Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Other Side of the Reference Desk: A 24/7 Librarian

It’s 2 am. The house is quiet. You’re busy writing. It’s all good. But by 2:01, you've hit a roadblock. You can’t write another thing because you need a piece of information that will change the course of your w.i.p. Your entire novel rests on your finding this wonderful and interesting little bit of info. (Okay. I know there’s a lot of good NaNoWriMo-type advice which says you should keep writing and deal with the information crisis later. But stay with me on this one).

Suddenly, you need to do a little research. You could hop on Google and wade through tons of sites or ignore all those caveats about wikis and head straight to Wikipedia (if you don’t know about the pros and cons of wiki-info, stay tuned for a future post). Or you can ask a librarian.

That’s right. At 2:01am you can chat with a real live librarian. Many libraries or state library systems have a 24/7 library service that allow you to ask your question and get some help.

I’m one of the hundreds of librarians who participate in a program called QandA NJ, New Jersey’s 24 hour library service. Here’s the inside scoop of how it works. We all have different shifts where we log onto a site and wait for questions. Customers hop onto the site and ask us what they need to know. Then we find answers. We also give quick lessons on how we found the info or offer suggestions for how to find resources if you've got a major research project.

Think about it. Right now as you’re reading this blog post, there’s an army of librarians waiting for your questions.

To find out if your area has a 24/7 library service, go to your library’s webpage or give your local library a call. Below are only some of the 24/7 virtual library services. I'll post more links as I find them.

New Jersey

Next time you have a pressing information need, try asking a 24/7 librarian. (btw, notice my dog, Chi, is sporting a baseball cap that says QandANJ)

Added info: Here's a list of "Ask a Librarian" services in the United States.
(Thanks Beth Cackowski of QandANJ for this great list)


Beth Cackowski said...

I'm so happy to hear a plug for! Library chat services don't get used nearly enough. It's free, it's 24/7, and it 's AWESOME! What more could you ask for. A full list of "Ask a Librarian" services across the country can be found here:

nanmarino said...

Thanks for the list, Beth. And I forgot to mention, this is free. :)

Anna Staniszewski said...

I had no idea services like that were available around the clock! I'll be sure to spread the word. :-)

nanmarino said...

Thanks for helping us get the word out, Anna. And if you ever try one of the "Ask a Librarian" services, please let me know.

S A Putnam said...

This is so cool! Thanks for posting about this, Nan! I love doing research and this will definitely come in handy... that is, if Vermont has such a thing.

nanmarino said...

Your local library would know for certain so it might be good to check with them. Please let me know if you find one. I'll keep looking also.