This part boils down to a warning not to just jump on the virtual reference bandwagon w/o giving some good hard thought to why you might want to do it. The reader is advised to look at the alternatives, including tried and true telephone and email. Right there under the heading of Alternatives to Virtual Reference is the Big Question of "how can I best serve my patrons wherever they happen to be?" Of course that's what we DE folks are always interested in, eh?
I wrote a couple notes in the margin as I was reading, including a big HA! next to the part where they're describing the limited success of Google Answers and state, "but an average fee of $15 - $20 hardly seems much of a barrier".
The other note was at the end of the same paragraph, where they're talking about marketing and ask, "...some serious questions about just how much people really need or want reference services online - no matter how well marketed - at least in the ways we have offered up until now" (emphasis mine). This caught my eye because next week a colleague and I are going to begin offering virtual reference hours for one of our distance programs (though while reading this article I wondered more than once if I'm crazy to try this), but we're doing it in a very targeted way. Instead of just having a link on the library's home page, we're inserting a link into several specific BlackBoard courses. I hope that this targeted service might be part of the missing link. Just a nod to my colleagues in Lethbridge, we'll be linking into vClass, as described in their presentation this past summer (yes, summer is long gone here; some might even debate if it was ever here this year).
One of the best suggestions in the article is to improve self service. Make your library website more informative, and easier to navigate. They ask the question, "what if we take the money and time spent developing and running chat services on improving our Web sites and information systems?" How much did your library pay for your virtual reference software? The U of C is in the midst of a web redesign process right now and I know we could sure use some more money to throw at it! They point out that "Web self-service is eminently scalable. It costs Google or Amazon about the same amount of money to handle 6 patrons a day as it does 600 million." Chat sure can't scale that way...
And then the bottom line is reiterated as stated in my second paragraph above. Definately a good read for anyone who's considering jumping on or off the virtual reference bandwagon.