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Let’s chat: the art of virtual reference instruction

Sandy Hervieux (McGill University, Montreal, Canada)
Nikki Tummon (McGill University, Montreal, Canada)

Reference Services Review

ISSN: 0090-7324

Article publication date: 30 October 2018

Issue publication date: 21 November 2018




This study aims to evaluate the instances of information literacy instruction within the virtual reference system of a Canadian university library.


Coding and analysis of a sample of chat transcripts over the course of one academic year have been used.


The analysis indicated that over 50 per cent of virtual reference interactions do not lend themselves to information literacy instruction. An average of 23.6 per cent of interactions included information literacy instruction and the preferred methods of instruction were modelling and resource sharing.


While previous studies have focused on information literacy instruction provided in a virtual reference setting, this study aims to identify not only instances of information literacy but also to better understand the nature of chat queries by codifying instances of a transactional nature. The results could lead to improved best practices for chat reference, enhanced staff training and varied promotion and delivery of not just virtual reference services but of other library services as well. A portion of this research project, including partial results for the Fall semester, was presented at the LILAC Conference in Liverpool in April 2018.



Hervieux, S. and Tummon, N. (2018), "Let’s chat: the art of virtual reference instruction", Reference Services Review, Vol. 46 No. 4, pp. 529-542.



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