Title

Social Question and Answer Services Versus Library Virtual Reference: Evaluation and Comparison from the Users' Perspective

Publication Title

Information Research

Publication Date

12-2014

Document Type

Article

Keywords

question and answer services, social, virtual reference, libraries, users

Disciplines

Library and Information Science

Abstract

Introduction. In recent years, the introduction of social question and answer services and other Internet tools have expanded the ways in which people have their questions answered. There has been speculation and debate over whether such services and other Internet tools are replacing library virtual reference services.

Method. Most previous research on the comparison between social question and answer services and virtual reference has been conducted from the perspectives of libraries or library users, and research based on social question and answer services users' viewpoints has not yet been explored. This study surveyed Yahoo! Answers users on their awareness, use, and evaluation of the social question and answer services site and virtual reference.

Analysis. The survey data from multiple-choice questions, fill-in, and open-ended questions were analysed using SPSS for a quantitative summary.


Results. The findings of this study show that social question and answer services and virtual reference have their own strengths and weaknesses in serving various user needs and in meeting the expectations of an online or virtual service, based on important user-identified considerations.


Conclusions. The notion that social question and answer services will take over virtual reference is not supported. As they stand, virtual reference and social question and answer services have great potential for collaboration in meeting user information needs. The practical implications of the findings to virtual reference are also discussed.