Saturday, August 9, 2008

Reference Renaissance - Session IC - "Counting on Reference..."

Counting on Reference: Click It, Tick It, Track It
Chair: M. Kathleen Kern, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The Transformation of a Reference Statistic Tracker into a Management Tool for Reference Services

Indiana University began designing a reference portal in 1998. They wanted an in-house system to track all reference questions, as well as keeping statistics. Over the last ten years, this ‘portal’ has morphed into a myriad of uses and benefits the entire library in many ways.

This particular section of this session was inspirational for me. During the presentation, I envisioned IU’s reference portal as a MPL staff ‘online meeting place’. Here is an excerpt from my notes:

I believe that I can develop something like this for the library, as an online meeting place… Create different sections based on the standard staff meeting agenda. Definitely need email RSS feeds, so that once someone makes an update – EVERYONE gets the updates!!! Also – I can track tech questions, and put the answers on the site, so everyone knows the resolution. A place for questions and answers for the circ desk/general library.

I’ll let y’all know where this idea takes me…. 

Indiana University Reference Portal

• Along the top, links to: ref stats, record of actual ref ?s, ref home (ref website), and desk log.

• Along the side there is a bar with person, phone, chat, IM, Email options, as well as a place to put equipment problems.

• A smaller bar under top bar with others, including library policies

Indiana University – Administration

• Administration backed the development and provided resources; mandated deployment and minimum usage for all units
• Management pushed for adoption; carried out customization w/in units; provided training.
• Important for supervisors to provide a culture of creativity and innovation

Despite the success of the Reference Portal, we still have to REMEMBER to click the buttons and enter the questions!


Beyond Tick Marks: Capturing meaningful info @ the Reference Desk

Luke Vilelle, Hollins University, Roanoake, VA
Candice Benjes-Small, Radford University, Radford, VA
Eric Ackermann,

Mr. Vilelle and Ms. Benjes-Small each described the process they went through to get a quality and inexpensive reference desk statistics tracker.

What’s wrong w/tick marks?

• Limited info
• Labor intensive to count
• Difficult to find trends
• Didn’t tell us what we wanted to know

Software Considerations

• Affordable (FREE!)
• Installation concerns
• Customization
• Information accessibility
• Ease of use

Mr. Vilelle: Zoho – like open office – more like google docs, b/c everything saved online!! Zoho Creator – is a database application.

Nothing is hosted on their servers!

What if Zoho goes down? They had paper forms available – but it never went down in ten months, so they have trashed the forms.

Ms. Benjes-Small: Lib Stats

Implementation Considerations

• Decide what you need to know/collect: track what you’re doing? Track the questions that you are answering?
• Scope: Are you ready to find out the truth?
• Keep the form usable: give options but don’t want form too long; web access a must (access from desk, office, etc)

Staff Considerations

• Who will monitor/review it?
• What will s/he do with the information?

Getting buy-in

• Decide which desks will be participating
• Talking to people: supervisors as well as staff, be prepared to handle accusations of spying
• Offer training
• Aim for critical mass, not 100%; circulation students not consistent


• Importance of IM service
• Staff training and accountability
• Technological questions: Hollins was less than predicted; RU was higher than predicted
• Collection Development purchases
• Track interactions with particular users

The Case of the Personal Contact

• In-Office questions
o 114 transactions recorded (in office; direct pnhone, email or IM): 8.8% of all questions
o 76 re transactions recorded: 11.4% of all ref questions

The case of the Disappearing Referral

• Since they are tracking, they are noticing missing referrals to the reference desk from the front desk. Patron never makes it!

Happy Conclusions

• Helps build community among reference desk staff
• We all learned from reviewing others’ entries
• Software use is growing at both institutions: use by other departments, adding comments option


Even though I knew that the second day of the conference started a bit earlier, it didn’t sink in until I was officially late for the morning! I missed this section of the session:

Click It, No More Tic It: Online Reference Statistics

UNM University Libraries created an online statistical form that collects reference statistics into an Excel database. This presentation will describe the planning, pilot project, implementation, and evaluation of the online statistical database and how it applies to staffing, collections, acquisitions and other uses.

Presenters: Paulita Aguilar (did not attend), Zimmerman Library, University of New Mexico, Sue Awe (did not attend), Parish Memorial Library, University of New Mexico and Kathleen Keating, Zimmerman Library, University of New Mexico, NM
Paulita Aguilar is an Assistant Professor and the Indigenous Nations Library Program Curator for the University Libraries at the University of New Mexico.

Kathleen Keating is a Professor and the Coordinator of Reference Services for the University Libraries at the University of New Mexico.”

Directly from the Reference Renaissance site,