My Info Quest Launches Text Reference Service Today…07.21.09

21 07 2009


From the MyInfoQuest release information:

“…Starting today, patrons of approximately 50 libraries from all over the US will be able to text a question to (309) 222-7740 and a real, live librarian will respond within minutes. The service is free of charge, but standard text messaging rates do apply. Staffed by librarians from around the country, answers are sent to cell phones by librarians in 320 characters or less, or the equivalent of two 160-character text messages…

The hours of service will be Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m…”


QuestionPoint “Virtual Reference” Service…04.15.09

15 04 2009


Though not new, I wanted to investigae further “virtual reference” services. OCLC’s “virtual reference” service, QuestionPoint, is described as follows:

QuestionPoint is a unique virtual reference service, supported by global network of cooperating libraries worldwide, as well as an infrastructure of software tools and communications. QuestionPoint is also a source of unique centralized knowledge resources built by a collaborative network of member libraries.

QuestionPoint reference management service provides libraries with tools to interact with users in multiple ways, using both chat and email. The Web-based chat tool with co-browsing capability, coupled with the email reference component, enable seamless integration of chat, follow up and referral, as well as one-stop reporting tools for all types of reference services. In addition, libraries may opt to participate in the 24/7 Reference Cooperative to provide live around-the-clock reference service to their community…”

You can see a Flash demo here.

How do your library/information patrons and/or clients deal with information complexity?…04.03.09

3 04 2009


Information World Review‘s How do your clients deal with information complexity? article authors Bernice de Braal and Peter Newman  say, “People deal with information complexity by either reducing that complexity or absorbing it. Knowing whether your clients are shrinkers or swallowers is a key insight for information professionals.

Their interesting article is excerpted here:

There is a consensus that the world has entered a knowledge era where information is power and rapid learning a necessary condition for success. The concept itself, though, is nothing new: the English philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon is credited with coining the phrase ‘knowledge is power’ in 1597 in his Meditationes Sacrae. And in business, knowledge is now widely regarded as a powerful source of competitive advantage.

But information tends to be complex and, as anybody who has worked in different types of libraries and information services knows, clients from different communities handle information, both simple and complex, in different ways. Someone from the business community, for example, will handle information differently to someone from the academic or medical community.

To be part of a community and to truly belong, you have to be able to understand and process information given to you by other members of that community. Such communities have been described as populations of data-processing agents. The way in which the community’s data-processing agents handle information is one of the community’s key cultural attributes, and different communities have evolved different strategies for handling the complexity of the information they deal with

The strategic choice of whether to reduce or absorb complexity implies handling abstraction in different ways. Reducing complexity requires a highly structured world model. Crucially, alternative explanations are regarded as competing with each other. The community’s members search for the best explanat ion and the best abstraction, normally on a logical basis.

By contrast, absorbing complexity requires the community to accept co-existing contradictory explanations and so simultaneous alternative abstractions.

This may be second nature to information professionals, but not necessarily to their clients

There are four distinct institutional types – markets, bureaucracies, fiefs and clans – associated with different types of informational complexity, necessitating different informational strategies. The four types distinguish between open information that is available to everyone and secret information that is accessible only by insiders.

Markets refer to institutions where information is highly codified and disseminated. Relationships are impersonal and everyone looks after their own interests. Market types are open. There are no barriers to entry and exit. Examples include the financial and commodities markets. Market types reduce informational complexity.

Bureaucracies refer to the use of secretive, codified information to achieve co-ordination; the approach is sometimes called hierarchical co-ordination. Bureaucracies are impersonal and secretive by nature. Efficient government agencies resemble bureaucracies, as they possess a strong capacity to structure, refine and make sense of information. Other examples include the military and large corporations. Bureaucracies reduce informational complexity.

Fiefs, unlike market types, are about personal power and charisma. Inf ormation is secret and uncodified. Knowledge resides with a few, making relationships hierarchical and personal. Fiefs are personal and secretive. An R &D department where one prominent scientist leads large projects, aided by assistants, could be a fief. Other examples include cartels and top management teams. Fiefs absorb informational complexity.

Clans are produced by open, uncodified and non-disseminated information. Clan types are personal and open. Examples include family businesses, the top tier of some bureaucracies, and some entrepreneurial startups. Clans absorb informational complexity…

Information complexity provides several key messages for information professionals.

First, information professionals have to understand and react to the needs of their clients, even if those clients do not fully appreciate the nature of their needs and what action is appropriate.

Second, in their roles as information professionals, librarians and information and knowledge managers need to be able to diagnose the strategy that their clients (and client communities) use to handle complex information: are they reductionists or absorptionists?

Third, information professionals may find they need to modify the way they organise their knowledge and their information services (especially their cataloguing and classification) to suit their clients’ reductionist or absorption strategies, and also the way that they present information to their clients.

The nature of the client community’s institutions give some insights into how they handle complex information…”

ACRL Podcast: The Desk and Beyond…Next Gen Reference Service…09.08.08

8 09 2008

You can listen to the ACRL Poscast “The Desk and Beyond” about next gen reference service.  Here is the ACRL post []:

“In this podcast, College & Research Libraries News editor-in-chief David Free talks with Sarah Steiner and Leslie Madden of Georgia State University, editors of the ACRL publication The Desk and Beyond: Next Generation Reference Services. They are joined by chapter authors Meredith Farkas of Norwich University, Ross LaBaugh of California State University – Fresno, and Jerilyn Veldof of the University of Minnesota to discuss the book along with current and future trends in reference services.

Time: 29:27


Podcast Powered by podPress (v8.7)

“Resurrecting Reference” Webinar Archived…08.01.08

1 08 2008

I would recommend the time it takes to view the archived webinar “Resurrecting Reference” yesterday from George Needham and Joan Frye Williams which is now available on the Infopeople website.  This is particularly relevant in light of the fact that reference questions in academic and reference has continued to decline sharply. The archived webinar is here: []

Reference Interview Problems…07.18.08

18 07 2008

In my situation, there usually isn’t much time or no time for a reference interview when inquiries come flying my way from management.  While multi-tasking librarian and marketing tasks, reference questions or research requests usually come at me quickly without notice from a very short email, a short phone call, or a few seconds verbal request from upper management without time to think about the question/inquiry, time to clarify what is wanted/needed, or time to get back to the person with additional questions. Immediate results are expected and management usually perceive of themselves as too busy to take the time the formal reference interview process.  Of course, this leaves lots of room for error in 1) not retrieving what is wanted, 2) getting too much or too little detail, 3) getting the wrong information.  This situation can also lead to misconceptions about my competence up the management chain with little or usually no recourse to explaining why the results may not have been what was expected.  Being a solo librarian, the situation can lead to multiple professional credibility issues.

This issue was brought to the forefront with a particular instance of which I will share here.  Due to the confidentiality of the inquiry, however, I will be unable to share some of the specifics.

The inquiry started a few days ago when I was asked to file on our computer network a few electronic documents from our organization and some news releases/articles I had found on the Internet after an unsolicited search on the topic.  I then received a request yesterday to search for other items related to the news releases/articles I found but from other specific prominent sources which management said existed. 

A thorough search did not retrieve results from the specific sources requested but management insisted they existed although I assured them they did not.  As a result, management turned to our press agent in a large east coast firm to find the articles.

Later in the day, I was told management wanted news releases/articles from the specific sources mentioned above on the topic but not necessarily related to the specific content of the unsolicited ones I found from other sources and not from the same time frame.  They were looking for much older ones from 3-8 months ago. 

Anyway, the result is that I did the refined search and provided the results requested.  However, the ramifications of the experience are yet to be seen. 

I do not know if upper management received the final search results from my search.  Also, I don’t know– and I may never know–the results of the inquiry to our press agency.  I doubt the time, effort, and cost of taking the search outside the organization was necessary or productive.

Reference Questions and Answers Custom Search Engine…07.15.08

15 07 2008

Sarah Houghton-Jan posted yesterday about a “…custom search engine in Google [see below] that indexes library sites that post their reference questions, as well as the answers.  The idea is described in a post on the Free Government Information site.  They’re hoping that this project will encourage more libraries to create reference question blogs (each question & answer set gets a post).  Directional and local questions aren’t of much use to a global database, but “those juicy questions that take some time to answer using librarian ingenuity, skill and knowledge” are just what they want.  A good example is this Stanford site.  If your library offers such a thing, let them know (contact info on the CSE page)…”