National Museum of American Art Reference Desk:
A Use Analysis of an E-mail Reference Desk
Laura Sowers
GCI Information Services, Census Bureau Library
Suitland, MD
Marilyn Domas White
College of Library and Information Services
University of Maryland, College Park, MD
E-mail addresses:,
        This paper presents partial findings of a multi-part study characterizing the use of the digital reference service offered by NMAA and assessing its effectiveness in meeting the information needs of the clients.  The multi-part study is based on a survey of a sample of clients submitting questions to NMAA's reference desk between June 1997 and May 198 and an analysis of their questions and responses.  This paper presents the findings of the survey which looks at the following research questions: The relevant population consisted of individuals who had submitted questions between June 1997 and May 1998.  The user study, one of the few that have been done by outside researchers for an electronic question/answer service in a non-academic library, raises interesting questions about methodologies for user studies of virtual audiences and users' expectations in the electronic environment.

    Paper presented at Virtual Reference Desk Annual Conference, October 1999, Cambridge, MA.

November 28, 1999