Communication on a listserv for health information professionals: uses and users of MEDLIB-L.


BACKGROUND: Listservs offer the potential for participants to engage in a "virtual conference" with experts and colleagues from around the world. However, little research has been done to study the use and effectiveness of this means of communication. METHODS: In April 1995, an electronic survey of MEDLIB-L subscribers was conducted to determine demographic characteristics and uses of the listserv. RESULTS: Respondents worked predominately at academic institutions (45%) as members of large staffs (44%) in the United States (82%). The majority had worked as health information professionals for more than ten years. Nearly 90% of respondents read MEDLIB-L at work and most spent fewer than three hours per week doing this. More than half of the respondents read 41% to 100% of the messages distributed by the list, with fewer than 20% reading 91% to 100% of the messages. Respondents reported initiating and responding to reference questions and product information with greatest frequency. There was no relationship between years of experience in the profession and participation in listserv activities except in the category of posting information. CONCLUSIONS: This study describes communication activities on MEDLIB-L and the extent of subscriber participation in these activities.

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