Associate University Librarian
Denise Troll Covey
Acting Assistant University Librarian, Head of Research & Development Library
Carnegie Mellon University
Librarians at Wesleyan and Carnegie Mellon Universities are experimenting with two innovative ways to meet clients’ needs for reference assistance. One uses staff members available for extended hours online, and the other uses software to mimic reference interviews and provide answers.
Wesleyan University Library, through a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation, is in the first year of a pilot project to test real-time collaborative reference service on the Internet for a group of liberal arts colleges, including Wesleyan, Connecticut, Smith, Wellesley, and Vassar. The two-year project included installation of a local server in the Wesleyan University Library and hiring staff to provide services to more than one institution during extended hours.
Carnegie Mellon University Libraries’ statistics indicate that over 75% of the access to its online resources occurs outside of a library facility. A drawback of this kind of remote access is that users do not have traditional reference librarians to guide them to relevant and reliable material. Carnegie Mellon University Libraries is developing software known as the Automated Reference Assistant (ARA), which will attempt to mimic the reference interview online. It will elicit information about the users’ research needs and guide them to pertinent material without human intervention.
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