Quality information on the internet: Norwegian library students on the search


Publication date


Series/Report no

New Library World;107 (7/8)



Document type


Purpose In the autumn of 2006, two groups of students from the Faculty of Journalism, Library and Information Science at Oslo University College participated in a cooperative project with the Norwegian online reference service, Biblioteksvar.no (Ask The Library (ATL)). The students were in their third term of studies and received instruction in retrieval systems and tools. The main purpose of this paper is to evaluate the performance of the library science students in actual reference work. How satisfactory are the answers provided by the students and how informative are the various links suggested to the patrons? How relevant is the information available on the Internet in relation to the kinds of questions asked by the users of the ATL service? How well do Norwegian library students in their third term of study perform in real virtual reference work? A sample of questions and answers will be examined. In a wider perspective, the study highlights the value of this kind of educational strategy, linking library education and learning closer to the library profession. Methodology The evaluation criteria are based upon a qualitative analysis of actual questions and answers from the ATL, student summaries of their own work on the project and interviews with professional librarians working with the ATL service. A substantial amount of data has been collected during the project period. Findings How well did the students perform? Analysis of dialogues and web logs show that the students generally performed very well. This corroborates the findings from a similar project last year. The students’ answers had the same level of quality as the responses supplied by professional, experienced librarians working on the ATL service. Possible reasons for this result are discussed. The study confirms the importance of the reference interview for increasing the quality of the responses. Practical implications The results of the study indicate that the ATL service should not only provide links to information sources in response to user questions but should also include a short explanation of how the links are found. Further, patron satisfaction surveys are useful. The collection of contextual data about the question and the patron may improve the quality of the response from the service. It is recommended that the SMS-based service be included in the student project next year so that the students will have the opportunity to participate in all three of the currently available ATL services (chat, e-mail and SMS) from Biblioteksvar.no. Originality/value The paper may inspire other faculties and schools of information studies to cooperate more closely with the library profession and to prepare students for their future careers as reference librarians through participation in actual reference work from a relatively early stage in the program of study. The project described in this paper illustrates the change from traditional lecture-based teaching to problem-based learning in projects as outlined in The Quality Reform in Norwegian Higher Education. Key words Reference services, Internet, Student skills Paper type Case study



Postprint version of article published in New Library World. Original article can be found at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/03074800710763626

Permanent URL (for citation purposes)

  • http://hdl.handle.net/10642/358