[WEB4LIB] Virtual reference and "chat speak"?

Sloan, Bernie bernies at uillinois.edu
Fri Nov 15 16:16:19 EST 2002

Just to clarify one thing, I was not considering whether it would be
inappropriate for virtual reference librarians to indiscriminately use chat

I was considering how often a virtual reference librarian might actually
encounter "chat speak" from users. And the preliminary answer is "not

-----Original Message-----
From: Nancy Sosna Bohm [mailto:plum at ulink.net] 
Sent: Friday, November 15, 2002 3:06 PM
To: bernies at uillinois.edu
Cc: web4lib at webjunction.org
Subject: Re: [WEB4LIB] Virtual reference and "chat speak"?

Although Bernie's findings clearly indicate that it would be
inappropriate for the virtual reference librarians to indiscriminately
use 'chat speak,' it would still probably be a good idea for those
librarians to gain familiarity 'with "chat speak"' BEFORE virtual
reference becomes ubiquitous, and a librarian is left wondering what a
patron means by 'brb' or 'btw.' The librarian's inability to speak 'chat' 
could frustrate a patron just as would a librarian's inability to speak
any language. It could also lower the librarian's credible 'techno
factor' in the eyes of the user.

On Fri, 15 Nov 2002 11:03:48 -0800 (PST) "Sloan, Bernie" wrote:

> I've heard a number of people say that librarians need to be familiar with
> "chat speak", since interactive virtual reference services generally use
> chat as a means of communication between librarian and user.
> This made me think: "Do chat reference users approach virtual reference as
> if they were in a chat room, or as if they were chatting with friends 
> using
> an instant messenger"?
> My preliminary finding can be summed up as: "A little bit, but not much."
> I searched 444 Ready for Reference session transcripts for
> occurrences of 33
> chat abbreviations, and found just two transcripts that used chat
> abbreviations. In each case the chat abbreviation was "LOL" (in the
> context
> of these transcripts, "LOL" appeared to stand for "lots of luck", rather
> than the more commonly used "laugh out loud").
> Then I decided to look for emoticons. I searched all 877 session
> transcripts
> for occurrences of three commonly used emoticons: smiling, winking, and
> frowning. Combined, these emoticons occurred in just 43 of 877
> transcripts.
> So, less than one half of one percent of 444 Ready for Reference
> transcripts
> contained chat abbreviations. Less than five percent of 877 transcripts
> contained emoticons.
> I would have to say that, at least in the case of Ready for Reference 
> users,
> chat reference users don't seem to bring informal chat language structure
> with them into the chat reference transaction. But your mileage may vary.
> Bernie Sloan
> Senior Library Information Systems Consultant, ILCSO
> University of Illinois Office for Planning and Budgeting
> 616 E. Green Street, Suite 213
> Champaign, IL  61820
> Phone: (217) 333-4895
> Fax:   (217) 265-0454
> E-mail: bernies at uillinois.edu

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