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This study examines the use of chat in an academic library's user population and where virtual reference services might fit within the spectrum of public services offered by academic libraries. Using questionnaires, this research demonstrates that many within the academic community are open to the idea of chat-based reference or using chat for some loosely defined "research purposes," but this openness does not necessarily result in high levels of use. The primary purpose of this study was to determine whether the lack of virtual reference use could, in part, be explained by students' preference for competing methods and technologies for obtaining reference assistance. This study demonstrates a pattern that suggests chat-based reference does not compete well with other methods of providing reference service.