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The Reference Librarian

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This study investigated the types of questions asked in an academic online reference chat service to ascertain the level of library staff expertise needed to answer the questions. The transcripts from a large academic library were analyzed to determine both the type of questions asked, and the complexity of the reference questions asked. The data showed that 75% of the questions asked were non-reference, 17% of the questions asked were ready-reference, and 8.6% of the questions asked were in-depth or complex reference questions. Library staff with the capacity to answer both circulation and general reference questions would have the optimum level of expertise needed for staffing the types of questions asked through chat reference.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in The Reference Librarian on September 10, 2018, available online:

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