IFLA Satellite meeting on Information Literacy and reference services .
This reports on a study of academic libraries in North America, looking at provision and marketing of digital reference services. They selected a random sample of 362 universities (14% of the total population), and they examined the websites of each of these institutions. They were looking for asynchronous and synchronous digital reference services. For 21 universities, they couldn't access the information (e.g. password protected website) but they were included for the purpose of calculating percentages.
Some results: 68% provided reference on their main page (e.g. pop up chat box) and "Ask a librarian was most popular title for the service. 47% libraries provided chat, 31% (of the the total population, not of those who used chat) placed the chat box on a sub page and 16% on the front page. LibraryH3lp was the most used chat programme, and Questionpoint was the next most popular. Most people who provided chat used in-house staff. There was also a percentage who used consortia to provide the service. IM was not so popular: 6.6% used instant messaging. About 12% used a "knowledge base" i.e. a searchable FAQ, mostly using Springshare software. 23.8% used text messaging. 65% had a special email for reference questions, but the rest only gave general emails.
After making all these observations, the researchers looked at how many of the channels the libraries offer: no-one offered all of them, and only 3 offered all but one. The largest group was of the libraries who offered three channels (with chat and email being the most common). Then the researchers looked at key variables of the institutions e.g. size, type of institution, library hours. There were correlations between highest degree and type of institution and provision of chat (e.g. the unis offered PhDs and public universities were more likely to offer chat).
Photo by Sheila Webber: in the "pod" at the top of the National Library of Singapore