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!