OCLC releases new membership research report:

Seeking Synchronicity: Revelations and Recommendations for Virtual Reference


DUBLIN, Ohio, USA, July 18, 2011—A ground-breaking membership report from OCLC Research suggests that by transforming virtual reference (VR) service encounters into relationship-building opportunities, librarians can better leverage the positive feelings people have for libraries. This is critically important in a crowded online space where the biggest players often don’t have the unique experience and specific strengths offered by librarians.

The report—Seeking Synchronicity: Revelations and Recommendations for Virtual Reference—demonstrates that today’s students, scholars and citizens are not just looking to libraries for answers to specific questions—they want partners and guides in a lifelong information-seeking journey.

Produced by OCLC Research in partnership with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, the report distils more than five years of VR research, with $1.1 million in funding, into a readable summary featuring memorable quotes that vividly illustrate very specific and actionable suggestions. The Institute of Museum & Library Services provided a $684,996 grant for the underlying research and in-kind contributions worth $405,076 came from Rutgers and OCLC.

Taken from a multiphase research project that included focus group interviews, online surveys, transcript analysis and phone interviews, with VR librarians, users and non-users, these findings are meant to help practitioners develop and sustain VR services and systems. The report asserts that the “R” in “VR” needs to emphasize virtual “Relationships” as well as “Reference.” Among the topics addressed are:

  • How convenience is the “hook” that draws users into VR services
  • The exaggerated death of ready reference
  • The importance of query clarification in VR
  • Ways to boost accuracy and build better interpersonal relationships in VR
  • What can be learned from VR transcripts
  • Generational differences in how people perceive reference interactions and determine success
  • What can be learned from VR transcripts
  • Generational differences in how people perceive reference interactions and determine success
  • The need for more and better marketing of a suite of services – a “multi-asking” approach

The report’s two primary authors, Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., OCLC Senior Research Scientist, and Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor, School of Communication & Information, Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, said that the goal of their work together, which began in 2005, has been to deliver research-based recommendations that improve the VR services provided by  information professionals.

           “The purpose of this new publication,” Connaway said, “is to showcase several years’ and several hundred pages’ worth of work with a few very specific, practical suggestions for sustaining and developing VR services and systems. This short report is designed to be a quick read that is informative in boiling down results from our multi-year research project involving two teams of researchers, at OCLC and Rutgers University.”

            “It is organized into topical chapters that are illustrated with graphs and quotations that bring our findings to life,” added Radford. “We also provide an introduction that serves as an executive summary so that readers can quickly understand and apply our research findings and recommendations to immediately improve VR experiences for all users.”

View and download the report at http://www.oclc.org/reports/synchronicity. More information on the “Seeking Synchronicity” project is available at http://www.oclc.org/research/activities/synchronicity/, and other OCLC membership reports can be found at www.oclc.org/reports/.

About OCLC

Founded in 1967, OCLC is a nonprofit, membership, computer library service and research organization dedicated to the public purposes of furthering access to the world’s information and reducing library costs. More than 72,000 libraries in 170 countries have used OCLC services to locate, acquire, catalog, lend, preserve and manage library materials. Researchers, students, faculty, scholars, professional librarians and other information seekers use OCLC services to obtain bibliographic, abstract and full-text information when and where they need it. OCLC and its member libraries cooperatively produce and maintain WorldCat, the world’s largest online database for discovery of library resources. Search WorldCat on the Web at www.worldcat.org. For more information, visit www.oclc.org.


OCLC, WorldCat and WorldCat.org are trademarks/service

marks of OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

Third-party product, service and business names are trademarks/service marks of their respective owners.



Edward F. Tate III, Interim Director, Public Communications
School of Communication & Information
267.934.3475 (cell) 732.932.7500 x8012 (office)


Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey