusses human and organizational issues, such as staffing, training, and administration.

Complete with five case studies from successful real-time reference services, this guide provides readers with a better understanding of real-time reference and an ability to make educated decisions on what's best for their library and their patrons.

Author Notes

JANA SMITH RONAN is Interactive Reference Coordinator for the George A. Smathers Libraries of the University of Florida, Gainesville.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Designed as a guide for individuals thinking about setting up virtual reference services, this book offers much practical advice and information. The first few chapters introduce readers to online chat and real-time software, ways to gauge whether an audience exists for such services, and a framework to use to select the right software to get started. Subsequent chapters focus on human and organizational issues: staffing, training, everyday administration routines and duties, guidelines and policies, reference interviewing online, and promoting virtual reference services. Case studies comprise the final five chapters, each profiling successful real-time reference services at academic libraries. The case studies are enlightening and greatly beneficial, providing readers with different approaches to consider and concrete examples to follow. One disappointment is that only academic libraries are featured. This shortcoming aside, the book is distinguishable by its readability, clarity, and usefulness. Highly recommended for all libraries, especially academic ones. -- RBB Copyright 2003 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Ronan bears the job title "interactive reference coordinator" for the George A. Smathers Libraries of the University of Florida at Gainesville, which says a lot about librarians embracing live virtual reference services. Also reflecting this trend are the number of new titles on this topic: Mark Meola's Starting and Operating Live Virtual Reference Services, Steve Coffman's Going Live: Starting and Running a Virtual Reference Service, and, now, Ronan's Chat Reference. Like those other books, hers covers similar ground but does offer more detail. All of the expected sections are here, including an introduction to basic and advanced chat software, knowing your audience, selecting software, staffing, training, administration, guidelines and policies, the reference interview online, and promotion. Ronan ends with five case studies of academic and community college libraries using live virtual reference services. Including case studies from public libraries would have made the book useful to a wider audience. Those who have already purchased a guide (or two) on live virtual reference and are successfully running a service will not need another. If you are planning to begin live virtual reference services from scratch, this book is a good starting point. Still, any one of these titles will help you avoid the expensive mistake of purchasing more advanced software than you actually need. As with most technology books, these titles will have a very short shelf life until the next "big thing" comes along. Video reference anyone?-Robert Battenfeld, Long Island Univ.-Southampton Coll. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Wilfred (Bill) DrewDeAnne LuckShelle WittenCarol Ann BorchertMimi Pappas and Collen Seale
Prefacep. ix
1 Introduction to Chat and Basic Real-Time Softwarep. 1
Internet Relay Chat--IRCp. 2
IRC at a Glancep. 5
MOO (Multi-User Domain Object-Oriented)p. 6
MOO at a Glancep. 11
Instant Messaging (IM)p. 12
Instant Messaging at a Glancep. 16
Web-Based Chat Softwarep. 17
Web-Based Chat Software at a Glancep. 20
2 Advanced Real-Time Softwarep. 25
Coursewarep. 25
Call Center Softwarep. 29
Hosted Real-Time Servicesp. 44
Running a Chat Service Locallyp. 47
3 The Audience for Online Library Assistance in Real Timep. 53
Know Your Audiencep. 53
Real-Time Reference Indicatorsp. 54
4 Selecting Real-Time Software for Your Users and Libraryp. 65
Software Selection Criteriap. 65
User Interfacep. 66
General and Administrative Featuresp. 69
Librarian Interfacep. 73
Price and System Featuresp. 74
System Software and Hardwarep. 75
5 The Human Elementp. 79
Selecting Staffp. 80
Where to Chat?p. 82
Real-Time Reference in Practicep. 85
General Service or Subject Expertise Servicep. 86
Hoursp. 87
6 Trainingp. 93
Real-Time Reference Competenciesp. 93
Staff Trainingp. 95
Training Exercisesp. 100
Online Mentoringp. 104
Continuing Trainingp. 105
7 Everyday Administration of a Real-Time Reference Servicep. 109
Daily Routinesp. 110
Duties and Routines Performed Monthly or As Neededp. 111
Personnel and Schedulingp. 111
8 Guidelines and Policies for Reference in Real Timep. 121
Audiencep. 122
Servicep. 125
Information Literacyp. 128
Behaviorp. 129
Customer Service Guidelinesp. 130
Privacyp. 132
Copyright and Proprietary Databasesp. 134
9 The Reference Interview Onlinep. 141
The Traditional Reference Interviewp. 141
Librarians and Chat Culturep. 143
Behavioral Guidelines for Chat Librariansp. 149
10 Promoting Online Real-Time Reference Servicesp. 163
Planningp. 163
Publicity Strategiesp. 166
Advertisingp. 170
11 Give Them What They Already Use--AOL Instant Messenger: A Case Studyp. 175
The Collegep. 176
The Computing Environmentp. 176
The Libraryp. 176
Talk to a Librarian LIVEp. 177
Why AIM?p. 178
Staffingp. 179
Observationsp. 180
Marketing Talk to a Librarian LIVEp. 181
The Future?p. 181
12 Austin Peay State University--Ask A Librarian: A Case Studyp. 183
Softwarep. 184
Staffingp. 186
Trainingp. 187
Ask A Librarianp. 187
Looking Back and Aheadp. 189
Conclusionp. 190
13 Librarians Online--Virtual Reference at a Multi-Campus Institution: A Case Studyp. 191
The Maricopa Community College District and Its Librariesp. 191
The Genesis of Librarians Onlinep. 192
Evaluation and Statisticsp. 195
Marketingp. 196
Changes and the Futurep. 196
14 Virtual Reference Service at the University of South Florida: A Case Studyp. 199
Historyp. 200
Administrative Featuresp. 201
Statisticsp. 203
15 RefeXpress at the University of Florida: A Case Studyp. 207
Softwarep. 208
Staffingp. 209
Trainingp. 210
Policies: Who, What, Whenp. 211
Service Hoursp. 211
Advertising and Marketingp. 213
Conclusionsp. 215
Indexp. 217