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Points of Reference

A Booklist Blog
This is the archive of the blog Points of Reference. From 2009-2012 a team of library reference experts talked about resources (books, databases, Web sites, e-books, and more) and publishing trends.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009 10:34 pm
Points of Access
Posted by: Barbara Bibel

Libraries made the headlines in last night's local newscast. It seems that the San Jose Public Library, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is now taking reference questions via text messaging. We already interact with our patrons in person, by phone, by e-mail, and in online chat reference, so texting is the logical next step. I tried this when volunteering at the ALA Ambassador booth at the Chicago conference. Having never sent a text message, I was worried that I would do something wrong and disconnect the patron, but it was really just like doing online chat reference. The question came to a computer and I found the answer and responded. It is good for ready-reference type questions, which is what we got at the booth: Where is this meeting? Can I register for the pre-conference at the door? I do not think that it is appropriate for questions requiring in-depth research. This is also true for online chat, and I have had some patrons get angry when I suggest that they need to go to the library if they need more information. They usually have papers due the next morning and tell me that the library is closed and/or too far away. Others, like the person who wanted to know whether the people of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan preferred movies with subtitles or movies that are dubbed, are grateful for a good referral to an appropriate library. In this case, I suggested UCLA's business library. Having many ways to connect with our patrons makes it easier for them to find us and increases our visibility. We work in a rapidly changing environment and we need incorporate the new communications tools just as we have made databases and blogs part of our libraries.

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