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Digital reference access points: an analysis of usage

Krystal M. Lewis (University of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Sandra L. DeGroote (University of Illinois at Chicago, Peoria, Illinois, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 16 May 2008




The purpose of this paper is to show how an academic library added access points to its digital reference service outside its traditional library web pages (e.g. online catalog, subscription databases). It seeks to determine whether, how, and to what extent these access points were used by patrons.


Almost 1,200 chat, e‐mail, and instant message digital reference transactions were examined. The data collected included: status of user; format by which questions were submitted (chat, e‐mail, IM); subject area of the question; type of question, and the access point from which the patron submitted the question. The data were analyzed using SPSS statistical software.


Patrons used the access points in external resources over 25 per cent of the time. They took advantage of the access points as their research needs arose. An increase in the amount of reference transactions received was observed after the addition of the external access points.

Practical implications

This study may be useful in planning, administering, and staffing digital reference services.


This is currently the only comprehensive study that has examined digital reference transactions in multiple formats, the correlation between access point and information need, and the impact of adding access points to digital reference in external resources.



Lewis, K.M. and DeGroote, S.L. (2008), "Digital reference access points: an analysis of usage", Reference Services Review, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 194-204.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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