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Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship
Winter 2002

Letters

From: Bruce Slutsky
E-mail: bruce.slutsky@njit.edu
Affiliation: Technical Reference Librarian, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Regarding: Chat Reference Service: An Analysis of One Semester's Data

My library experimented with the free version of Human Click. There is a "down side" to chat reference service that was not discussed in this article:

  1. In 95% of the time the transaction can be completed more quickly through a telephone conversation.
  2. Very often the sender goes away from the chat, or the librarian may have to deal with an in-person customer. After a period of time you must conclude that the chat is finished.
  3. Our most common question was "Do you have any openings for students in the library"? In one case I walked around the computers in the library and I found the student who was sending us the chat.
  4. In another case a student asked do we have a specific book. I could tell from the IP address that the person was chatting from a PC in the library. I asked that person to come to the reference desk, but the chat died.
  5. People on the chat seem to be very demanding. One person actually told me twice to hurry up!
  6. Chatters don't seem to know the expression "Thank You." The most gratifying experience as a reference librarian is getting that Thank You at the end of a transaction.
  7. One chat was obscene. I told the student if I knew who he was I would report him to the Dean.

From: Philip Davis
E-mail: pmd8@cornell.edu
Affiliation: Life Sciences Bibliographer, Albert R. Mann Library, Cornell University
Regarding: Citation Analysis of Chemistry Doctoral Dissertations: An Ohio State University Case Study
[See below for the author's response]

I'm a new reader of ISTL and hope that my comments are appropriate. They are meant for the author and the board of reviewers.

I really enjoyed reading Gooden's paper, but thought that the author needed to go much, much further in the analysis, interpretation and discussion of the data.

Gooden provides a list of the top 20 "core" journals, which represent 61% of the titles cited in the sample. I was a bit puzzled why 20 was arbitrarily chosen as the "core set?" Why 20? Typically, researchers look at the number of titles which satisfy 80% of the citations. Those who use the Bradford method will plot the cumulative frequencies on a semi-log graph and select those titles which for the initial curved section of the graph.

I was also looking for a comparison of these top titles to other studies that have been done for chemistry collections. Are graduate students unique in the information they cite? Can we learn anything additional from them that we don't already know from faculty citation studies? Does Gooden's list compare to what is highly cited in Chemistry as a whole? (i.e., Citation counts in JCR). Do these results compare with circulation statistics? How does it compare with other institutions? This study used a random sample of 30 dissertations, but we don't have an idea on whether this sample is good representation of the population of 117 dissertations. In sum, I want to know why this study is not merely an artifact of the sample, or of Ohio State University.

Lastly, Gooden collects information about the publication date of the cited references but doesn't go beyond mentioning the oldest citation (c1817). It would be really interesting to see a histogram, or a box plot of how the age of cited materials is distributed. The implications of this work are important for maintaining print archives. For instance, if researchers rarely use the older material, could they be moved off site?

So, while I enjoyed reading this article, it left me with way too many questions on the relevance of this study to other studies in the literature.

Two additional very excellent studies of a chemistry collection:

Chrzastowski, Tina E. 1991. Journal collection cost-Effectiveness in an academic chemistry library: results of a cost/use survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Collection Management 14(1-2): 85-98.

Chrzastowski, Tina E. and Brian M. Olesko. 1997. Chemistry journal use and cost: results of a longitudinal study. Library Resources and Technical Services 41(2): 101-111.

From: Angela Gooden
E-mail: angela.gooden@uc.edu
Affiliation: Head, Geology/Physics Library, University of Cincinnati
Regarding: Citation Analysis of Chemistry Doctoral Dissertations: An Ohio State University Case Study
[The author's response is in bold face.]

I'm a new reader of ISTL and hope that my comments are appropriate. They are meant for the author and the board of reviewers.

I really enjoyed reading Gooden's paper, but thought that the author needed to go much, much further in the analysis, interpretation and discussion of the data.

Gooden provides a list of the top 20 "core" journals, which represent 61% of the titles cited in the sample. I was a bit puzzled why 20 was arbitrarily chosen as the "core set?" Why 20? Typically, researchers look at the number of titles which satisfy 80% of the citations. Those who use the Bradford method will plot the cumulative frequencies on a semi-log graph and select those titles which for the initial curved section of the graph. [Twenty journals were selected based on their frequency of citation to emphasize that out of the 441 cited journals only this small (20) number was needed to "satisfy 61% of the journals in this study."]

I was also looking for a comparison of these top titles to other studies that have been done for chemistry collections. Are graduate students unique in the information they cite? Can we learn anything additional from them that we don't already know from faculty citation studies? Does Gooden's list compare to what is highly cited in Chemistry as a whole? (i.e., Citation counts in JCR). [Interesting, perhaps a comparison for me to make in a later article.] Do these results compare with circulation statistics? [Good point. However, consistent circulation statistics for this time period were not available and comparison of the two would not differentiate between doctoral students and other patrons. Perhaps this comparison could be useful when making cancellation choices (not an issue at OSU-SEL at that time).] How does it compare with other institutions? [Something I'd like to know as well. You will recall that I stated that "it would be beneficial to replicate this study at some of the other twenty universities and compare the results".] This study used a random sample of 30 dissertations, but we don't have an idea on whether this sample is good representation of the population of 117 dissertations. In sum, I want to know why this study is not merely an artifact of the sample, or of Ohio State University. [According to Krathwohl, "probability sampling enables us to make inferences about the nature of the population. All probability samples involve random sampling of units from the population at some stage in the sampling process. Random sampling requires that each unit of the population have an equal chance of being selected." Krathwohl, David. 1991. Methods of Educational and Social Science Research: An Integrated Approach. White Plains, NY: Longman.]

Lastly, Gooden collects information about the publication date of the cited references but doesn't go beyond mentioning the oldest citation (c1817). It would be really interesting to see a histogram, or a box plot of how the age of cited materials is distributed. The implications of this work are important for maintaining print archives. For instance, if researchers rarely use the older material, could they be moved off site? [Excellent point. Histograms for the top twenty journals have been created and could be used in conjunction with other local statistics to move items off site.]

So, while I enjoyed reading this article, it left me with way too many questions on the relevance of this study to other studies in the literature. [Thank you for taking the time to read my article and give your comments. -- Angela M. Gooden]

Two additional very excellent studies of a chemistry collection:

Chrzastowski, Tina E. 1991. Journal collection cost-Effectiveness in an academic chemistry library: results of a cost/use survey at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Collection Management 14(1-2): 85-98.

Chrzastowski, Tina E. and Brian M. Olesko. 1997. Chemistry journal use and cost: results of a longitudinal study. Library Resources and Technical Services 41(2): 101-111.

[Gooden chart #1]

Legend:
A: Angewandte chemie 27
B: Tetrahedron 30
C: Molecular physics 31
D: Journal of molecular biology 33
E: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 35
F: Journal of chromatography 42

[Gooden chart #2]

Legend:
G: Acta crystallographica 47
H: Inorganic chemistry 53
I: Journal of the Chemical Society 58
J: Science 60
K: Nature 70
L: Journal of biological chemistry 71

[Gooden chart #3]

Legend:
M: Journal of organic chemistry 81
N: Biochemistry 89
O: Tetrahedron letters 96
P: Analytical chemistry 100
Q: Chemical physics letters 144
R: Journal of physical chemistry 175
S: Journal of chemical physics 341
T: Journal of the American Chemical Society 364

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