iSchool Awarded Federal Grant to Study Multi-library Text Reference Collaborative


Photo of Lili Luo Use of text messaging is skyrocketing, and our nation’s libraries are starting to explore new ways to tap into this increasingly popular communication platform to connect with their patrons.

Dr. Lili Luo, an assistant professor with the San José State University School of Information, will conduct the first in-depth research regarding how libraries can meet their patrons’ information-seeking needs via text messaging. Thanks to a $122,683 grant award from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Luo will conduct a two-year study of how libraries can use text messaging as a platform for providing virtual reference services, as well as how they can collaboratively deliver services and expand their ability to meet patron needs during challenging economic times.

Engaging a New Generation of Library Users: Exploring a Multi-Library Collaborative Model to Deliver Text Reference Service will investigate how text reference service is different from other types of virtual reference services (such as email and instant messaging) and how it can fulfill users’ information needs. Luo will also study whether text reference provides an opportunity for libraries to engage new users, including our nation’s teens — the fastest growing group of individuals using text messaging.

Luo will study the rich pool of data available via InfoQuest, the nation’s first large-scale collaboration by numerous libraries to provide text reference services. Launched in July 2009 by the Alliance Library System, today more than 60 libraries from multiple states participate in InfoQuest. They include a wide array of library types, including urban, suburban, and rural libraries, small and large libraries, and public, academic, school, and law libraries.

The project’s goal is to learn from InfoQuest’s innovative national model, gleaning new knowledge regarding how to implement, manage, and assess a collaborative text reference service model, as well as factors libraries should consider when deciding whether or not to participate in a text reference collaboration. Results will establish a solid understanding of the text reference user community and provide a roadmap for libraries interested in adopting texting to meet patrons’ information needs.

The Institute of Museum and Library Services, the primary source of federal support for the nation’s libraries and museums, announced the award on June 15, 2010.