New York University (NYU) Libraries has an extremely high-volume chat reference service. This popularity presents a unique opportunity for gaining insight into library patrons’ conceptualizations of their data reference needs and how these needs are changing. Through analysis of three years’ worth of chat transcripts, we began to explore user needs and familiarity related to locating secondary data and statistics, performing data analysis, and using existing data services. Ultimately, we focused our analysis on requests for census data. This article discusses, in detail, the methods, preliminary results, limitations, and proposed next steps of our investigation. Our final goal is to contribute to the growing body of knowledge about how information needs are conceptualized and articulated, and how this knowledge can be used to improve data reference in an academic library setting.

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2016

Publisher Statement

Copyright © International Association for Social Science Information Services & Technology. This article first appeared in IASSIST Quarterly 40:1 (2016), 20-26.