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The Internet and Reference Services: A Real-World Test of Internet Utility
Joseph R. Zumalt and Robert W. Pasicznyuk
Reference & User Services Quarterly
Vol. 38, No. 2 (1998), pp. 165-172
Published by: American Library Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20863496
Page Count: 8
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Many libraries now provide Internet access for their patrons and staff or are planning to do so. The push toward Internet access in libraries is proceeding despite the fact that establishing and supporting access is time-consuming, expensive, and fraught with political and policy implications. How useful is the Internet in carrying out the mission of contemporary libraries? Given that library budgets are finite with extreme demands for diversified collections and services, what gains, if any, should library professionals expect from the investment in network connectivity? This study seeks to test the Internet's effectiveness at an important facet of library practice—answering reference questions. Researchers conducted a three-fold test of Internet effectiveness: depth, accuracy, and durability. Using a variety of search tools, they found that the Internet could provide answers to a significant percentage of actual reference questions. There was little significant difference between the accuracy of information obtained through Internet sources and traditional reference sources. The Internet sites showed surprising durability throughout the project.
Reference & User Services Quarterly © 1998 American Library Association