Techniques of focal groups in chat rooms in the evaluation of virtual libraries
Bibliotecaria, Faculdade de Saúde Pública, Universidade de São Paulo - Brasil
The communication between virtual libraries staff and their users is all-important to acknowledge the information demand. The internet offers several tools which improve this communication, such as e-mail, chat rooms, the MSN Messenger and others. The qualitative research has been proved to be efficient at evaluating library services, and the focal group technique is often used in this process since it facilitates suggestions to come up through a specific topic for group discussion. Concerning with virtual libraries, this technique can be adapted for internet usage by means of chat rooms. The objective of this research is to test the focal group technique in chat rooms in order to establish communication between virtual libraries and their users. 14 users of the Reproductive Health Virtual Library, which is part of the thematic virtual libraries developed by Prossiga/IBICT in partnership with Faculdade de Saúde Pública -USP, were selected to participate in three meetings at restricted chat rooms. There was a moderator for each meeting, who asked the focal questions about the virtual library and an observer, who read all the answers and comments typed by the participants. The results were very positive: there was interaction among participants, an essential situation in focal groups. Some great advantages of this technique in chat rooms are the low cost, for the users the comfort of their natural settings, and the opportunity of discussing a specific issue with other people. Some difficulties faced were: finding restricted chat rooms of easy access, calling the participants – very busy professionals with no free time, lack of knowledge of the internet tools, problems with the computer set up, and marked differences in typing speed and sending texts. Despite these difficulties, the technique was very effective for communication between virtual libraries staff and their users, considering that many problems rose due to the lack of knowledge and usage of the internet communication tools. However, there is a growin g trend towards this internet communication tools usage, as the new generation reaches the job market.