What a great idea for dispensing reference information in the digital age: MyInfoQuest.com. This website is a collaboration among fifty participating libraries, Altarama Information Systems and WebClarity Software, Inc. The “collaborative text messaging” service permits patrons of the participating libraries to text questions to the service at number 309-222-7740 and receive a text response from a real, live reference librarian. The pilot program just started at the end of July and will continue through December, 2009. While standard text messaging rates apply, the service itself is free. Service hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon – Fri and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, the librarians rest.
Not a member of the MyInfoQuest consortium libraries and/or interested in help outside of their service hours? Try ChaCha – another free service offering 24 hours of “expert” answers to phone calls or text questions. You can call ChaCha at 1.800.2ChaCha (1.800.224.2242) or text ChaCha at 242242 (spells ChaCha). ChaCha routes the question to “the most knowledgable person on that topic in our guide community.” The answer is spit back out as a text message reportedly within minutes. I couldn’t resist – I followed a link to see what people were asking and came up with this list:
Clearly, ChaCha is highly focused on pop culture and most answers appear readily obtainable from a basic Google search. I am tempted to run a legal question through the service and see what kind of response I get in return.
In any event, the model of ready access to an “expert” and receipt of an answer within minutes in mobile “txt” form is intiguing and appealing. I can envision legal reference professionals providing such a service to their attorney-clients and attorneys providing such a service to their own clients, subject to ethical guidelines of course. Innovation in a medium embraced by the masses seems is a winner in my book.
Hat tip to ResourceShelf