CCE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences


Steven D. Zink

Committee Member

Maxine S. Cohen

Committee Member

Laurie Dringus


The impact of distance learning on higher education and the need to provide equitable library services to students in the digital environment emerged as critical areas during the 1990s. Library services available to distance learning students included digital reference and instructional services, remote access to online research tools, database and research tutorials, interlibrary loan, and document delivery. Digital reference services appeared to be one of the more significant services proffered by academic libraries although these services were developed often without forethought to goals and assessment. The purpose of this study was to examine the adequacy of asynchronous e-mail reference services offered through Florida's 28 community college libraries and the contribution of these digital reference service providers to the students' online learning community. The researcher analyzed data obtained through an unobtrusive study of asynchronous digital reference services and interviews conducted with digital reference service providers. Studies existed for traditional and telephone reference service; however, the literature lacked studies addressing asynchronous digital reference service. Results from the unobtrusive portion of this study showed that the researcher received 240 of a possible 392 responses from the digital reference service providers. The researcher scored 24% as accurate with source information, 4% as accurate without source information, 20% as partly accurate with source information, and 7% as partly accurate without source information. The students scored 48% as accurate with source information, 12% as accurate without source information, 17% as partly accurate with source information, and 9% as partly accurate without source information. Responses took anywhere from 6 seconds to 20 days. The communication techniques exercised by the DRSPs were substandard. The study resulted in recommendations for the areas of digital environment, unobtrusive methodology, standards, accuracy, measurements, online relationships, training of digital reference service providers, student training, institutional responsibility, and marketing.

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