Information Update - Fall 2005

Virtual Reference Updates: Collaboration and Growth

The University of Scranton in collaboration with the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) has been offering a 24/7 virtual chat reference service since the beginning of the fall 2004 semester. Virtual Chat is provided in addition to our e-mail reference service, which is available to the both the University and community at large. The AJCU Virtual Reference Service provides online reference via a chat interface to the students and faculty of the participating Jesuit institutions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The AJCU collaboration, initially with 19 institutions during the 2004/2005 academic year, has expanded its participation, encompassing 23 libraries for 2005/2006. The AJCU Virtual Reference Consortium Report from the Deans and Directors Meeting announced the addition of four additional AJCU Institution Libraries for the coming academic year: Regis University, Boston College, Rockhurst University and Gonzaga University have signed agreements to join the collaboration that spans the US and participate in the 24/7 virtual reference service. St. Joseph’s University will continue to participate but will not staff the virtual reference desk this coming academic year. St. Joseph's task for the coming academic year will be to research and report on the use of Instant Messenger as an additional or alternative means of providing VR services.
Collaborative virtual reference allows the institutions involved to extend standard hours of operation by distributing staff monitoring across multiple libraries and time zones from coast to coast. With the implementation of the co-browse interface the virtual reference experience has moved from Q & A to a teaching/learning environment. The co-browse interface with an IM type chat function, scripts capability, and file sharing features elevates the virtual exchange to an interactive experience. Virtual Reference here at the University of Scranton has grown from e-mail to the addition of a chat service using a vendor interface that provided only conversation and script functions for a limited number of hours each week, to our current 24/7 cooperative service and our newest adaptation, a virtual conference room application with co-browse capability. The use of the virtual conference room is being explored as a tool for teaching information literacy classes via the web to students who are enrolled in distance education courses.
The AJCU chat service has been very successful with progressive growth on the consortium level and at the University of Scranton. As indication of University of Scranton use and participation in the AJCU project consider the statistics: the librarians of the Weinberg Library answered 105 e-mail questions and responded to 289 chats; 217 University of Scranton students logged on to use the 24/7 virtual reference service, up from 47 chats the previous year when the Weinberg Library provided a solitary service for a limited number of hours each week. The use of our e-mail reference service has shown a decrease in use from 182 in 2003/2004 to 105 in 2004/2005, a predictable outcome with the availability of immediate live service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Ask a Librarian
In recognition of the collaborative Outstanding Quality Control and Mentoring Program of the AJCU 24/7 virtual reference service, presented a special award to the consortium during this year's American Library Association convention in Chicago.'s Client Services Team hosted the second annual Innovator Award Reception at ALA on Monday, June 27, 2005 when the award was presented. The honor was given to recognize the creativity and collaboration in the use of marketing services to user communities by the AJCU consortium.
To access the email or chat reference service logon at:
For information and a list of participating Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities see:
Clara Hudson
Pride, Passion, Promise: Experience Our Jesuit Tradition