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Journal ArticleDOI

Learning to Provide 3D Virtual Reference: A Library Science Assignment

11 Dec 2009-Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning (Appalachian State University)-Vol. 3, Iss: 3, pp 138-147

TL;DR: This paper discusses one class assignment, in which the students were paired together to role play the reference interaction between a librarian and student in a 3D virtual learning community, and discusses the students’ reactions to working as a virtual librarian.
Abstract: In spring semester 2009, two of the authors taught LIB 5020—Information Sources & Services to graduate library science students at Appalachian State University. The course covers information seeking patterns and provides an overview of reference services. The course is also designed to examine and evaluate library reference materials and other information sources (print, audiovisual and electronic) used in support of informational and recreational needs of youth and adults. This paper discusses one class assignment, in which the students were paired together to role play the reference interaction between a librarian and student in a 3D virtual learning community. This paper reports the assignment's evolution, learning objectives, discusses the students’ reactions to working as a virtual librarian, and includes ways to improve the assignment in the future.
Topics: Reference interview (63%), Information literacy (55%), Distance education (54%), Information seeking (52%)

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Archived version from NCDOCKS Institutional Repository http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/asu/
Johnson, M., Purpur, G., Abbott, L. (2009) Learning to Provide 3D Virtual Reference: A Library Science
Assignment. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 3(3-4): 138-147.
Published by Taylor & Francis (ISSN: 1533-2918). DOI:10.1080/15332900903375341. The version of
record is available from: www.tandfonline.com
Learning to Provide 3-D Virtual Reference: A
Library Science Assignment
Megan Johnson, Geraldine Purpur, and Lisa T. Abbott
Abstract:
In Spring Semester 2009, two of the authors taught LIB 5020 - Information Sources &
Services to graduate library science students at Appalachian State University. The course
covers information seeking patterns and provides an overview of reference services. The course
is also designed to examine and evaluate library reference materials and other information
sources (print, audiovisual and electronic) used in support of informational and recreational
needs of youth and adults. This paper discusses one class assignment, in which the students
were paired together to role play the reference interaction between a librarian and student in a
3D virtual learning community. This paper reports the assignment’s evolution, learning
objectives, discusses the students’ reactions to working as a virtual librarian, and includes ways
to improve the assignment in the future.

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Background:
Appalachian State University (ASU) uses a 3D, immersive, web-based world, called the
AETZone (Appalachian Education Technology Zone) . The AETZone is used by four distance
education graduate programs: Instructional Technology, School Administration, Library
Science, and Higher Education. It facilitates instructional delivery, provision of library support
and services, and collaboration across programs. The 3D virtual learning environment also
promotes active engagement between students, faculty, and librarians and a strong sense of
online community.
The virtual library in the AETZone, the Information Gardens, was designed and built by
the Distance Learning Library Services Team at ASU. The Team delivers research support,
library instruction, and access to library resources to all off-campus students which include
students taking classes and faculty teaching in the AETZone. Within the Zone, methods of
communication include avatar gestures, text-chat, and VoIP (voice over internet). Metaphors
are used throughout the Information Gardens to represent real world objects and they link to
resources and information. Over the avatar, the user’s name is displayed, so one of the
author’s label, for example, is “Librarian Geri” in the AETZone.
The Library Science Program at Appalachian State University offers a Master's of Library
Science (MLS) degree in School and Public Libraries. The program is a major educator of
school and public librarians for North Carolina and is accredited by the National Council for
Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and by the North Carolina Public Library
Commission.
In Spring 2009, there were seven graduate students enrolled in the Information Sources
& Services course. All the students had work experience in North Carolina Public Schools. All
were just beginning their graduate work for a MLS degree and none had experience doing

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traditional library reference work. This class was unique in that it was an on-campus class
which met face-to-face, but had online aspects such as using both the AETZone and the open-
source online course management software, Moodle (locally branded as “AsUlearn).
Assignment history and preparation:
The first time this assignment was given was Spring 2008. The Distance Learning
Library Services Team designed the assignment collaboratively with a Library Science faculty
member who offers many classes in the AETZone. During a two week period, each library
science student spent two to three hours in the Information Gardens as a virtual reference
librarian. Their task was to assist other real students who were in-world. A professional
AETZone librarian was present to mentor and guide the library science students as they
interacted with the real students. Questions asked and answered were logged in an online
database. After the assignment was complete, the students, librarians, and faculty reflected on
what did and did not work. Students became familiar with navigating in the Information Gardens
and retrieving resources. Some of the students got practice doing reference interviews, but not
all- just like at a physical reference desk, sometimes the questions were service or access
related.
Some of the problematic aspects were:
Lack of questions or traffic in the Information Gardens. Depending on class
times and point in the semester, sometimes were busier than others.
Poor labeling. In the AETZone, a user’s name appears over their avatar. A name
does not indicate a person’s function and therefore real students in the
Information Gardens did not recognize a role-playing reference librarian.

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The Distance Learning Library Services Team brainstormed ideas to make this a more
meaningful and effective assignment. During Spring Semester 2009, the authors presented the
revised assignment. An Information Gardens scavenger hunt was included as the first step.
The goals of the scavenger hunt were to: 1) orient students to the location of library resources
within the Information Gardens, 2) inform them about services for off-campus students, and 3)
provide experience finding material in the online catalog and library databases. Students
enjoyed this exercise and found it helpful in learning how the Gardens were organized. One
student reflected,I think that doing the scavenger hunt exercise really helped me prepare for
the online reference interview. I didn’t realize that I would be a bit nervous. Although I was not
physically talking in person, I still felt pressure to find the correct resources in the Zone to
answer the questions asked by the patron.
Additionally, the students were required to read the RUSA Guidelines for Implementing
and Maintaining a Virtual Reference Service (MARS Committee 2004). The Guidelines were
reviewed in class and the differences in providing traditional virtual reference service and 3D-
world virtual reference service were discussed. These differences are evident in presence,
staffing, location, provision of service.
Presence: According to the RUSA Guidelines, “Virtual reference is reference service initiated
electronically, often in real-time, where patrons employ computers or other Internet technology
to communicate with reference staff, without being physically present. Traditional virtual
reference takes place in an isolated environment while the 3D virtual reality setting promotes a
strong sense of community and co-presence not found in a traditional virtual reference setting.
Although citizens are not physically present in the AETZone, their avatars are virtually present.
This virtual presence enables librarians to offer research support in a more active manner, as
they are able to move throughout the world, initiating conversations with a gesture, via text chat,
or verbally using web-conferencing software.

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Staffing: In traditional virtual reference service, most libraries have scheduled times when the
chat or e-mail service is monitored. In the AETZone Information Gardens that is not the case.
Librarians log in more randomly, and try to be in-world during night class sessions or weekends
when many distance learning students will be doing assignments.
Location: Many traditional virtual reference services require the monitoring librarian to be in the
library and at a library workstation in order to receive and respond to chat. ASU Distance
Learning Librarians can use any computer with Internet access, easily install the ActiveWorlds
software and enter the Information Gardens to provide service.
Provision of service: Traditional virtual reference service often receives requests from
unaffiliated users, which requires clear service parameters. In the AETZone, the population is
limited to students who are currently enrolled in the programs and the teaching faculty. Entering
the world requires a username and password which is granted via the teaching faculty. The
scope of service also differs. In traditional virtual reference, the level of service is usually limited
to short reference questions. For longer questions, users are sometimes asked to call or come
in. And follow-up may take place with email after more extensive research can be completed. In
the AETZone, librarians attempt to answer all questions, regardless of time spent via the chat
interface or the web-conferencing software.
Assignment details and Learning Objectives:
The assignment had three Learning Objectives : 1) to build student skills in conducting a
reference interview, 2) to give students the experience of providing virtual reference service in a
3D web-based virtual world, and 3) to allow students to reflect and report on their experience.
Students were paired with another student to form a team. Each team chose a time to be
present in the Information Gardens to complete the assignment. A professional Distance
Learning AETZone librarian was assigned to mentor and assist during these sessions. Student

Citations
More filters

Journal ArticleDOI
Geraldine Purpur1, Jon Levi Morris1Institutions (1)
Abstract: This article reports on the cognitive and affective development of students being mentored in virtual reference interview skills by professional librarians. The authors present a case study which examines the impact on student learning resulting from librarian mentor participation and collaboration with students on a course assignment. This study explores student reflections on the role of librarian mentoring in relation to perception and effectiveness, learning, confidence gained, and value of professional assessment.

5 citations


Cites background from "Learning to Provide 3D Virtual Refe..."

  • ...…the following learning objectives: (1) to build student skills in conducting a reference interview, (2) to give students the experience of providing virtual reference service in a 3D Web-based virtual world, and (3) to allow students to reflect and report on their experience (Johnson et al., 2009)....

    [...]

  • ...The following year, the assignment evolved to include the following learning objectives: (1) to build student skills in conducting a reference interview, (2) to give students the experience of providing virtual reference service in a 3D Web-based virtual world, and (3) to allow students to reflect and report on their experience (Johnson et al., 2009)....

    [...]


Book ChapterDOI
01 Jan 2013
Abstract: This chapter shares the development and implementation of a redesigned Information Sources and Services course and presents a case study that examines the impact of that course on student learning. The revised course applies Presence Pedagogy incorporating epistemic framing through extended role-play and the use of experienced mentors in a three-dimensional immersive virtual environment. Also examined are: changes in students’ comfort level while playing the role of reference librarian, their technology skills and confidence, similarities and dissimilarities between the game role and an imagined real-life role, students’ comfort level with the presence of a mentor, and their incorporating mentor suggestions. Nita J. Matzen Appalachian State University, USA Kim Becnel Appalachian State University, USA Geraldine Purpur Appalachian State University, USA

5 citations


Book ChapterDOI
01 Jan 2013
Abstract: This chapter explores technologically driven changes to distance education librarianship and their impact on the job responsibilities of librarians. It examines the necessary skills in the areas of technology, communication, networking, and roles that have emerged in distance education librarianship both globally and at Appalachian State University (ASU). These include: virtual reference librarian, Web librarian, course-integrated and/or instructional librarian, avatar librarian, and marketing librarian. Also discussed are collaboration and leadership opportunities for distance education librarians within the library and campus-wide, as a result of knowledge and expertise gained from providing library support to distance education students. This chapter will be relevant to administrators and practitioners as they make choices concerning library science curricula, hiring, and continuing education decisions. Lisa Abbott Appalachian State University, USA Martha Kreszock Appalachian State University, USA Louise Ochoa Columbia College, USA Geraldine Purpur Appalachian State University, USA

Performance
Metrics
No. of citations received by the Paper in previous years
YearCitations
20151
20132