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Chat reference: evaluating customer service and IL instruction

Julie Hunter (Western Connecticut State University, Danbury, Connecticut, USA)
Samantha Kannegiser (Rutgers University Camden, Camden, New Jersey, USA)
Jessica Kiebler (Berkeley College, White Plains, New York, USA)
Dina Meky (Berkeley College, Woodbridge, New Jersey, USA)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 31 May 2019

Issue publication date: 12 June 2019




Reflecting on the new ACRL Framework, a deficiency was observed in literature on the assessment of information literacy instruction in chat reference. An evaluation of recent chat transactions was undertaken and the purpose of the study was twofold. The purpose of this study is to discover if and how librarians were teaching information literacy skills in chat reference transactions and identify best practices to develop training and resources.


To start, a literature review was performed to identify current industry standards. A rubric, influenced by the ACRL Framework, was developed to evaluate chat transactions from one semester. Results from the assessment were compiled and interpreted to determine current practices.


This study identified the necessity of balancing customer service and instruction to manage student expectations and encourage successful chats. Best practices and strategies that librarians can use to provide a well-rounded service were culled for the development of training and resources.


Reference assumes a large portion of the services that academic librarians provide to students. As technology advances, librarians are relying on virtual platforms, including chat reference, as convenient and useful tools to provide reference services to the academic community. While face-to-face reference encourages information literacy instruction, it is challenging to perform the same instruction in a virtual setting where expectations are based on retail models. With the growing use of virtual services, evaluating the success of chat reference based on industry standards is imperative.



Hunter, J., Kannegiser, S., Kiebler, J. and Meky, D. (2019), "Chat reference: evaluating customer service and IL instruction", Reference Services Review, Vol. 47 No. 2, pp. 134-150.



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