“Ask a librarian”: Comparing virtual reference services in an Israeli academic library

Riki Greenberg, Judit Bar-Ilan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study considered two Web-based virtual reference services (VRS) at an academic library in Israel: chat (116 interactions) and email (213 exchanges). The contents of a set of questions and answers in both VRS services were analyzed, along with an open-ended questionnaire administered to the library's reference team (n=16). Differences were found in the question and answer distributions. Face-to-face reference is preferred by the librarians although they acknowledge that the best fitting service is dependent on the users' preferences and their information needs. •Two types of VR services, chat and email, were used differently by academic library patrons.•In chat VR service, in most cases patrons did not fulfill their information needs.•Face-to-face reference service was preferred by librarians.•Librarians felt that the “best” reference service is the one that suits users' needs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalLibrary and Information Science Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


  • Analysis
  • Information services
  • Information services industry
  • University and college libraries


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