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I posted the following message to the DIG_REF listserv on February 18, 2003.  Responses are listed below


Virtual reference, whether 24/7 or website queries, seems to be the up-and-coming trend.  For those of you who are currently supporting some form of virtual reference, do you find that satisfied patrons return for more information or is every request by a different patron?

Thank you for your help.


Dr. Pam Dennis, Director
Luther L. Gobbel Library
Lambuth University
705 Lambuth Boulevard
Jackson, TN  38301



Response 2/19/03

In our Danish Virtual Ref-service:
we have several patrons returning for new requests or for more information
about the same question. But many come back with different intervals.
As you can see from our site we're open  8 am to 10 pm  Monday -Thursday.
8am tp 8 pm Friday, Saturday 8am - 4 pm  and Sunday 4 pm - 10 pm. /although
it says 9 am in the English version).
Kind regards
Doris Birch Friis

Response 2/19/03

In the service, here in Baltimore County and Harford County, between Nov.
2001 - Dec. 2002 we found that 30% of customers used it more than
once.  About 15% logged in 3 times or more.

The K-12 group that we had been targeting in that service would often ask
for the librarian that had helped them last time.  So yes, we definitely
get repeat customers!  (Just like at a public service desk)

Joseph Thompson
Project Coordinator, Maryland AskUsNow!
Information Services Department, Baltimore County Public Library
320 York Road, Towson, MD  21204  (410-887-6124)

Response 2/19/03


For our first statistics reporting period which ran from Jan 2002-Aug
2002, we had a total of 562 successful calls, with 65 repeat users.  The
majority made 2 calls, but some made more than 2.

Allyson Washburn
Distributed Learning Services Librarian
3329 Harold B. Lee Library
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
(801) 422-2675

Response 2/19/03

Dear Dr. Dennis,

Our services software that allows for a post-chat survey.  One of the
questions that we asked survey respondents was "Will you use the service
again?"  In excess of 90% indicated "yes."  We reported this in:

Neuhaus, Paul and Matthew R. Marsteller.  "Chat Reference at Carnegie
Mellon University."  Public Services Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 2, 2002, p.

I hope that this is of interest.  From experience, my gut call is that we
frequently get repeat contacts.


Matt Marsteller

Response 2/19/03

In March of 2002, members of the LC digital reference team collected
patron data for one week as part of the McClure/Lankes study on
Assessment of Dig Ref services.  92.4% of the patrons were first time

Linda J. White
Digital Project Coordinator
Library of Congress
(202) 707-8475


Response 2/19/03

Our virtual reference service is just beginning to be known.  We seem to
have a lot of repeat users, I'm not sure what percentage.  Our new users may
easily become repeat users since patrons are just finding us and the word is
beginning to spread.

Sarah Haman
Reference Librarian
Mendocino County



Response 2/21/03

I have been keeping track of repeat patrons since June 2002.  The figures below don't include users who chose to remain anonymous.  I have just counted a repeat user as someone who used the service two or more times.

June:  221 users, 27 repeat users  - 12%
July:  213 users, 33 repeat users - 15.5%
August:  209 users, 23 repeat users - 11%
Sept:  265 users, 36 repeat users - 13.6%
Oct:  337 users, 49 repeat users - 14.5%
Nov:  287 users, 57 repeat users - 19.9%
Dec:  254 users, 63 repeat users - 24.8%
Jan03:  400 users, 82 repeat users - 20.5%
 Hope this helps,
 Susie Whiteford
 Denver Public Library
 10 W. 14th. Ave. Parkway
 Denver, CO  80204
 (720) 865-1363
 Project Manager for SmartyPants
 Denver Public Library's 24/7 Virtual
 Reference service

Response 2/21/03



 Just a question, now that my curiousity has kicked in: Do you have any sense of the lag time  between uses for the repeat users?  With what regularity are users coming back...every week, month, half-year?

Maybe I'm just splitting hairs, but it seems to make a difference if these stats indicate a (realtively static) core group of users who use the service frequently or if the user base iteself if actually expanding.  (Or doesn't this matter?  Anyone else have an opinion?)

  Phillip M. Edwards [ ] [ vox: 734.223.4394 ]
  Graduate student, University of Michigan School of Information



Response 2/21/03


1)      Percentage of repeat callers.  How many people use the service over and
over again?
2) Increased usage stats for each semester/quarter/year the service
exists.  Are you seeing an increase in e-ref transactions?  We have seen
increases with each new quarter that the chat service has been available
(since 8/01).

"Heather Tunender" tunender@LIB.UCI.EDU


Response 2/21/03


An interesting D-Ref stat... repeat patrons.


Rachelle Ramsey RRamsey@WCPL.LIB.OH.US



Response 2/21/03


I am curious -- how do you gather statistics like this while still maintaining the anonimity and  privacy of the patron?
Do you ask each patron if they mind if you record who they are?  What kind of reactions do you get when you ask them this?
Are you concerned about having a list of names because of the patriot act?

I live in Oregon and I am a student at Southern CT Universtiy. I work for a rather small public library. We don't record any information which might encroach upon the privacy of the patron.

How do you deal with the issue of privacy when gathering information for statistics?

-- Thanks
Kimberly A Seits <kaseits@JUNO.COM>



I found posted to the listserv on February 19, 2003 the following message.  My response it shown below


I am new. please tell me where to find the archives?
Sorry for the silly question.
 Doris Birch Friis <dbf@SILKEBORG.BIB.DK> wrote:Try to look in the dig-ref archives as several people have asked the same
question before!
Kind regards
Doris Birch Friis

----- Original Message -----
From: "Alessia"
Sent: Wednesday, February 19, 2003 5:12 PM
Subject: [DIG_REF] digital ref

Hello, I need to find information about the history of digital reference. I
have found dates in several articles, but nothing that can give me a
continuous timeline. I also found contradicting information, for example,
the beginning of digital reference in 1998 or 1994.I have searched and asked
around, but it looks like nobody knows of the existence of a source
explaining the history of this reference service. Can you suggest articles
or books?
Thank you in advance


My response 2/20/03


Lotta, in case no one ever responded to you, the index is found at the top of this page -


Good luck.


Pam Dennis



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