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October 26, 2000 Meet the virtual librarian -- but be reasonable



Several months ago, the Library introduced a new service: a virtual reference opportunity to obtain information via Concordia Library’s Web page.

Clicking on the “Ask a Librarian” option provides on-line access to the expertise of a professional librarian.

If questions require subject expertise, a subject librarian who is a specialist in the given discipline may be contacted.

If a question requires expertise from another Library department (i.e. Circulation, Inter-library Loans, Government Information), the manager of that department may be contacted by phone, or an e-mail can be forwarded.

“This service seems to be working quite smoothly,” reported Director Bill Curran. “The response has been very positive.”

In fact, about 60 questions were asked of the virtual librarian in October. Curran said that good feedback and suggestions have come from librarians about the service, but he sounded a warning note.

“Librarians have a number of other obligations, such as reference desk duties, orientation programs and collection development in certain disciplines,” he said.

“This new feature is an opportunity for us to improve our service, but as with all service points in the Library comes the question of how much energy and effort to devote to outside users who request information via the Web.

“This is a very important philosophical as well as practical question, particularly at peak times during each term, when demand may exceed supply.”

There may also be unreasonable expectations regarding the Library’s ability to answer all questions on-line. For the moment, non-affiliated users are given a standard reply to explain why the virtual librarian service may not be immediately available. However, each individual librarian may answer questions from outside users at his/her discretion.

The Library’s virtual reference service can be found at http://library.concordia.ca/services/readyref.html