Messaging service offers live help from library staff

Initiative is part of larger project to bring more library services online, accessible to students

By Riad Lemhachheche

Doing research for your next class paper while sitting on your couch at home? This has become easier as the OSU libraries are offering more and more resources online.The latest research publications can be accessed though the hundreds of electronic journals the library has subscribed to. Electronic versions of dissertations, graduate and honors theses from recent OSU graduates will soon be integrated in the catalog as well.With this wealth of information available at library patrons’ fingertips, a computer with Internet access pointing to OASIS, the OSU Library electronic catalog, has become the starting point for most library material searches.This has made it possible for OSU students, faculty and staff to access most of these resources from anywhere in the world, on and off campus. But until recently, there was still one thing you couldn’t get without coming to the library: help from a professional librarian.In 2004, OSU libraries, along with other public libraries in Oregon, set up a system to support its online patrons. The new service, named live reference service or L-Net, is staffed by OSU librarians and accessible online to any library patrons regardless of location.

“The primary target is the OSU community. We want to be able to provide real-time help wherever someone needs it,” said Ruth Vondracek, head of Reference and Instruction at OSU Valley Library.

The live reference service enables patrons to exchange text messages with librarians. The system also enables the user and the librarian to share a common browser window. Librarians can use the window to point to a location from where the resource researched can be accessed. Librarians can also display particular pages on the patron’s computer.

While the service has not been widely publicized yet, this option has proven popular to help patrons navigate through menus to locate the article or resource they are looking for.