Monday, January 12, 2009

Chat service at Baruch College shows increasing use

As I continue to crunch last year's numbers from my college's chat reference service, I thought I would note here that the number of chat sessions requested has gone up slowly over the past three years (which is when we started using the flash-based QuestionPoint software and had access to new data points like "chat sessions requested" and "chat sessions accepted."). Here are the statistics:

2006: Number of chat sessions requested = 1722
2007: Number of chat sessions requested = 1757 (a 2% increase from previous year)
2008: Number of chat sessions requested = 1890 (an 8% increase from previous year)

I don't have any theories about why the numbers have been going up. I'm digging through old spreadsheets I made from years ago to see if any can find the comparable data from the earlier years of our chat service (2001-2006). The older software we used to use (first HumanClick, then 24/7 Reference) did not tell us how many sessions were requested; instead, they only offered how many sessions were answered, which is a different number. With HumanClick (which we used from 2001-2002), we only offered the service ten hours a week. Comparing annual data from recent years with this older data does not really make sense, as the current service allows patrons to chat around the clock.

With 24/7 Reference and QuestionPoint, the data about the number of sessions answered does not jibe with the HumanClick-era data, as the latter was used for a chat service that just covered our college alone. Once we started using 24/7 Reference and then QuestionPoint software, we found ourselves answering chat sessions not just on the Baruch College queues but also a growing cooperative of academic libraries that used the same software. Our librarians found themselves busier than ever on their two-hour shifts answering questions from Baruch patrons and those at other colleges. One thing is certain though about data from those early years; going from a service of ten hours a week to an around-the-clock cooperative chat service dramatically boosted the number of chat sessions requested on the Baruch service; suddenly our service, backed up by an army of capable librarians at colleges across the country, was able to help all those students with questions on weekends and weekday evenings, times that we never could have staffed a chat service on our own.


At 10:31 AM , Anonymous Emily said...

I'd be interested in seeing what times-of-day were most popular for chat reference. My library currently offers chat from noon to 9pm on two different platforms, and I'm wondering what impact the hours of service are having on our very low numbers. Are most of your chat sessions happening late at night on your 24/7 tool?

At 12:06 PM , Blogger Stephen Francoeur said...

Emily, I just wrote a new post in response to your question about chat traffic at different parts of the day.


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