The Teaching Librarian

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Digital Reference

Web Forms

Most reference librarians know how hard it can sometimes be to discover just what the user at the desk really wants. The literature about the reference interaction is full of examples of miscommunication and misunderstandings (on the part of both librarian and user). In an online reference setting, the librarian can structure the user's request for help somewhat by having the user fill out a form asking the the kind of clarifying questions librarians use during reference interviews. Many library web sites ask users in need of assistance to fill out a web form while online and with the click of a button send it on to the library.

Web Forms vs. E-mail Reference

  • e-mail reference only provides an e-mail address for users to send queries to; user writes whatever he or she wants to in the e-mail, whereas a web form has boxes asking specific questions that the user has to fill out before sending
  • an e-mail reference query can be sent by the user without having go on to the web; a web form can only be filled out and sent while the user is on the web site of the library

Examples of Libraries with Web Forms for Reference Service

Forms of Digital Reference

E-mail Reference

Chat Reference Collaborative Networks

E-mail your comments or suggestions to Stephen Francoeur

Last updated: December 26, 2001