Case Studies on Academic Library Virtual Reference (VR) Services

Primary author: Christy Zlatos

Primary college/unit: Libraries
Campus: Pullman


Although VR services are performed in nearly every academic library as part of its overall library services, very little is known about individual library variations in services. In seven interviews with experts in the field, this work presents an overview of some best practices covering 7 broad groups of issues/concerns in the field including software/technology available, user satisfaction, staffing, consortia providers, marketing of the service, and the referral of library patrons to experts. The seven VR experts selected include one software company representative, the head of a state cooperative, and five academic librarians. In looking VR services in academic libraries, I hope to learn whether large VR services are different than smaller ones, what sorts of library workers best provide the service, how many libraries participate in consortia, what VR software libraries using, how libraries market these services, how libraries might target these services to specific populations (e.g., international students), and how libraries handle referrals (i.e., getting the library users hooked up with the expert they need). The finished report should provide snapshot of the industry in 2020 and shed some insight on some perennial issues.