Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Thing 58. Chat Reference: AskMN

Sometimes a Google search or a ChaCha inquiry simply does not provide the in-depth, quality information that you need. Or maybe you just don’t know how to formulate an effective search strategy and could use a little professional help. And then, sometimes, it is Sunday evening, the library is closed, the assignment is due…. AskMN is there to help. Anyone with a reference question or doing research, who is comfortable with instant messaging and chat, will love the 24/7 services of AskMN. And if you are not familiar with using chat, this is an easy introduction.

AskMN is an online, interactive chat service that allows you to chat with a librarian in real time. The librarian is available to answer your questions and to direct you to various websites. This information and research help is available to Minnesota residents and students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When Minnesota librarians are not available, there are librarians in other parts of the worldwide network to come to your aid.

The process is very quick and easy. You provide your email address, first name, zip code and your question. When you “Connect” a chat box opens and you are able to chat directly with a librarian. Further chat, co-browsing, referral to sites -- it is all right there on your screen. Sessions generally last from 5-20 minutes. The librarian will be able to refer you to print and local resources and to Internet sites, as well as subject specialists who may not be available during the live session.
When all is done, you will be sent a transcript of your session so you can easily return to sites or resources that came up during the session. It is pretty cool -- and very useful.

AskMN also welcomes classes. Teachers and school librarians can use a special form to alert AskMN when you will be visiting, your topic/assignment, and how to conduct a class visit. AskMN staff will be prepared for the demand and will make resources available on your students’ subject matter so that all students collect similar information. This is very cool.

AskMN is brought to us by Minitex and participating Minnesota libraries (currently 6 public libraries and 7 academic libraries). Try it out  -- you’ll find it is an amazing service.

By Ruth Solie, Northern Lights Library Network

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