Research Proposal Draft Abstract

This study explores users’ opinions on different models of reference service at one academic library. In recent years, some libraries have embraced alternative models of reference service, such as virtual reference, “embedded librarians,” and the “Brandeis-model.” In anticipation of a move to a new library, administrators of a large research university, appointed a team to select or develop a model that will serve users of the new library most effectively. A professional moderator will conduct nine focus groups, consisting of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members who are both users and non-users of the library. The aim is to gather qualitative data on users’ research needs and processes, and their opinions each service model. In order to solicit informed opinions of multiple reference models, the groups will be asked for their reactions to computer-generated simulations that demonstrate each model of service. The reactions will be audiotaped, transcribed, coded and classified, and then analyzed to determine preferences of service from the participants. Although the preferences identified through this simulated approach may not be generalizable to all reference environments, the results may be of application to other academic libraries considering various reference models but lacking funds for their own user studies.

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