Carol Tenopir’s March 1 column in Library Journal describes research by Marie Radford Lynn Silipigni Connaway into the social dynamics of chat, particularly in the relationship between librarians & patrons.
“They find that chat reference conversations are full of interpersonal ‘relational facilitators‘ and ‘relational barriers.‘“
Facilitators include “providing information about oneself, offering reassurance, using humor and informal language, and demonstrating interest or approval“, while barriers can include the librarians’ nemesis “negative closure”, such as an abrupt end to the session with a robotic script.
Overall, Tenopir reports that “positive relational facilitators outnumber relational barriers in chat transcripts by a ratio of 9 to 1 for librarians and about 3.5 to 1 for patrons. When informal, nonverbal, unscripted, positive interactions are initiated by the librarian, chances for a positive interaction and positive response from the patron increase.“