“Ask, The Libraries will Answer” – Spain’s New Multi-Lingual Virtual Reference Service…06.02.09

2 06 2009


Thanks to the Biligual Librarian for this about Spain’s new online reference service:

The Ministry of Culture and the Autonomous Communities in Spain have joined forces to offer a new online reference system called “Pregunte: Las Bibliotecas Responden” (Ask, The Libraries will Answer). The project’s goal is to answer questions through email, and virtual reference, in an effort to encourage the active use of local libraries and their services.

The services functions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and librarians promise to respond to inquiries within 3 days. The site functions in Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Galician, and English…”


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.

Library Reference Service Using Skype…03.13.09

13 03 2009


The SLA-IT blog‘s post today Using Skype in reference services is worth reviewing:

The University of Ohio Libraries has installed a kiosk in the lobby of its Alden Library for the usual quick info requests (hours, staff, maps). But the kiosk also sports a webcam and a link to Skype in order to provide instant reference with a live librarian. Chad Boeninger explains the system in a video on his blog. The system is not heavily used but it’s an interesting concept.

An article, refered to in the video, has also been written on the topic:

Booth, Char (2008). Developing Skype-Based Reference Services. Internet Reference Services Quarterly, 13 (2), 147-165. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/10875300802103684

Internet voice and video calling have demonstrated a dramatic rise in quality in the past several years and have quickly become communication technologies with a disruptive impact on society. Librarians, who regularly adopt such technologies in outreach and public services, should evaluate Web-calling programs as potential sources of innovative reference programming. This article describes the development of Skype video and Internet telephony pilot reference services at the Ohio University Libraries and considers the utility of Skype and VoIP in a library setting.”

From the library itself:

Skype a Librarian

“You can now ask us a question via Skype, the free internet calling service. You can call, videocall, or message us for free using your Skype account – just add ohiolibref, our Skype ID, to your contact list to begin. This service is open whenever the Learning Commons is – 24/5 M-F and long weekend hours.

If you’re in Alden Library you can also get help from a video kiosk on the 4th floor. We’re currently offering this service Monday-Friday 9-5, but if you’d like us to expand these hours please let us know.

Skype ID: ohiolibref

Hours: All Hours that the Learning Commons is Open!!!

New to Skype? Download a free account to begin.”

Response to Text-A-Librarian Service Review…02.12.09

12 02 2009

Below is a reply from the Librarian in Black, Sarah Houghton-Jan who is the Digital Futures Manager for the San José Public Library, on the negative review of the Text-A-Librarian posted recently–Thanks!!

“Our library, the San Jose Public Library, is looking now at subscribing to Mosio’s product. We have been very impressed with it and its features. I was surprised to read the review, as the information is largely incorrect, and as an information professional, I hate the thought of people making decisions with wrong information.

The demo that Mr. Murphy reviewed was a very early version of the product and quite different from the product that exists now. As someone who has tried the service and researched it a lot, I can say with full confidence that there is a lot of factually incorrect information in his review. Most of the negative points listed in his review, which are echoed in the post here, aren’t true of the product.

I would encourage people interested in offering reference services through text messaging to look at the product information on the Text-A-Librarian website (http://www.textalibrarian.com/), which is current. You can and should develop you own opinion on the product from there, but you need to have the right information before you can make an informed and reasonable opinion.”

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 [http://libprofdev.wordpress.com/2008/09/08/acrl-podcast-the-desk-and-beyond/]:

“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)

Virtual Reference Considerations…06.17.08

17 06 2008

Although I can’t see us using virtual reference in my library in the sense it is currently used in libraries at the moment, down the proverbial road I can see how it could be most effective if the concept was clearly explained and promoted to my patrons.  It would require vigilance and adequate scheduling by the librarian(s), however, to be effective.


I found this post on virtual reference from the Libraries Interact (http://librariesinteract.info/) blog interesting and a source to refer back to in the future:


“…’Even the most savvy reference librarian needs to learn new skills and develop new habits or behaviors to be successful in the virtual environment – especially when using chat technology or other synchronous communication medium’ Anne Grodzin Lipow


VR via instant messaging live chat systems will be most effective if you use the same language and types of words as the user.


So if they ask questions using abbreviations and SMS language reply that way and vice versa if someone asks you questions using full English language sentences reply that way.


Some rules of conversational behavior do not work in live chat e.g.: taking turns at talking. Feel free to send several short messages in a row rather than typing a one single long response.


Non verbal cues are not there – therefore you need to keep replies short and use standby messages like “Searching … Back in a min” to indicate that you still have more to say.


Remember that you never get up from the reference desk or put the phone down to go and look something up without telling your user what you are going to do and how long it will take. Just the same for live VR chat. Remember silence in VR is the same as you ignoring a person during a face-to-face reference session.


·     Keyboard proficiency and ability to type quickly

·     Familiarity with multitasking in a multiple window environment

·     Obtain the greatest, most precise information about what is needed.

·     Understand at what level the material is needed and how much is required

·     Complete the interview and arrive at the necessary key data in as short a period as possible.


Best Practice During a VR Session

·     Greet the user and use his/her name in the conversation if they tell you it.

·     Identify yourself by name. You can use a false name, but use one. This is very important to establish rapport with the user.

·     Use scripted “Cut and Paste” messages for common statements because they’re much quicker than typing. For example: “Hi, this is the State Library. My name is Bob, how I can I help you?”

·     All users aren’t the same. Some will want an answer in 5 seconds, others will be willing to wait 5-10 minutes.

·     Some queries are unreasonable to be answered in a few minutes. Tell the user this and get their email address to send them your search results later.

·     Ask the question – are you in an urgent hurry for this? You need this info to make a judgment on how to deliver an answer.

·     Remember to make contact frequently – “little and often” is the best motto! Tell the user what you’re doing constantly

·     Conduct the reference interview as you would on the phone – ask for clarification to ensure you understand what the user needs.

·     An Internet search may not provide the best answer – remember the range of library resources available. Use them.

·     Don’t overwhelm the user with too much at once. Ask if more is needed.

·     Confirm which library resources the user can access (you can’t send a database search result web-page – you had to log on to do the search remember)

·     Ask if the information is on track. Get clarification all the way through the session.

·     Thank the user and ask for an evaluation of the service if they have time

·     Cite the source for any information you give the user…”


As with everything else I am learning and considering for potential future use in the library, perhaps one day some of these ideas and concepts can be applied.


“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”–Ben Franklin