Live chat gives answers Live chat gives answers

Beth Rankin

Fans of instant messaging and chat rooms have a similarly fast and convenient option when looking for reference help.

The library offers an online chat service, sponsored by OhioLINK, which allows students to ask reference questions in a live chat session with a librarian.

“Kent (State) tends to be one of the first to be on the cutting edge and offer new and unique services,” said Tom Warren, reference center manager for Libraries and Media Services.

Links to access the service are available on the library home page under “Ask a Librarian” and from research database pages, such as EBSCO, in the lower-right corner.

“It’s more convenient to use the chat service from home rather than call,” freshman anthropology major Justine DeVorss said. “I’m usually online anyway.”

Students are generally experienced using chat and instant messaging services, Warren said.

Factual or database questions are most effectively answered through the chat service.

“It’s hard to tell if students are in a hurry,” Warren said. “Obviously we can’t read body language. We try to do a reference interview to determine what they need right away.”

Librarians answering chat questions have the capability of forwarding a result list from a database search to students.

“We either lead them through a search step-by-step in the chat or do the search ourselves,” Warren said. “We make sure to explain what we’re doing and forward the search terms we used along with a result list.”

There are two librarians from OhioLINK libraries answering chat inquiries at all times.

Students are identified and sorted by school when they log into a chat and are given a librarian from their school if one is available.

“This makes it easier for librarians to help their own students,” Warren said.

Librarians specializing in law, business and science are also available at various times through chat. Students can choose a librarian based on their specific needs.

“Using the chat service will be even more helpful with midterms coming up,” DeVorss said.

The live chat service is available 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday and 1 to 10 p.m. Sunday.

“The service has been well received by a number of patrons and students,” said Mark Weber, dean of Libraries and Media Services. “You can get reference questions answered from your dorm or home in a timely way.”

Contact libraries and information reporter NataliePillsbury at [email protected].