Bell, Steven, and John D. Shank, “Conferencing @ Your Computer: The Ins and Outs of Virtual Conferences,” Library Journal 131, no. 4 (2006): 50-52.
Having attended over 100 teleconferences, the authors offer their practical expertise and effective techniques for participating in and conducting workshops and presentations via teleconference. Well thought-out PowerPoint slides help to keep the presentation structured, while interactive exercises complement the presentation by keeping the participants engaged and stimulated. Conferencing software packages are named and the more desirable tools include VoIP and chat, capabilities, whiteboard, and archived content. Testing the equipment ahead of time, planning and interspersing activities with the traditional PowerPoint material, running chat, and providing live demonstrations help to contribute to the successful online presentation. For participants, it is suggested that they remove themselves from the day’s distractions at their desks. For some learners and participants, certain social components are lacking with virtual conferences; however, virtual conference opportunities are rapidly becoming can be an inexpensive, convenient alternative to making professional connections at a distance. M. Thomas


Casey, Anne Marie. Central Michigan University. “A Historical Overview of Internet Reference Services for Distance Learners”. Internet Reference Services Quarterly 9, no. 3/4 (2005): 5-17.
This article presents an overview of the techniques and technologies used to deliver reference assistance to distance learners over roughly the last 35 years. The author traces the evolution of services from early use of e-mail and phone to the implementation of virtual libraries, video conferencing, co-browsing, and chat reference. In the early years of electronic reference assistance, pioneering libraries such as Central Michigan University created separate library units to serve the needs of its distance learners. As technology has evolved, online reference services have become more commonly available to all library users so that the line between the student across the country and the student next door has become blurred. The author speculates that as technologies become more readily available to libraries that the information and service gaps inherent in serving distance learners will continue to close. This article would be most useful to librarians who are interested in learning about the evolution of library services to distance learners over time rather than those looking for models to use in establishing new services. J. Crane
The author of this article, who works at Central Michigan University (CMU), is and has been associated with individuals who participated in and helped create much of the history of which she writes, in addition to being an active participant herself in the networking of distance education. Rather than giving a first person narrative, she offers up some of the key works for understanding the history of elearning tools in distance learning library services. M. Horan

Chapman, K., & Bosque, D. D. “Ask a UT system librarian: A multi-campus chat initiative supporting students at a distance.”Internet Reference Services Quarterly 9, no. 3/4 (2005): 55-79.
Chapman and del Bosque give an excellent summary of issues and anxieties found in the literature as well as some of the available literature with solutions. Their survey results from among the participating System librarians was mixed in terms of feelings about effectiveness. Twenty-one percent of the connections to the chat service dropped off at the response of the librarian which may have been caused by the newness of the service. Overall the paper is a frank description of chat service. M. Horan

Jones, Marie F. “Internet Reference Services for Distance Education: Guidelines Comparison and Implementation.” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 9, no. 3/4 (2005): 19-32.
The author compares and contrasts distance learning guidelines and standards with regard to reference service. Specifically, she looks at documents of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL), the Medical Library Association (MLA), the Canadian Library Association, and the Indian Library Association. She finds consensus among the guidelines on most points, such as the need to provide equitable, personalized and innovative service for distant students, necessitated in part by their unique circumstances; the importance of adequate funding and staffing; and recommendations to forge partnerships and promote services. In addition to noting the similarities among the guidelines, the author points out areas of emphasis that differ. The MLA position paper, for example, serves primarily as a tool to be used in lobbying and garnering funding. The Canadian guidelines deemphasize formal agreements and arrangements when compared to the ACRL guidelines. The author concludes by asserting that the guidelines provide a useful framework but ultimately librarians must be flexible and knowledgeable to enable the constant evolution of services. J. Markgraf

Reeves, Linda Andrew. “Trying it on for size: Piloting synchronous online reference service with Elluminate vClass.” Internet Reference Services Quarterly 10, no. 2 (2005): 19-33.
The focus of this article is Northwest Vista College’s pilot project in which Elluminate vClass was used to offer reference. The author, Reeves, begins with a lengthy overview of the obligation for library support to students taking online courses, a discussion of how online students are defined, and the reasons why all students should have access to online library support. Reeves then describes the online library resources and services currently being offered to the College’s students. Next, the steps in setting up the pilot project are described. These steps include training, developing forms and documents, and selecting the target group. Finally, the time frame of the project is discussed along with software requirements, problems encountered, feedback received from the students and marketing. This article would be of use to those who are new to online reference and are looking for a general overview of how it has been incorporated within a small college setting. J. Wheeler


Guillot, Ladonna and Beth Stahr. “A Tale of Two Campuses: Providing Virtual Reference to Distance Nursing Students.” In The Eleventh Off-Campus Library Services Conference Proceedings: Scottsdale, Arizona, May 5 -7, 2004, edited by Patrick B. Mahoney. Mount Pleasant, MI: Central Michigan University, 2004, 105-114.
Student enrollment at Southeastern Louisiana University (Southeastern) doubled during the twenty years between 1975 and 1995, which prompted the University to include distance learning opportunities for its non-traditional and part-time students. The Library has supported Southeastern’s educational mission by offering bibliographic instruction as a one credit class and course-specific instruction at the request of instructors. To make bibliographic instruction available to distance learners, the distance education librarian, housed at the main library, developed a pilot project with the Health Sciences Librarian, located at one of the remote campuses, to offer instruction to nursing students using the LSSI software, now Tutor.com. The Library had been using LSSI software for online reference up until this pilot project was implemented. The two librarians wanted to enhance the online reference service by making it discipline specific; instructional; by appointment; collaborative among faculty, students, and librarians; and a value-added service for distance learners. The article discusses specific challenges that the librarians and students faced in the first semester of implementation. The service was well-received, but expensive in terms of time, money and personnel. E. Onega.

Kern, M. Kathleen. “Chat It Up!:Extending Reference Services to Assist Off-Campus Students.” In The Eleventh Off-Campus Library Services Conference Proceedings: Scottsdale, Arizona, May 5 -7, 2004, edited by Patrick B. Mahoney. Mount Pleasant, MI: Central Michigan University, 2004, 161-168. Reprinted in Journal of Library Administration 41, no. 1/2 (2004): 217-226.
Acknowledging that not all institutions employ a full time Distance Librarian to support off-campus students, the author outlines what traditional reference librarians need to be aware of when providing support through a virtual chat reference service. Some of the advantages and disadvantages of chat reference are discussed. The areas that reference librarians need to be well-versed on include the service policy for off campus students, document delivery policies and access to print collections, assistance with local (to the student) collections, troubleshooting electronic access to resources, and a knowledge of the different distance programs at the home institution. A table outlining the differences between providing chat reference service to on and off campus students concludes the article. P. Pival.


Payne, Georgina and Michelle Perrott. “Librarians On Call: An Instant Messaging Enquiry Service for Open University Distance Learners.” Library & Information Research 27, no. 85 (Spring 2003): 11-21.
For three months in the spring of 2002, the authors participated in a pilot study of “Librarians On Call,” a service where library personnel answered questions from Open University students using online chat software. The project specifications called for software that did not require the user to download any applications to their computer and also fit within a limited budget. PagePerson Pro software was chosen due to features such as a user-friendly interface, access to statistics and archived sessions, pre- and post-chat surveys, page-push technology, customization, and the ability to transfer chat sessions. During the pilot period, 304 people used the Librarians On Call service, 172 submitting questions during live chat session and 132 via email. Users of the chat service were spread relatively evenly among various disciplines, and a significant number lived abroad. Even though half of the users (48%) had never used a chat service before, a large majority (78%) found Librarians On Call very easy to use, and most reported a better experience with the chat service than either telephone or email options. The authors also discuss the perceived benefits and problems of the chat-based reference system, while labeling it a success due to the continuation of the service beyond the pilot period. J. Brandt.

Porter, Susan. “Chat: From the Desk of a Subject Librarian.” Reference Services Review 31, no. 1 (2003): 57-67.
The author reports on a trial chat reference service offered to off-campus nursing students at La Trobe University. The trial was held during March and April 2002 using LivePerson chat software. Three health sciences librarians staffed the chat service by leaving chat open whenever they were at a computer. Information collected included number of chat sessions compared to other modes of reference service, cost per chat session, length of chat sessions, ease of use of the software, etc. Librarians noted that chat was difficult to handle if high concentration on other duties was required. Also, three librarians with a myriad of other tasks were unable to cover all the hours that patrons might use the service. Chat provided an additional access point for some students, but the trial did not indicate that it was a necessary service. I. Frank.


Bradbury, David and Georgina Payne. “OPAL: Building a 24/7 Automated Online Enquiry Service for Open University Distance Learners.” ASSIGNation 19, no. 3 (April 2002): 36-39.
Open University is the largest UK distance learning institution educating over 200,000 students worldwide. To assist in providing reference or enquiry services to those students, in November of 2000 OPAL was developed. OPAL, or the Online Personal Academic Librarian, was created with several goals or objectives in mind. These included 24/7 access to answers, the ability to provide answers to routine or repeat questions, the capability of responding to natural language inquiries, and last of all, developers wanted a generic system that could be used in other libraries. The article describes the project and how the system functions during its first fourteen months of operation. The system has yet to be evaluated and assessed to determine its future direction. T. Summey.

Cannon, Nancy. “Yahoo! Do You Google? Virtual Reference Overview.” Co-published simultaneously in The Reference Librarian, no. 77 (2002): 31-37, and Distance Learning: Information Access and Services for Virtual Users, edited by Hemalata Iyer. New York: Haworth Press, 2002, 31-37.
The author looks at the Internet as the “world’s largest public library” and at various topics relating to virtual reference services. Search engines continue to evolve with Google using technology which ranks search results by the number of hits and links a page receives as compared to many other engines often giving highest rankings to those sites which pay for this ranking. The author makes specific recommendations for web sites that rate search engines. Subject directories and their listings are selected and ranked by humans, such as Yahoo, Librarians Index to the Internet, the Open Directory Project, and Infomine for scholarly resource collections. Virtual reference desks form another type of subject directory, often created by individual libraries for their clientele. The “invisible web” which consists of subscription sites and databases cannot be accessed by search engines. Alternatives to traditional journal article publishing are ArXiv physics preprint services and the escholarship program of the California Digital Library to disseminate scholarly materials at much lower cost to libraries. And virtual reference services (email, chat reference, etc.) are also mentioned. In all these aspects, the author urges reference librarians to continually update searching skills and to be aware of all available sources of information. P. Ortega.

McGill, Lou. “Global Chat: Web-Based Enquiries at the University of Leicester.” In Libraries Without Walls 4: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users, edited by Peter Brophy, Shelagh Fisher, and Zoë Clarke. London: Facet Publishing, 2002, 87-98.
The University of Leicester Library Distance Learning Unit piloted an online chat reference service for a three-month trial period in 2000. After recognizing the limitations of providing service via telephone and email, the library decided to try chat as an alternative. The library selected Human Click software for the trial, and the criteria used for choosing a software package are included. While originally initiated to serve distance students, the chat reference service was not limited to them, as anyone visiting the library Web site could utilize the service. A brief summary of findings from the trial period, such as number of chat sessions and who the users were, is presented. The Human Click software allows librarians to observe what Web sites users access during a chat session, as well as allow them to view the history of chat sessions with that user. Screen shots included in the article exemplify this feature. Sample chat transcripts are also provided. A summary of what the librarians learned from this trial cover advantages and drawbacks of using chat as a method of providing reference service, useful features and limitations of the Human Click software, and staffing issues. M. Feeney.

Needham, Gill and Evelyn Simpson. “The Online Personal Academic Librarian (OPAL): A Virtual Librarian for a Virtual Student Community.” In Libraries Without Walls 4: The Delivery of Library Services to Distant Users, edited by Peter Brophy, Shelagh Fisher, and Zoë Clarke. London: Facet Publishing, 2002, 99-108.
The library at the Open University, a distance learning university in the UK, includes Open Libr@ry, their electronic library, and a Learner Support Team who handle reference services for students. The library recognized that 24/7 reference service was needed to better meet the needs of Open University students and began developing an automated system that could handle routine reference questions. Stages of development of the Online Personal Academic Librarian (OPAL) project are described in the article. The first stage was to determine operational requirements, such as the ability to identify the context of user questions via user profiling. The project team also conducted research on user interaction with Web-based applications in the next stage of exploring the user perspective. They found that the OPAL system should be created from the topic-oriented perspective of the user, rather than the resource-oriented perspective of librarians. Existing systems, such as NERD, Answer Garden, Knowledge Base, and START Natural Language Question Answering System, were explored and are evaluated in the article. The OPAL prototype was then developed, with a description of how it operates included. Finally, the authors look to the long-term development and implementation stage and what that will encompass. M. Feeney.

Payne, Georgina F. and David Bradbury. “An Automated Approach to Online Digital Reference: The Open University Library OPAL Project.” Program 36, no. 1 (2002): 5-12.
Online Personal Academic Librarian (OPAL) is an Open University research project looking at the development of a fully automated 24/7 online system designed to respond to routine and repeat enquiries from Open University’s distance learners. The article outlines the desk and field research conducted to date and the need for such an automated question-answer service. The current digital reference climate is discussed and a range of technologies are described, including the use of real-time technologies such as chat and Web contact software, and also the use of fully automated online conversational robots. Drawing on data collected through field research and data analysis of user e-mail enquiries, enquirer behavior and patterns are examined. Further research has also revealed the importance of the user’s context and the need for user profiling in delivering an appropriate response to the user. The authors conclude with a description of the OPAL prototype to date and look ahead to some possible future directions. F. Devlin.

Witten, Shelle. “Being RAD: Reference at a Distance in a Multi-campus Institution.” In The Tenth Off-Campus Library Services Conference Proceedings: Cincinnati, Ohio, April 17-19, 2002, edited by Patrick B. Mahoney. Mount Pleasant, MI: Central Michigan University, 2002, 423-438. Reprinted in Journal of Library Administration 37, no. 3/4 (2002): 549-567.
Following the author’s Fall 1999 sabbatical research, studying how other libraries provide reference services to distance users, the Maricopa County Community College District in Phoenix, Arizona, piloted a chat reference service called Librarians Online in Spring 2001. Issues that the library’s Reference at a Distance (RAD) Committee discussed during the planning process are listed, which may be useful as a planning tool for others considering establishing a similar service. The pilot, initially funded by a grant, utilized AOL Instant Messenger as the chat software. A description of the spring 2001 pilot, supplemented with screen shots, includes information about policies, marketing efforts, and statistics collected. After receiving institutional funding to provide virtual reference services, the library purchased LSSI’s Virtual Reference Service. Details of the Fall 2001 pilot, appended with screen shots and statistical charts, include information about system reporting features and transcripts available with LSSI’s software. The library has developed an evaluation form that users may complete after exiting the software. Lessons learned include dealing with technical difficulties, the challenges of implementing a new service across the varied libraries in the system, problems in acquiring funding, and the amount of time staff need to dedicate to the service. M. Feeney.


Bradbury, David and Georgina Payne. “The OPAL Project: Developing an Online Digital Reference Service for Distance Learners.” Library Hi Tech News 18, no. 9 (October 2001): 28-29.
This brief article introduces the early stages of development of the Online Personal Academic Librarian (OPAL) service initiated by the library at Open University, a distance learning institution. With an enrollment of about 200,000 students, the library recognized the potential demands on staff for handling reference questions from such a large student body. In response, the library began developing OPAL, an online automated reference service, based on natural language inquiry and available 24/7. By working on the project with other institutions, the library hopes to create a system that may be modified and used by other libraries. They have gathered input from other information professionals, including a discussion about the need for context determined through a face-to-face reference interview. The OPAL system needs to be designed to identify this context in an online, automated environment, by utilizing user profiling. At the time of this article, three interfaces – email, web, and chat – were being considered for the OPAL system, with the implementation stage the next step. M. Feeney.

Broughton, Kelly. “Our Experiment in Online, Real-Time Reference.” Computers in Libraries 21, no. 4 (April 2001): 26-31.
The author highlights the importance of libraries providing online, real-time reference assistance to remote users and describes Bowling Green State University library’s experience in implementing chat software to do this. The library chose HumanClick, a software program that at the time was free, for its initial experimentation. The experience of communicating via chat is briefly described; some users are comfortable with the multitasking nature of chat, and one can quickly adapt to this mode of communication. Valuable features such as canned messages and the ability to push Web pages to users are described here, but a major disadvantage encountered was the lack of technical support because the software was free. After their initial experience, the library decided to pursue grant funding to purchase a commercial product, Virtual Reference Desk from Library Systems & Services. While the cost was high, they felt the advantages made it worthwhile. The product, aimed at libraries, utilizes customer call center software, with features beyond traditional chat software – transcripts of reference interactions, statistical reports, the ability to queue users, customization and co-browsing features. The author concludes with two future concerns of the library: the impact on workload and continued funding of the service. M. Feeney.

Coffman, Steve. “Distance Education and Virtual Reference: Where Are We Headed?” Computers in Libraries 21, no. 4 (April 2001): 20-25.
An overview of the rise in distance education introduces this article, with a description of improvements in educational technology, from interactive videoconferencing to Web-based courses. Delivery of library services to distance students has not always kept up with increased enrollment in distance programs. Drawbacks of some technology available for providing online reference assistance are described: Web-based courseware is not well-suited for one-on-one reference service; most courseware does not allow for escorted searching – leading a patron through an information search; email reference does not allow for real-time interaction with a patron; live chat software does not allow for queuing questions and escorting patrons. The author believes that Web-based contact center software, which his company produces, is the solution for providing reference services at a distance. This software allows librarians to “push” Web pages to patrons, conduct escorted searches, and utilize knowledgebases. An alternative to chat software, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which allows voice conversation between librarian and patron on the same Web-connection line, is introduced. More development is needed of VoIP, knowledgebases, and collaborative browsing, but the author advocates that these and other new technology will create new models for libraries and potentially reduce the cost of library operations. M. Feeney.

Freeder, Daphne. “A Time for Review: The E-Library in Action.” In Partners in Learning and Research: Changing Roles for Australian Technology Network Libraries, edited by John Frylinck. Adelaide: University of South Australia Library for Librarians of the Australian Technology Network, 2001, 28-42.
The University Library, University of Technology, Sydney established an e-mail based Ask a Question virtual reference system in 1999 and this article evaluates the service and its sustainability. The original idea was for librarians to take this on in addition to their other reference responsibilities, but later it was decided that library liaisons and staff members handle this as administrative duty. Clients complete an online form, and library liaisons and staff members check the e-mail several times per day, responding and routing questions to the appropriate personnel. The author states that work needs to be done regarding the monitoring and measurement of the service. At the time of publication, the library did not have authentication for university-affiliated users. The Library’s goal is to respond to questions within one weekday; however success in this area depends upon the type of question asked and the time the question is received. A listing of typical questions is included. Certain technical barriers, such as incorrect e-mails, forgotten passwords/user names and firewall issues must also be dealt with. The UTS Library is also exploring the development of real time electronic reference, featuring web chat program, as well as the opportunities for training for such technological applications. M. Thomas.

Hinton, Danielle and Lou McGill. “Chat to a Librarian: 21st Century Reference for Distance Learners.” Vine (London), no.122 (March 2001): 59-64.
When the Library of the University of Leicester established a Distance Learning Unit its staff examined several forms of electronic communication to support the program. In October 2000 chat was chosen as the method to use to answer questions about services and resources submitted by distance education students. After testing several chat software programs, HumanClick was selected to provide immediate, real time assistance from librarians. Chat icons were placed on appropriate Web pages along with tracking HTML code. With HumanClick librarians can receive information about the user to help provide more effective service. This includes information such as IP address and host information, browser and version, a history of pages visited and time spent on each page, and transcripts of any previous chats. There is a privacy policy in force and elements of it are outlined. A number of issues related to HumanClick are discussed including the cost, staffing, complexity of questions, training, and technical difficulties. A transcript of a sample chat is provided. S. Heidenreich.

Johnson, Cameron A. and Laura McCarty. “Distance Education and Digital Reference: The Yellow Brick Road?” Alki 17, no. 1 (March 2001): 6-9.
The majority of this article is about distance education, from the pressures on universities to move in this direction to the reactions of faculty members to the trend. The value of the proliferation in online courses and the partnering of prestigious universities with corporate ventures are questioned. The American Association of University Professors’ reaction to the corporate development of distance education courses is presented. Several faculty members at various institutions are cited, with their criticisms of online education, and warnings of the devaluing of a traditional education and the possible demise of courses in programs such as humanities that are not a “good return on investment.” The authors present a brief opinion about the pressure on libraries to keep up with the push to shift educational services online. They advocate that, rather than completely moving reference services online, a mixture of local and virtual reference services is the best way to serve patrons. Indeed, they say, joining the trend toward online education by providing some type of virtual reference is something librarians must do to maintain their roles in education. M. Feeney.

Race, Stephanie F. and Rachel Viggiano. “It’s Not BI, It’s VI – Virtual Instruction for Distance Learners.” In National Online 2001: Proceedings of the 22nd National Online Meeting, New York, May 15-17, 2001, edited by Martha E. Williams. Medford, NJ: Information Today, 2001, 377-383.
The Florida Distance Learning Reference and Referral Center (RRC) provides reference assistance and instruction to distance learners throughout Florida. A pilot project was implemented to provide real-time reference and instruction via chat software. A useful bulleted list of what to consider when choosing chat software is included. RRC’s choice was ConferenceRoom Professional Edition by WebMaster, Inc. A screen shot from the software, which RRC customized and called RRChat, is included. Features of the software include: an auditory prompt when users enter the software, and the ability to record conversations and remove users from chat rooms. RRC librarians used RRChat to provide library instruction to distance students. Lessons learned are presented, from requesting that students register for workshops to preparing scripts for teaching online classes. Problems like the inability to browse collaboratively with students and the difficulty in promoting RRC services are described. Additional potential uses of RRChat are offered, such as using the chat rooms as a “student union” for distance students. RRC created two surveys to assess student satisfaction with the chat service; a screen shot of one is included. The authors conclude that RRChat has been an effective way to provide library instruction to distance learners. M. Feeney.

Stanley, Deborah and Natasha Lyandres. “Reference Assistance to Remote Users.” Co-published simultaneously in The Reference Librarian, no. 73 (2001): 243-252, and Doing the Work of Reference: Practical Tips for Ecelling as a Reference Librarian, edited by Celia Hales Mabry. New York: Haworth Press, 2001, 243-252.
The needs of the remote users are varied, as are the possibilities of providing library services to them. A discussion on the definition of ‘remote users’ is provided; the remote user is not only the distance student but anyone physically away from the library building. The characteristics of the adult learner and distance education as an integral part of academia are highlighted. The information needs of the remote users are identified and library services to this population concentrating on telephone, email, video and the Web are discussed. The phone reference is a standard service whereas experimenting with email reference has increased. Although not widely adopted yet, video technology has been experimented with to an extent. A web page dedicated to the distance learners promoting all the services and a creative distance services librarian who has excellent communications and technical skills are highly recommended by the authors. M. Chakraborty.


Grealy, Deborah S. “Technological Mediation: Reference and the Non-Traditional Student.” Co-published simultaneously in The Reference Librarian, no. 69/70 (2000): 63-68, and Reference Services for the Adult Learner: Challenging Issues for the Traditional and Technological Era, edited by Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah. New York: Haworth Press, 2000, 63-68.
College and university libraries face new challenges to meet the changing and diverse needs of students who are increasingly non-traditional adult learners, often taking courses at a distance. The author offers strategies for how libraries can meet these needs. Adult learners often have constraints and competing demands on their time. Libraries that offer web-based resources, such as remotely accessible databases and online full-text content, can provide a valuable service to these students. Removing access barriers like passwords and firewalls by providing site licensing, proxy servers, and IP address access are other ways libraries can better their services to distance learners. Libraries should also offer subject-specific pathfinders and web-based tutorials, covering topics such as Boolean logic and basic database navigation tips, to assist remote users who need this type of assistance. In addition, electronic reference services can offer users personal communication with librarians. The author states that, with the amount of technology and information now available, interaction with a reference provider is needed even more. She concludes that technology is key in enabling librarians to provide services and resources to the non-traditional student, and helps provide equitable service to both on- and off-campus learners. M. Feeney.

Smith, Rhonda M., Stephanie F. Race, and Meredith Ault. “Virtual Desk: Real Reference.” In The Ninth Off-Campus Library Services Conference Proceedings: Portland, Oregon, April 26 -28, 2000, compiled by P. Steven Thomas. Mount Pleasant, MI: Central Michigan University, 2000, 245-252. Reprinted in Journal of Library Administration 32, no. 1/2 (2001): 371-382.
The Florida Distance Learning Library Initiative (DLLI), a partnership between community colleges, state universities, the state library, and public libraries in Florida, was created to address the provision of library services to a growing number of distance learners. This article describes the functions of DLLI and presents benefits and problems encountered. DLLI subscribed to a common core of databases to be used by the participating libraries. The authors discuss frankly the advantages and disadvantages of cooperative collection development of electronic resources and the effects of fluctuations in funding on what could be offered. DLLI also negotiated reciprocal borrowing and interlibrary loan agreements among the libraries. DLLI experimented with a statewide courier service and unmediated document delivery through UMI; the courier service was continued after the trial. Improvements in document delivery benefited all users, not just distance students. Finally, the authors detail the reference services provided by the Reference and Referral Center (RRC). They explain their process for acquiring funding and describe some of the resources developed, such as an online directory of Florida libraries. Promoting the reference services to their users was RRC’s biggest challenge, and the authors provide examples of their efforts. M. Feeney.

Ware, Susan A., Patricia S. Howe, and Rosemary G. Scalese. “Interactive Reference at a Distance: A Corporate Model for Academic Libraries.” Co-published simultaneously in The Reference Librarian, no. 69/70 (2000): 171-179, and Reference Services for the Adult Learner: Challenging Issues for the Traditional and Technological Era, edited by Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah. New York: Haworth Press, 2000, 171-179.
A brief summary on the growth of distance education and library services being offered for distance learners is followed by a description of Telebase, a commercial information gateway service that provides access to a variety of databases. Users are charged varying rates for searches and information retrieval. The Telebase service also includes the Telebase Help Desk, and users are not charged for reference service. The authors, two of whom are employees of Winstar Telebase, Inc., offer the service provided by the Telebase Help Desk as a service model for libraries. Reference providers using Telebase can utilize pre-recorded text messages to quickly respond to users and provide reassurance to the user as the transaction takes place. The value of using transaction logs of the reference interactions to better assist users are also described. The transaction logs collect data on what database the user is accessing and the user’s search history. Screen shots of sample transaction logs and “tabs”, as the pre-recorded messages are called, are included in the article. The authors conclude that libraries should develop online reference services similar to the Telebase Help Desk to fully serve distance learners. M. Feeney.


Meola, Marc and Sam Stormont. “Real-Time Reference Service for the Remote User: From the Telephone and Electronic Mail to Internet Chat, Instant Messaging, and Collaborative Software.” Co-published simultaneously in The Reference Librarian, no. 67/68 (1999): 29-40, and Library Outreach, Partnerships, and Distance Education: Reference Librarians at the Gateway, edited by Wendi Arant and Pixey Anne Mosley. New York: Haworth Press, 2000, 29-40.
A comparison of various technologies used to provide reference services to remote users, from the more traditional telephone to email, introduces this article. Remote users are defined as “any user not physically in front of a reference desk.” Internet chat is likened to a blend of telephone and email use – real-time and text-based. The authors point out that chat is utilized by nearly half of Internet users and is a valuable resource for providing remote reference services. Temple University Libraries’ criteria for a chat reference program are included. TalkBack, an online instant messaging program, was chosen because it is free and does not require the user to download any software. Implementation of TalkBack is described, from the hours of service to how reference staff handled the paging requests. Findings are reported, including the number and types of questions, patron and staff reaction, and drawbacks of the software. Microsoft’s NetMeeting, a collaborative software program, is presented as a possible alternative. NetMeeting features include chat; a whiteboard on which librarians and users may write and draw; and file, audio, video and application sharing. Temple University Libraries’ next step is to try NetMeeting as a way to provide reference services to remote users. M. Feeney.