Services & Policies - Spring 2003
Marketing publications emphasize consumer demand for 24x7 shopping
and customer services. Students often have body clocks that vary
greatly from those of us structured to operate in the nine to five
world of work. As we recall from our own undergraduate days, we
regularly started our papers in the hours when class, dinner, and
socializing were complete. This often meant somewhere between the
hours of midnight and 7 A.M. Although the Weinberg Library prides
itself in extensive service hours for its public service desks (until
11:30 P.M. most nights), this does not always coincide with the
needs of the student patrons who may want information at 3 A.M.
Although students may now submit an email question to the "Ask
a Librarian" box on the Library's Electronic Indexes
page, the turn around time varies, averaging four to eight hours
and is limited to the traditional email functionality. QuestionPoint
adds another dimension of service to the Weinberg Library's
resources and offers the possibility of asking a "live"
reference question via chat beyond that midnight hour.
The QuestionPoint Service, now a link off the Library's homepage,
will allow patrons to submit questions to qualified reference staff
in libraries around the world at any time of the day or night. The
question is automatically routed to an available staff member in
the Weinberg Library (during regular operating hours) or to another
library that participates in the Global Reference Network if it
is asked after nor
mal operating hours of the Weinberg Library.
QuestionPoint is a service that was developed by the Library of
Congress and OCLC Online Computer Library Center. QuestionPoint
helps libraries work together to provide authoritative answers to
reference questions. If staff at the Weinberg Library is unable
or unavailable to answer it, the question can be sent to experts
at another library,
even if those experts are across the country
or around the world. Ninety-five U.S. libraries are currently participating
in the program and over 100 libraries outside of the U.S. have signed
on as well. If, for example, a student at the University of Scranton
has a detailed question about New Zealand, they could actually get
an answer from an expert in New Zealand.
Public Services staff
recently completed an all-day training session
on QuestionPoint. Weinberg librarians were given an overview of
the service, and then participated in hands-on chat, traditional
email reference, and the opportunity to read the questions that
had been answered and logged onto the system since its inception.
They also learned how to create their own knowledge base so that
frequently asked questions (often the type of
question from repeat
assignments) can be stored on a server and consulted when the need
arises. Although the Weinberg Library has signed on to the QuestionPoint
service, we expect that the Spring 2003 semester will serve as trial
and error, with some fine tuning to tailor the system for individual
needs. Some of the enhancements that will be available in the future
are application sharing (where the reference librarian will be able
to "push the page" onto the user's pc and demonstrate
the proper searching techniques) and streaming video, where the
reference librarian will be able to interact more fully with the
patron asking the question.
Look for more detailed information and location of the QuestionPoint
logon on the Royal News during the upcoming months.
Question Point Expands Online Reference Service