The Calvin T. Ryan Library has implemented a new service to provide quicker response time to questions from library users. Telephone and e-mail reference have been available for some time, but a system developed by the Library of Congress and the OCLC consortium (Online Computer Library Center) has added instant-messaging "chat" to the ways through which library users can receive assistance in locating information. Although the summer is generally a "slow" time for telephone and e-mail reference at UNK, the number of questions received over the three summer months has been more than half what was handled over an entire year through the previous "Ask a Librarian" website link.
UNK librarians monitor the e-mail and chat links during the library’s normal reference desk hours, from 10:00 in the morning until 9:00 in the evening, Monday through Thursday, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Fridays, from 12:30 p.m. through 4:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 3:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Sundays. Outside those hours, the chat and e-mail links may be monitored by librarians from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and (beginning October 1) Bellevue University. Chat links may also be monitored by librarians from more than 373 academic libraries that make up the Academic Library Reference Cooperative, by librarians from one of the 647 Question Point Global Reference Network member libraries, or by specialist "after hours" librarians who are employees of OCLC. Users should be aware that they may not always be "chatting" with a librarian from UNK.
One very important feature of this system is that it includes a large knowledge base of user questions that have been previously answered. This is not currently available to library users, but it is accessible to librarians who can use the contents to respond to especially difficult questions. This can save a great deal of time and effort, and can provide much faster turnaround time in responding to clients.
Previous In Brief Online articles are available at http://www.unk.edu/acad/library/inbrief/index.php?id=3065
Ronald Wirtz, Head of User Services and Instruction