Transcript of video presentation by Diane Kresh
Hi. I'm Diane Kresh, Director for Public Service Collections at
the Library of Congress, and co-developer of QuestionPoint, the
successor to the Collaborative Digital Reference Service created
by the Library of Congress in the year 2000, and now being co-developed
with the help of OCLC.
Libraries are changing. There's been an exponential growth of resources;
the Internet alone has accounted for a lot of that growth. There
are new researchers with new needs and expectations. Libraries have
the opportunity to build new services and go where the users are.
But while the tools have changed, the work has not. The basic nature
of librarianship has not changed. New technology enables librarians
to enhance information delivery. Librarians can use their traditional
strengths to build new programs; to leverage that experience worldwide
throughout the library community; and to redefine the role of libraries
in the digital age.
QuestionPoint provides professional reference service to users
anytime, anywhere, through a collaborative, Web-based network of
libraries. The most important word in that definition is collaborative.
QuestionPoint could not have been developed without the support
and expertise of participant libraries who piloted the Collaborative
Digital Reference Service.
Any library can be a member: national libraries, public libraries,
academic libraries, consortia, and special libraries.
It's useful to know some QuestionPoint terminology. The Users
are the librarians, working on behalf of patrons. The Member
Profile Database contains information such as: subject strengths,
language strengths, and hours of service--up to 28 fields of data
that's used to route the question. The Request Manager
is the software that actually routes the question, based on information
in the question, to the library best suited to answer the question.
The Knowledge Base is the archive of questions and answers.
And finally, the Terms and Conditions describe what each
library agrees to do for QuestionPoint.
How does QuestionPoint work?
I'm Abbie Grotke, Digital Project Coordinator at the Library of
Congress. For this demonstration, I'm going to show you how patrons
submit their questions. Then I'll show you how a librarian responds
to a question or connects with other librarians around the globe
to help answer questions, using tools provided by QuestionPoint.
The patron sends a question by visiting their local library's Web
site. Once there, the patron asks a question using a Web form. Ask-a-librarian
forms are designed to capture enough information about the patron
and the question they are asking (including how they can be contacted,
their education level, and their reason for research) to enable
the librarians to respond most effectively.
Once a question is submitted, it goes into the librarian's queue
of new questions.
The librarian browses this list to retrieve a question to work
on. Using QuestionPoint, the librarian can choose to do any number
of things with the question: assign it to another librarian, respond
by answering or asking for clarification if needed, refer it to
another librarian within their institution or group, or route it
to another library participating in the QuestionPoint Global Reference
Network. From this screen, a record can also be added to the knowledge
base (which I'll explain in a moment), closed, or deleted.
After consulting traditional and online resources, the librarian
sends a response. The patron is sent an alert email letting her
know that the answer is available. Each patron has their own online
account where questions and answers can be viewed.
Let's say that the librarian instead chooses to forward this question
to a colleague.
For example, at the Library of Congress, all of the different reading
rooms form a group within QuestionPoint. This allows the librarian
to select the most appropriate location to forward the question.
In this next example, the librarian chooses to route the question
to the Global Network. The network is all of the members that answer
questions for other QuestionPoint libraries.
Unlike the manual routing process that we just saw, in global routing
QuestionPoint automatically sends the question to the appropriate
library within the network. In order to find the best match, QuestionPoint
compares data elements that help describe the question with the
library profile database.
These elements include: the subject of the question, the turn-around
time the patron needs, and the patron's education level. As you
can see, QuestionPoint can route a patron's question to any number
of librarians, either locally or globally, to find an appropriate
After the patron has received the answer, the question, answer,
and any other information that has been gathered are stored in a
knowledge base--an archive of question and answer sets. Personal
information about the patron is removed from the record and all
records are edited for clarity and to enhance searchability.
Reporting tools are also available for library administrators in
QuestionPoint. They provide ways to compile statistics about reference
QuestionPoint extends traditional reference services in a library.
It provides 24x7 coverage. It provides access to collections held
in libraries throughout the world. It provides access to subject
and language specialists worldwide. It's Web-based: no software,
QuestionPoint has an Advisory Board and the Library of Congress
participates in activities to promote national and international
So what's next for QuestionPoint?
We'll work on interoperability among networks. We'll achieve automated
routing at the local level. And soon, members of the public will
have direct access to QuestionPoint.
There are a number of global expansion issues. Language, literacy,
and regional context. Accessibility and infrastructure: every country
is different and has different needs. There are cultural and political
sensitivities. Digital divide issues. Intellectual property and
service constraints. And trade agreements that inhibit the free
flow of information.
Libraries are changing, and QuestionPoint is part of that change.
For more information about QuestionPoint and future developments,
please visit our Web site.