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Evidence Based Library and Information Practice




Objective – To investigate the reasons behind the cessation of 9 virtual (chat) reference services.

Design – Multiple case‐study investigation

Setting – Academic, public, and special libraries in the United States.

Subjects – Five academic libraries, 1 public library, and 3 library consortia.

Methods – The initial method used to identify discontinued chat reference services was via a posting to DIG_REF, the digital reference services listserv. From this initial posting, librarians on the list also suggested other cases, for a total of 7. Two cases later came to the authors’ attention and were added. The 9 cases included academic libraries, a public library, and consortia who used tools provided by four major software vendors, giving a good cross‐section of the types of libraries participating in VR and the major software packages available at the time. A contact person for each discontinued service was invited to participate. The participants were geographically scattered, so data were collected via e‐mail questionnaires, telephone interviews, and examination of available documents describing the services, audiences, demographics, operations, and any decision‐making processes either for starting or discontinuing the service. The authors then compared and contrasted results obtained from the 9 services. The authors analysed reasons for discontinuation of services, the decision making processes, volume of questions, service hours, marketing, evaluation, and whether the service might be restarted at some time in the future.



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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.