Virtual Reference: Questions Answered by Chat

Most folks are probably aware that the Librarians at the Main Library in Oakland answer questions at the Reference Desk, via telephone, and even on e-mail. However, over the past three years we have been staffing a cooperative service called Ask Here PA. Along with other librarians from around PA (and throughout the entire country and Europe), we tackle the same sorts of questions via Internet chat that we do through all of our other reference mediums.

You can give this chat reference a try by following this link on our web site. As a staff we’ve already answered nearly 2,500 questions through this service in 2009. We even staff a 24/7 aspect of the service four hours per week where we answer questions from all around the United States and even folks from Europe. If you ever access the service late at night when the library here is closed, you’ll likely get an information professional from another part of the country staffing the service while we sleep.

Ask Here PA is another valuable service brought to you in part from State budget dollars that are currently in jeopardy. It’s become a valuable tool for helping customers answer questions, and that’s what we’re all about here.


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