In Sweden there is one consortium for virtual references for each public and research library. The research libraries’ service Librarian On Duty, which uses VRLplus, is a pedagogical service where the patron gets a personal guidance by a librarian via chat and co-browsing. Librarian On Duty is more of a general resource than a specialist one. This means that very specialised questions may not be answered directly, but instead be directed to the most suitable librarian. Depending on the patron’s requirements, the librarian on duty can transfer the question to a colleague at the same library or to another library within the consortia. Librarian on Duty is already in use by half of Sweden’s research libraries.
The corresponding service for the public libraries, Ask the Library, is a virtual reference service with many years of experience, the e-mail service was started already in 1995, and now consists of 36 libraries that answer e-mail questions and 14 of these libraries also take part in a chat service. To make a whole new collaboration between and within the consortia possible, the public libraries will change systems to VRLplus, i.e. the same system that is used by the research libraries.
A new model for collaboration
By organizing in two consortia, using the same software, there is a possibility for the two organizational types to develop a whole new model for collaboration. This new model implies that each organization could have its own local installation to give service to their local users in the first hand. Each organization participates in the national or international consortias where there is a collaboration to give service around the clock.
The new possibilities for cooperation mean that each organization, by using the systems bridge between the consortias, can define new collaborative partners on a national or international basis and thus create whole new virtual information services. These new services may consist of university and research organizations and governmental institutions within a region, e.g. ”Ask Scandinavia”, or be built by competence. It may also be a subject-based cooperation within a European Union area, e.g. ”Ask ECDC”. Other examples may include cooperation between different competences and professions, e.g. “Ask EUROPE DIRECT”.
This means increased possibilities for specialization and development, and whole new collaborative constellations between libraries and other community-based services can emerge while still maintaining the basic responsibility for the local users. This is enabled by a tool that is under constant development.
The leading ideas to make this a successful service are:
- Guidance suited to the needs of the questioner
- Creative reference and information work
- Competence development for the information professionals
- Rationalisation of scarce resources
- Higher quality of information services, both off and on campus
Berlin: Online Educa , 2006.
The 12th International Conference on Technology Supported Learning & Training