Virtual reference around the world

As part of the IFLA Conference in Milan, a focus group meeting was held on Monday 24 Aug to discuss virtual reference projects and initiatives taking place in libraries across the world. The meeting was hosted by OCLC, who developed the QuestionPoint virtual reference system that powers our AskScotland service.

The AskScotland pilot service was launched in June during the CILIPS Conference at Peebles and we’re now preparing to move into the next phase. I attended the meeting with SLIC/CILIPS Director, Elaine Fulton, so that we could share our experiences with colleagues and learn about virtual reference implementations elsewhere.

A broad range of library services was represented, including many national collaborations similar to AskScotland; the national libraries of Sweden and the Czech Republic, for example, co-ordinate services involving both public and academic libraries.

A central focus of the meeting was the marketing and promotion of virtual reference services. We were particularly interested in this topic as effective marketing will important in bringing AskScotland to a wider audience.

A fantastic example of advertising came from the New Jersey public library service, where a commercial for the QandANJ service was broadcast during the MTV Music Awards 2007. They also made a subsequent video, both of which are now on YouTube.

Other examples ranged from the use of printed promotional material (newspaper adverts, posters, leaflets etc) to establishing a presence at book fairs or high profile cultural events. All of these methods are worth considering as part of the ongoing development of AskScotland; we are particularly interested in exploring the YouTube option, however, as it would be low cost and could have a high impact on exposure. Watch this space!

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4 Responses

  1. This is a really interesting post – I have just been appointed to a new role which will involve investigating and developing the enquiry service at Warwick Uni Library and I am starting to look at what other libraries are already doing with regards to online enquiries.

    I will certainly keep an eye on your blog and look out for any further related posts.

    • Thanks Katharine. Look forward to finding out about how things develop at Warwick Uni via your blog. Best of luck in your new role :-)

  2. Hi, I’m with the Dutch AskaLibrarian service Aladin. I was really interested in reading your post. The Dutch service has been running for nearly 6 years and is at present being reviewed.It is uncertain whether it will be continued. Promotion and marketing have always been essential. Without promotion use drops very quickly. The past year we have been experimenting with a professiinal chatservice which proved to be very successful.

    • Really interested to hear about your experiences in the Netherlands Ria. Is Aladin purely an email based service? Glad to hear the chat service is proving popular as that’s the direction our own AskScotland service will be taking in the coming months.

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