Have you ever been up late at night trying to remember the name of the author of the book that was made into a movie starring John Cusack as a record store owner? What other books did he write? Is your mother concerned about a new medication that her doctor has prescribed and would like to read more about it? Is your term paper due tomorrow and you’re just getting started? Are you going nuts trying to think of the name of the song you heard as you were leaving Starbucks this morning with your skinny grande latte? Have you been trying to locate a library that has an extensive sheet music collection so that you can see if they have Sonata by Claude Debussy for violin and piano?
Just log onto your computer. Find your library’s website and look for an icon to chat with a librarian. Then start tapping those keys.
So what do you do? You may just be able to Ask A ibrarian. Most libraries today offer the option to email them a question to which they’ll respond when they open the next day.
However, many more libraries both public and academic (colleges and universities) offer a “live” chat service that is staffed by librarians 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, no exceptions for holidays – so whenever you need help finding information – they are online. This type of “virtual reference” isn’t just a “chat” service like aol or yahoo chat. You can chat with a librarian but they can also “push” pages. In other words, in response to your question they can send you webpages that will appear on one side of your screen.
For users who don’t have a library card or aren’t a student at a college or university, librarians will try to find information “free” on the web to answer questions. Why, you think, can’t I do that myself? Sure you can – but librarians are trained in finding information fast; evaluating that information to see if it’s from a reliable source; and some can just type and search really fast.
If you are a college student or a public library user who wants to learn more about how to search different databases for magazine, journal or newspaper fulltext articles online, your online librarian can “co-browse” with you. In other words, you can both be on the same screen. In the chat box, the librarian can talk you through what you’re seeing on the webpage and tell you what to click on to find what you’re looking for – whether it be a peer-reviewed article on “ethics in business” or a recent newspaper article on raising the minimum wage.
Your library, whether it’s your local public library or a college library pays for many electronic resources ranging from article and newspaper databases to electronic books to genealogy databases to downloadable audiobooks. To use these resources, you will need a library card. If you don’t know how to get a library card or find your local public library, there’s an . You can click on your state and it will bring up a list of all the libraries in the state. If you library has a website, you’ll find a link to take you there. Most libraries offering an “Ask a Librarian” service display this on the front of their website. Remember to use one of these public library services, you need to be a resident of the area the library serves; and to access many of the databases for articles, newspapers, downloadable books and other sources you’ll need a library card.
College and University students – you should know which is your library and whether they offer this 24/7 service. Just go to your library website and look for or other icons or links similar to these below:
So ask away! Your librarian may be home asleep but there’s a crew of librarians from around the country who cover the service when your local librarian isn’t available.
See you online some night.