Library users who need help finding materials, have research questions, or want to learn more about resources and services, should consider the “Ask a Librarian” online service, which instantly connects users via live chat to a Penn State librarian. “Ask a Librarian” is available 24 hours a day from Sunday at noon, to Friday evening, during fall and spring semesters. Over summer, live chat is offered from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To start a chat, click on the ‘Ask a Librarian’ button that appears on every Libraries webpage, or go to ask.libraries.psu.edu, which provides more details on the service and also provides answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Users also have the option of sending an email or text message. Nearly half of all email questions last semester were answered within an hour, while in-depth research questions, which required the input of subject specialist librarians, were generally answered within a day. Over summer, all emails will be answered within one business day.
“Ask a Librarian” is proving popular with users at all hours of the day. Last semester, the chat service was used 3,584 times, often in the late evening or night, with librarians offering help on topics ranging from locating specific items to conducting research in many different subject areas. “In an era where so much research can be conducted using the library's online resources and services, and often without ever stepping foot in a library building, we have to be ready to offer a quick and easy way for students and other researchers to get assistance when and where they need it,” said Penn State Mont Alto Librarian Tom Reinsfelder, who coordinates the service.
“Penn State library experts from across our many departments and campuses work together to offer live and immediate online help to all our of users, whether they are in one of our library buildings, in a computer lab across campus, working from home, or studying in another time zone as part of Penn State's growing World Campus,” he added
“Ask a Librarian” is not just for Penn State students and researchers. Approximately 20 percent of questions last semester came from people not affiliated with Penn State, including individual researchers from Pennsylvania and beyond, students of other colleges, high school students and businesses.