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:
Are dolphins nice or mean to people
What is the biggest water slide in the world
Who does the voice of chris griffen from family guy
If you switch birth control pills does it make you more likely to get pregnant for a while
What is longest word in the english language
Are there muscles in your fingers
What does ‘Dulce et decorum est, Pro patria mori’ mean
What is the best way to preserve and dry a rose
What is a foxtrot
What is the number to nationwide insurance company
How many people live in the US? How many people live in the US
What movies has Alexa Vega appeared in
What are the basic rules of tennis
1 min ago | Asked 13 times | in Movies
What is the Chicago Whitesox stadium name
What are the lyrics to “over the rainbow”
1 min ago | Asked 6 times | in Tennis
What is the best way to get a girl to approach you
What is the cheat code for Sims 2 Pets for the computer
1 min ago | Asked 10 times | in Music
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
Connie Crosby, a tech-savvy librarian from our neighbor to the north, mentioned on her blog today that the Online University Lowdown has created a list of the 50 best blogs for law librarians to follow. Why do I mention this? Anyone interested in research, writing, technology and reference management should make a point of finding web-friendly library scientists and reading their offerings religiously. I have several of these blogs in my reader and I never fail to pull interesting and enlightening information from them. My first exposure to many of the resources that I have adopted was from a blog entry authored by a researcher or librarian. My first exposure to Twitter came from blog posts by Connie and another professional mentioned in her blog above, Steve Matthews.
Time is definitely precious, with all of the possible venues for information and engagement cropping up in our real and virtual worlds. If you have to budget time for information gathering, I recommend offering a little shelf-space to some of the fine resources mentioned in this list
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