Digital reference access points: an analysis of usage

Abstract:Lewis & DeGroote measure and then report on digital access point usage in their library.

The authors focused in their research on measuring digital access point usage via different:

  • user statuses,
  • communication technologies (email and chat), and
  • types of questions (lists seven general and twenty specific).

The access points they investigate are:

  • library web pages via banner links and links on department pages;
  • online catalog;
  • major subscription databases;
  • course management software; and
  • Open WorldCat.

They find that:

  • usage is mostly by students via email and the library web site;
  • the general question types are mostly ready reference and instructional; and
  • the specific question types are mostly regarding library holdings, circulation/interlibrary loan, and getting help finding articles for specific topics.

They conclude that libraries should use more digital access points because they give customers "the opportunity to obtain digital reference help when and where they needed it."


I'm glad that Lewis & DeGroote focused on access points, but I can imagine a research project that measures user awareness and satisfaction, as well as doing a more complete job of comparing access points and technologies. The unequal application of chat and email opportunities, as well as of access points, begs for another study.

Likewise, a more longitudinal study is needed to measure whether more brand awareness of digital reference services and equal application across points and technologies would change the usage patterns.

Also, I would keep "control" data, as well, of phone and in-person reference via an online reference tracking tool.

My immediate thought: this library needs more signage, as well as online frequently asked questions and research guides to address these pain points that customers are clearly communicating.

Lewis, K. M., & DeGroote, S. L. (2008). Digital reference access points: an analysis of usage. Reference Services Review, 36(2), 194-204. Retrieved November 1, 2008, from Emerald Fulltext.