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The Recent Impact of the Internet on Reference Services. Michael Sauers Presentation to the Missouri Library Network Corporation 16 July 2001. Four Recent Developments. AskA… Services E-mail-based Reference Chat-based Reference The Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS).

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The recent impact of the internet on reference services

The Recent Impact of the Internet on Reference Services

Michael SauersPresentation to the Missouri Library Network Corporation16 July 2001

Four recent developments
Four Recent Developments

  • AskA… Services

  • E-mail-based Reference

  • Chat-based Reference

  • The Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS)

Aska services
AskA… Services

  • Non-library based

  • Usually staffed by volunteer subject experts

  • Most accept questions, decide which to answer, and then post those answers. Not everyone gets a response.

Aska services examples
AskA… Services Examples

  • Ask

  • Ask Dr.


  • VRD: AskA+

Allexperts com

  • Expert registers and picks categories

  • User picks an expert and posts a question

  • Expert receives an e-mail with the question and a link to the page with the answer options.

Allexperts com2

  • Expert decides whether or not they can answer the question.

  • Expert responds with the answer.

  • User receives an e-mail telling them their answer (or other response) is available.

  • User may leave feedback for the expert.

Aska services1
AskA… Services

  • Benefits

    • Questions answered by subject experts

    • Anonymous from the user perspective

  • Disadvantages

    • No clear definition of who is an expert

    • Time lag up to several days

    • Little ability for reference interview

E mail based reference
E-mail-based Reference

  • Patron sends an e-mail with a question to the reference department of the library.

  • Dedicated staff member or team monitors the account’s inbox for new questions.

  • Librarian finds the answer and sends an e-mail back to the patron.

E mail based reference examples
E-mail-based Reference Examples

  • Humboldt State University (CA)

  • Fairfax County Public Library (VA)

  • New York State

  • Directory of E-Mail Reference

E mail based reference1
E-mail-based Reference

  • Benefits

    • Patron does not need to come into the library.

    • Librarians can take more time to answer a question since the user is not “on hold.”

  • Disadvantages

    • Turn around time is usually around 24-hours unless there is a dedicated librarian.

    • Asynchronous communication not conducive to the reference Interview.

Chat based reference
Chat-based Reference

  • Live

  • Patron accesses the library’s chat service with their Web browser

  • Librarian greets the patron and patron asks their question

  • Reference interview performed as needed

Chat based reference1
Chat-based Reference

  • Patron is put on “virtual hold”

  • Librarian finds the answer and types it back to the patron

  • Patron disconnects from the chat system

Chat based reference examples
Chat-based Reference Examples

  • KnowItNow (Cleveland Public Library)

  • 24/7

  • Live

  • University of PA Biomedical

Chat based reference2
Chat-based Reference

  • Benefits

    • Just-in-time online reference

  • Disadvantages

    • Patron may need additional technology to access (plug-in)

    • Connection speed an issue

    • Current software lacks archiving and searching functions

The collaborative digital reference service cdrs
The Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS)

  • Sponsored by OCLC and LOC

  • Library to library reference service



  • Library registers for the service and fills out a profile

    • Contact information

    • Subject areas

    • Times available

  • Asking library posts a question to the system


  • Benefits

    • International

    • Public libraries share their knowledge (local) with academic libraries (research)

    • Every question sent through the system to date has been successfully answered


  • Disadvantages

    • Usually a minimum of a 24-hour turn around time

    • Archive (KnowledgeBase) not yet available

    • Not yet open to the general public

Effects of these services
Effects of these Services

  • AskA services are popular with the public but are not viewed as serious competition to the library world.

  • So far, most libraries have reported that the library-to-patron services have had a minimal impact.

  • CDRS is still in the early stages but participants have had significant success.