Covid-19 and Access to Information: Analyzing the Questions Raised from the Simultaneous Dialogue Portal of the Virtual Reference of the National Library and Records Organization of Iran

Document Type : Original Article


1 Master's degree, Department of Knowledge and Information Science, expert of virtual reference department, National Library of Iran, Tehran, Iran

2 Ph.D., Department of Knowledge and Information Science, General Director of Information, National Library of Iran, Tehran, Iran

3 Master's degree, Department of Information Science and Epistemology, Head of Special Services and Reference Department, National Library of Iran, Tehran, Iran


Purpose: During the Covid-19 pandemic, libraries around the world were faced with difficult choices in how to offer and provide services, from minimal restrictions to complete closure. The spread of the Covid-19 disease, the closure of the National Library, and the lack of face-to-face services made the National Library and Archives of Iran (NLAI) expand its virtual reference services compared to before and try to improve its activities in this area. In this regard, the present study aims to analyze the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the questions received through the virtual reference portal of NLAI. Therefore, the questions raised from this virtual reference portal during the two years of 2018 and 2019 and the level of satisfaction of users with this service were examined.
Method: To conduct this research, the content analysis of the questions and the quantitative analysis of the transactions were done. The duration of each transaction, the subject of the questions raised, and the level of user satisfaction with the virtual reference portal of the NLAI were evaluated. For this purpose, the transactions carried out through the virtual reference portal of NLAI included 3098 transactions extracted in 2019. In order to analyze the content of each conversation and answer the basic questions of the research, sampling was done using Morgan's table and 341 cases were selected. Since more than one question was asked in some transactions, 1931 questions were examined.
Findings: The findings showed that the number of questions received through the simultaneous dialogue portal of the virtual reference has increased significantly during the epidemic due to the increase in the service delivery hours. 47.8% of the content of the questions asked was related to library services, 28.35% related to how to access resources, 8.02% related to research questions and searching for a specific topic, 8.07% related to searching in the national bibliography of Iran and finally 7.76% related to access to databases. It was informative. The satisfaction level of 90.4% of users of the simultaneous chat service is described as "excellent". The 6-fold increase in the use of the simultaneous chat portal shows that users welcome the increase in the hours of this virtual reference portal. The amount of simultaneous conversations has increased from 508 in 2018 to 3098 in 2019. On average, 5 questions are asked in each transaction. The most users of the simultaneous conversation service are in the humanities department and the least are related to the medical sciences department. One of the reasons for the welcome of the Humanities Department to the virtual reference services of the National Library is the method of collecting data for research in this study group, which is mostly based on library studies.
Conclusion: One of the most important actions of the National Library in the early days of the Covid-19 epidemic and after closing the library, in order to develop information services and help meet the information needs of members and users, was to increase the hours of simultaneous conversation. In this way, simultaneous conversation with users, in addition to meeting their information needs, provided a good opportunity to receive feedback and reasonable expectations of users from library services, which led to the provision of new services. The service of preparing digital copies of books, non-books, and periodical resources, respecting the intellectual property of the resources, was one of the important services that were launched in order to meet the needs of users, and currently, this service is available electronically for all members and non-members of the National Library. It is provided by sending a request to the e-mail address.
Originality/value: This is the first study to investigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on chat reference services at a national library.


Main Subjects

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