A Virtual Standoff – Using Q Methodology to Analyze Virtual Reference

Aaron Shrimplin, Susan Hurst

Abstract


Abstract

Objective - To develop an exploratory understanding of reference librarians’ perceptions of virtual reference.

Methods – Q methodology was used to uncover points of view about virtual reference. Thirty-four librarians sorted 28 statements covering a wide range of opinions about virtual reference. Factor analysis was used to analyze the Q-sorts and factor scores were calculated to aid the task of understanding and interpretation.

Results - The factor analysis revealed three attitudinal typologies: Technophiles, Traditionalists, and Pragmatists. Each factor represents a group of reference librarians who think similarly about virtual reference.

Conclusions - This type of analysis provides data on the actual range of feelings and attitudes about providing virtual reference services. The factor analysis demonstrates that there are still a variety of strongly held viewpoints concerning virtual reference. Convergence towards either acceptance or rejection does not appear to be forthcoming.
By using this type of analysis and the resulting data as a basis for decision making, administrators could staff services more efficiently and with the resulting better fit between librarians and their positions, possibly increase morale.

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