Discussing a National Virtual Reference Service

I really wish I was going to ALA Midwinter this week just so I could participate in the discussion hosted by OCLC on what a national virtual reference service might look like. Here is the description of the event on the registration page for it:

Sunday, January 9
10:30 am – 12:00 pm, San Diego Convention Center, Room 24 A
Building a National Reference Service
Libraries provide virtual reference services locally, with local library staff, and—in some cases—regionally or statewide. While many countries have national reference services, the US does not. Join us for a discussion of what a national ‘ask a librarian’ service could look like, and how it could be accomplished.

I have been aware of some of the discussions over the past few years, but they only seem to take place at ALA events. Is anyone else writing or talking about this someplace else?

Another digital reference blog

How could I have missed another blog with a name just ever so slightly different from mine? The MINITEX Digital Reference blog has archived posts going back to July 2006. I wish I had been subscribing to the blog from its inception, as there’s been a lot of good content published in the past year. I’m going to take a close look now at all the blog posts that offer detailed notes about each session from the Collaborative Virtual Reference Symposium that took place in July in Denver (please note that the links below may require you to scroll to get to the actual post):

Collaborative email reference at Queens Library

For those of you who aren’t from New York, it may be news that the city actually has three separate public library systems:

All three systems are doing wonderful things despite by underfunded for years. A few days ago, while sitting on a panel to discuss the changing reference landscape, I heard from Donna Ciampi at Queens Library about a really interesting collaborative email reference service for patrons who speak one of the many Chinese dialects. The service is staffed by librarians at Queens Library and the Shanghai Library(!!!) If you go the Chinese language page on the Queens Library site, look for the link for CORS, which takes you to a page with a form (on the Shanghai Library site) for submitting your question.

My goal at the panel was to explain how the collaborative chat reference service in QuestionPoint works and to encourage my audience to consider collaborative reference services an important, growing trend in the way libraries can meet the information needs of users. I noted how hard member libraries in QuestionPoint’s academic cooperative work together, but I must admit here to being amazed by the effort on the part of the librarians at the Queens Library and the Shanghai Library to establish this joint project.

QuestionPoint’s academic cooperative is limited to college libraries in the United States at the moment. Australian libraries that use QuestionPoint on their own have so far resisted joining the cooperative. I have heard, though, that a group of public libraries in the United Kingdom are planning to join QuestionPoint’s public library cooperative soon. I hope that in the coming years we see more and more reference partnerships like the one between the Queens Library and the Shanghai Library.