The Seattle Public Library offers live online reference service 24 hours a day, seven days a week
Up after midnight cramming for a test? Stuck at home and can't make it to your nearest branch? Researching a project for work and can't get out of the office? On vacation with your laptop and not finding the answers you need using an online search engine?
If so, The Seattle Public Library offers live online reference service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Simply visit www.spl.org, select "Ask a Librarian" and choose "Chat with a Librarian." The service is available 365 days per year, including holidays. Patrons do not need a library card to use the service and downloading software is not required.
Librarians and subject experts can interact with patrons in a number of ways using online chat. For example, librarians and subject experts can help navigate Web sites, highlight certain sections of Web pages, and send Web site links.
Patrons have used the online chat service to:
- answer reference and trivia questions
- look up phone numbers around the nation
- get local, state and federal government information
- find out about Library services and programs.
The Seattle Public Library began offering the chat service full-time in the spring as a member of the QuestionPoint 24/7 Reference Cooperative, an international partnership of more than 1,000 public libraries that enables participating organizations to answer questions for each other around the clock. The Library joined the cooperative following the 2005 merger of the 24/7 Reference Cooperative and QuestionPoint, the Web service that powers the Library's online reference service.
"We know that our online patrons are already at their computers looking for information," said Nancy Foley, a librarian in the Library's General Reference Services (GRS) Department. "A service like this allows us to be right there to help them."
Online chat service can expose patrons to electronic resources that they might not have encountered by walking into a library alone with a question. "Since the entire interaction occurs electronically, librarians often direct patrons to valuable Web sites and online databases that aren't easily unearthed by a quick visit to Google or Yahoo," said Craig Kyte, GRS manager.
To use the Library's online chat reference service, a patron must use one of the following browsers: Microsoft Internet Explorer 6, Netscape 6 or newer, Firefox 1.5 or newer, Opera or Safari. Additional capabilities are available with Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP and Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.
For more information, contact the Library at (206) 386-4636.
For more information contact:
Andra Addison, communications director
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