Fourth Week: Evaluating and Improving
Objectives: To examine the reference interview through transcripts. To explore tools for service evaluation and improvement.

Required Reading          Activities         Assignments       Recommended Reading  

OrientationGetting Ready for TrainingBasic Skills & Current AwarenessThe Reference Interview Policies & Promotion24/7 Ref LogonTraining Program Overview

Required Reading
Digital Reference Evaluation
Joan M. Wasik
An excellent overview of assessment from the Virtual Reference Desk.
  • Read and evaluate a variety of chat reference transcripts.  (The trainers will e-mail these transcripts to you.)  Keep in mind the behaviors that are effective in face-to-face or telephone reference.  Do these behaviors appear in the transcripts?  Summarize your impressions of the transcripts, using these questions to frame your summary.

  • Check out the Competition by exploringGoogle Answers.  What can you learn from this commercial service that may be applicable to your virtual reference service?

  • Participate in this week’s online meeting on Service Evaluation and Continuous Improvement.  We’ll use the 24/7 Online Meeting software.  The trainers will send date, time, and instructions to you by e-mail.  Remember the Norms for Online Meetings.  Take time to think and reflect on this week's readings and activities in preparation for the online meeting.


  1. Read the article above that is marked “Required.” If you have time, take a look at the “Recommended” readings.

  2. Summarize your thoughts about the effectiveness of these chat reference transcripts and post to the VRS Training listserv. Use these questions to frame your summary.

  3. Participate actively in this week’s online meeting on Service Evaluation and Continuous Improvement. At the pre-scheduled date and time, click on the 24/7 REF LOGON button and use the Meeting Key provided by the trainers.
Recommended Reading
The Virtual Evaluation Toolkit was developed between October 2003 and July 2004 by the Statewide Virtual Reference Project. It provides tools that help libraries improve their virtual reference services, along with examples of the use of results. A generic final report based on three test site evaluations illustrates the kind of information, recommendations, and opportunities supported by the evaluation process.

Evaluating reference services in the electronic age
Jo Bell Whitlatch
Library Trends 50(2), pg. 207(12) (Fall 2001)
(via Proquest Direct, Expanded Academic Index, Academic Search Elite)
Evaluation of virtual reference service should continue to be based on the principles used to evaluate traditional face-to-face reference services and printed reference tools. These traditional methods include surveys, questionnaires, observation, interviews, and case studies, which can be modified for use in the electronic environment.

Evaluation of VRS at the University of Guelph
This page features a number of tools used at the University of Guelph in the evaluation of their virtual reference service.

Statistics, Measures and Quality Standards for Assessing Digital Reference Library Services
Charles R. McClure et al
Information Institute of Syracuse, 2002.
Read Chapter 1, "Introduction," and scan the table of contents to see the varied measurements that can be used for evaluation. (A draft version of this book is available online at )

Information for Sale: My Experience with Google Answers
Jessamyn West

First Week | Second Week | Third Week | Fourth Week | Fifth Week

Sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Reference Project, Washington State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA).

Last Modified: 11-Feb-2005