The Library of Congress's Public Service Collections Directorate and the OCLC Online Computer Library Center of Dublin, Ohio, have developed a new collaborative online reference service, to be released on June 3.
The QuestionPoint service, available at www.questionpoint.org, provides libraries with access to a growing collaborative network of reference librarians in the United States and around the world. Library patrons can submit questions at any time of the day or night through their library's Web site. The questions will be answered online by qualified library staff from the patron's own library or may be forwarded to a participating library around the world. The service, which is available to libraries by subscription, will enable reference librarians to share their resources and expertise with each other and with their patrons free of charge in unprecedented ways.
QuestionPoint offers libraries and library groups a powerful, inexpensive and easy-to-use resource to provide and manage Web-based reference services. QuestionPoint can also be used in conjunction with existing Web-based reference services to add broader coverage and enhance reference resources.
The Library of Congress and OCLC signed an initial cooperative agreement in 2001 to develop a prototype for a new reference service based on the Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS) pilot, begun in early 2000 by the Library of Congress and 16 partner libraries.
“QuestionPoint is about redefining the role of the library and the librarian in the digital age,” said Diane Kresh, Director of Public Service Collections at the Library of Congress. “The technology enhances the services we are able to provide to our traditional users. It will also enable librarians throughout the world to collaborate with their colleagues and work with new audiences in creative and exciting ways.”
“The service is built by librarians for librarians and is facilitated, administered and maintained by the Library of Congress and OCLC working together for the best interest of libraries,” said Frank Hermes, Vice President of OCLC Cooperative Discovery Services. “It continues OCLC's history of pioneering cooperative services and products in library operations.”
The service is currently undergoing beta testing and will be released in June.
The Library of Congress, with more than 124 million items, is the largest library in the world. Its collections are in all formats on which information is recorded – books, manuscripts, films, audiotape, maps, prints, photographs, musical scores and digital disk. Its Web site, www.loc.gov, is one of the most popular in the federal government, and handled more than 1 billion “hits” last year.
The Public Service Collections Directorate is one of the Library's largest organizational entities, including more than 700 staff who provide service in 15 of the Library's 21 reading rooms, maintain and preserve the Library's 113 million-plus general and special collections, and process and catalog most special-format materials.
Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, OCLC Online Computer Library Center is a nonprofit organization that provides computer-based cataloging, reference, resource sharing and preservation services to 41,000 libraries in 82 countries and territories. OCLC was founded in 1967 to improve access to the world's information and reduce information costs, and it conducts research to develop technologies to support that mission. Together, libraries and OCLC have built WorldCat, the world's largest database of bibliographic information. Forest Press, a division of OCLC since 1988, publishes the Dewey Decimal Classification system. More information about OCLC and OCLC regional service providers is available at www.oclc.org.