Students have been able to chat with a librarian any time, any place from the campus interfaces of WorldCat Local (WCL) Melvyl since May 2010. As of Wednesday, August 17, 2011 patrons will also see the “chat with a librarian” Qwidget in the central version of Melvyl (http://melvyl.worldcat.org).
The UC Heads of Public Services (HOPS) Digital Reference Common Interest Group (CIG) has been the driving force behind UC’s 24/7 Digital Reference service, which began as a pilot in November 2006. In its first year as an official program begun by a few UC campuses, UC librarians answered 5,825 questions, with additional campuses joining the program as they were ready. By fiscal year 2010/2011, UC logged in 24,660 sessions. A trusty 3.5% of our night-owl students asked questions between midnight and 4:00 AM! This year 13% of QuestionPoint queries were initiated from within the Melvyl interfaces, making it an important starting point for reference questions.
UC librarians respond to questions between 11:00 AM and 9:00 PM, giving preference to UC students. At other times, responses are provided by other librarians in the 24/7 Reference Cooperative.
UC Riverside librarian Ken Furuta is the UC service’s statistician (and present co-chair of the CIG along with Teal Smith at UC Merced), compiling and presenting an impressive array of views of the data collected each month. Thanks especially go to Ken, Teal and previous co-chairs Cynthia Johnson (UC Irvine) and Lynn Jones (UC Berkeley) who worked to overcome barriers in setting up the service in the central Melvyl interface.
When asked what was most significant about adding the service in Melvyl, Ken articulated it well—it reaches students at the exact point and place of need, whether they’re sitting in the library or studying abroad. They’re searching in the discovery system and they need reference help. In responding to a query from a UC student studying abroad in France, he was thrilled to discover she was the daughter of a UC librarian. Wherever you are, no matter the time—or time zone—ask us!