Iterative Chat Transcript Analysis: Making Meaning from Existing Data


  • Steven Baumgart University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries
  • Erin Carrillo University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries
  • Laura Schmidli University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries



qualitative data analysis, academic libraries, patron satisfaction, chat reference service


Objective – In order to better contextualize library data about patron satisfaction with reference services, we analyzed an existing corpus of chat transcripts. Having conducted a similar analysis in 2010, we also compared librarian behaviors over time.

Methods – Drawing from the library literature, we identified a set of librarian behaviors closely associated with patron satisfaction. These behaviors include listening to and understanding patrons’ needs, inviting patrons to use the service again, and providing instruction or completing a search for patrons. Analysis of the chat transcripts included establishing a coding schema, applying these codes to individual chat transcripts, and analyzing these codes across the corpus of transcripts for frequency and correlation with other codes. The currently presented analysis used chat transcripts from the fall of 2013 and seeks changes in librarian behavior over time in order to gauge the success of establishing best practices and improving training standardization over the last three years.

Results – The analysis shows that librarian behaviors have changed over time, pointing to what campus librarians are doing well, and that implementation of best practices at a campus level after the 2010 analysis may have increased these positive behaviors. The analysis also shows opportunities for further standardization and reinforcement of best practices.

Conclusion – Qualitative analysis of already-collected data serves as a model for other units and suggests areas for process improvement, including enhanced coder training and code schema design. Further analysis of chat patrons’ questions is also warranted, including investigation of the relationship between subject- and location-specific questions and referrals.


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How to Cite

Baumgart, S., Carrillo, E., & Schmidli, L. (2016). Iterative Chat Transcript Analysis: Making Meaning from Existing Data. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 11(2), 39–55.