OCUL’s Virtual Reference Governing Group is supportive of research involving virtual reference. User data can be made available to researchers at partner institutions for the purposes of research leading to publication. User data is not available to individuals not affiliated with Ask a Librarian partner institutions.
OCUL recognizes the value of virtual reference research to the library community. User data may be made available to researchers at partner institutions for the purposes of research leading to dissemination of results through publication, presentation or other means of distribution.
Prospective researchers are encouraged to discuss their data needs with their institution's site coordinator prior to submitting a request for data. Requests must be submitted via the appropriate form (see below). The requests are reviewed by a committee. Scholars Portal will maintain a record of all data released. When using Ask a Librarian data in research, publication or presentation, researchers are asked to acknowledge OCUL/Scholars Portal.
Two types of data are available: aggregated data, and chat-level data.
Aggregated data is available in the form of reports generated by the software used for delivering the Ask a Librarian service. These reports include data for the preceding 13 month period. Site coordinators from the participating institutions are able to extract data from a large number of existing reports, and it is sometimes possible to create custom reports. Please contact your site-coordinator to discuss what reports are available.
Because report data is aggregated, it is possible that ethics review will not be required; however, researchers should check with their institution's Research Ethics Board before submitting requests for reports.
Chat-level reports include all or parts of the transcripts of chat transactions and individual users’ responses to the pre- and post-chat surveys. In order to ensure the privacy of Ask a Librarian patrons and staff, chat-level data that will be released must be anonymized: each transcript or report must be reviewed to ensure that no identifying information is contained. Ask a Librarian site coordinators are the only individuals authorized to perform the anonymization. Chat-level data is available for the preceding 13 months, but no earlier than Sept 2013.
The collection and anonymization of transcript data is very time consuming, and for that reason researchers are strongly encouraged to consult with their institution’s site coordinator before requesting transcript data. Site coordinators have the right to reject requests for transcript data. Please note that there may be costs associated with anonymizing data.
Further, due to the confidential nature of the data being examined, researchers must receive REB approval for their research prior to chat-level data being released.
This policy takes effect September 1, 2013 and applies only to data collected after that date. Data collected before Sept. 1, 2013 can be used for internal review and service improvement only.