Have Questions? Librarians Have Answers; Reference Librarians Now Available 24-7 Through Calvin T. Ryan Libra

Curt Carlson
Vice Chancellor for University Relations, 308.865.8529

UNK- Have a question? Reference librarians are now available 24/7 through the University of Nebraska at Kearney Calvin T. Ryan Library, although the library doors may be closed.

“Our reference service spans all hours of the day or night, whether or not the library building is open,” said Janet Wilke, dean of the library. “In fact, our library is never closed to people who need information–they just enter through a virtual door instead of a physical one. This will be especially helpful for students in the university’s distance programs.”

Anyone who needs help finding information may submit questions through e-mail or chat links on the library’s Web site. Questions may be answered by staff at the Calvin T. Ryan Library or by any librarian participating in a world-wide network of reference librarians.

“The service is very easy to use,” said Dr. Ron Wirtz, head of user services at the library. “All you do is click on the 24/7 Reference Help button on the library’s home page, and you’re on your way. We are using e-mail reference now, and chat reference is just a week away.

“The Calvin T. Ryan Library has implemented this on-demand reference service in response to our clients’ growing use of Internet access and online resources,” he said. “In addition to the more traditional modes of telephone, fax or in-person reference help, we are now able to provide enhanced levels of reference assistance over the Web, although some types of service may require the use of UNK e-mail addresses.”

The service is provided through QuestionPoint, developed by OCLC Online Computer Library Center, the Library of Congress and the 24/7 Reference Cooperative. In addition to providing access to librarians 24 house a day, the service also includes a global network of cooperating libraries that work together to provide authoritative answers to reference questions.

“If staff members at the Calvin T. Ryan Library are unable or unavailable to answer a question, it may be sent to experts at another library, even if those experts are across the country or around the world,” Wirtz said. “Just think about the possibilities. If you have a questions about New Zealand, you might actually get your answer from an expert in New Zealand.”

QuestionPoint users may submit questions to the 24/7 Reference Help service via the Calvin T. Ryan Library Web site located at <http://rosi.unk.edu/> any time of the day or night.

“QuestionPoint is very different from Ask.com, Yahoo.com or Google.com,” Wirtz said. “The difference is that a real person is responding to questions in specific terms and with focused information. QuestionPoint librarians provide very focused answers, not long lists of Web sites.

“Sources such as Ask, Yahoo or Google do not answer questions, they simply return lists of sources that may or may not have anything to do with the subject,” Wirtz said, adding that the QuestionPoint service is usable by anyone, including members of the public, although it will be most useful for students faculty and staff associated with the university because of licensing provisions for the subscription databases.

“We can also help members of the general public by assisting them with information from NebraskAccess online databases, or from publicly-accessible resources from a number of services such as Highwire, the Public Library of Science, Medline, etc.,” he said.