Online Browsing and Librarian Reference Service

The following are answers to the question: has online browsing helped you to provide reference service? Reference librarians at North American public and academic libraries were asked to answer this question as part of a study of librarian reading habits.


We have a sizeable collection of web sources in our bookmarks on the staff reference computer. For example, the AT&T online telephone directory is referred to often to help patrons with out of state telephone listings needs. Also, the Kelly Blue Book was suggested by a patron, and we use that to give people very specific auto value information.

Here I can't think of any direct applications, other than cases where I've used Project Vote Smart to find government representatives. Many of our patrons have no idea who represents them, even in Washington.

Patron was looking for information and treatment on torn rotator cuff problems and we found the information on Medline.

Better facility in manipulating the Internet, ability to lead patrons directly to a source and manipulate it, ability to inform colleagues about exciting new applications they might find useful.

One of the reference questions we get every semester involves finding information on elements and minerals for a grade school class. While we have a lot of books on this subject, there are not enough to satisfy all the children. One afternoon while browsing, I found a link to two excellent sites. Once the books are all gone, we are able to direct the children to these sites for their assignments. In a library with a small collection, these kinds of sites are invaluable.

We came across a website called Votesmart. You put in your zip code and it tells you who your representatives are. We have used this several times to answer patron questions.

Various state tax forms and legal forms can be obtained and have been obtained from online browsing.

Educational statistics and tax forms.

Know of the patent site and was able to help someone with their search for specific type of item on that site.

I was able to give the Consumer Price Index fairly quickly.

Patron was doing a school project and needed information on a specific subject. Through Ebscohost, I was able to find the necessary information.

The specific question involved access to The Public Legal Education Society of Nova Scotia web site. Having browsed the Nova Scotia government web site I was aware that simply by using their search the site feature I would be able to access information on this organization and the patron's question was quickly answered.

Checking for the train timetable between Gatwick and Heathrow because I knew Yelloweb had the train schedule posted. It takes about thirty minutes to travel between the two. I wander through the Net and encourage my staff to do the same.

Learning or bookmarking sites to help patrons with their searches. A lot of the time patrons have no idea certain sites exist. By browsing, we, as reference people, can assist them in finding the information they want quickly.

I came across a site that gives very good study guides for novels, done by Harvard students. I was able to direct a student to that site so that she could study for finals.

I gave a presentation to paralegals recently and researched sites pertinent to them and in doing so found several sites that would be good for future referral sites for patrons doing legal queries such as finding legal forms or finding an attorney which we have frequently. Browsing through reader's advisory sites, I located a library's 'after Oprah' books list and made one similar for our patrons looking for books similar to ones from the Oprah books that they have already read.

We were able to determine the source of D-Day through online browsing.

Yes, a patron needed information on storm shelters and I was able to find a site that would help them. Another patron needed to find a relative she had never met and I was familiar with a site that could give me a phone number. Also, someone was unsure of their rights on a matter and I was able to find it on our local law site.

Patron wanted current information on alternative medicine including a doctor within 50-60 miles of Bartlesville. Having browsed the Internet, I had come across two websites on alternative medicine and provided names and addresses of doctors.

Browsing state government web sites enabled me to direct a patron to the source for birth certificates from the state.

Someone needs a specific book and we need to know if it is still in print.

This has not been specifically helpful yet but I keep hoping.

I've been able to assist people in the process of preparing resumes to post online thanks to tutorials offered on several related web sites.

Someone needed access to information from the US Code of Federal regulations. Getting to that site was much easier through the firstgov.gov site.

A patron came in with a line of poetry in her head and wanted to know the title and author. I exhausted our print resources here first, but then remember that IPL had several e-texts, which were poetry compilations. I went to www.ipl.org, downloaded a couple and searched their full-text electronically without success. Their site had a link to another, however, with an even bigger collection of poetry online and I was able to find the information there.

A patron needed information on a skin disease and there was no information in any of our print sources. But the health site had the information about this disease.

I discovered a site for song lyrics and several days later, a patron wanted lyrics for a particular song and I was able to retrieve it.

I had a student who needed a color picture of a crow for his report. We do not have a color copier so copying a print source is impossible if the patron wants color. I knew from reading the Scout Report and checking out the site that eNature.com would more than likely have what he needed. These online nature field guides have a color picture of each entry that can be blown up to quite a nice size. It was exactly what he needed. If I hadn't known about the site, I probably could still have found what he needed but not as quickly and it probably wouldn't have been as nice in quality.

Yes, with homework assignments and also supplying teachers with information for their classrooms.

This summer a patron requested a seating arrangement for a flight on a specific airline and aircraft. Because I had browsed some travel sites, I was quickly able to find the airline's website, which had the seating arrangement. Another patron, an international traveler, needed to withdraw money from his bank but he did not have a phone number and he was not familiar with the web. By using a search engine, we located his bank online and he was able to carry out the transaction electronically.

We have encountered questions about various Native American tribes and by doing some Internet browsing, we have been able to locate sites to aid patrons doing research on this subject, such as the Hopi.

The public inspires us, the media enriches us, and the reference tools, both print and online, empower us. How the individual librarian uses the resources available varies immensely. As I noted above, not every librarian has the making of a good reference librarian, indeed not every librarian can even do good reference work. It is hard to say how all the resources actually affect how an individual delivers reference service. Or, as Mae West said, "It's not the men in my life, Honey, it's the life in my men."

Browsing university sites has been very useful in helping patrons to access the course schedules, departmental information, admissions information, etc. We also have used knowledge gained from browsing governmental job service sites to aid patrons in using these sites.

Question about local official in another town. Found on state government database. I knew directory existed from online browsing.

One site that I have learned is useful for finding voting information is http://www.capitol.state.tx.us

My online browsing has been especially helpful in providing useful Internet sites for the children who use our public computers.

Yes, about a year ago, I read a couple of sites that provide historical stock price quotes. I examined and bookmarked the sites and when a patron needed a closing price of a stock she had sold in 1989. I was able to find the price online.

We have numerous questions on medical advances or for specific articles about diseases. These we usually search in databases we've found on the Internet. Another common question is about job openings. We find a few things on FirstGov.

Patron needed articles from several periodicals that we don't subscribe to. I knew where to find them on the Net and printed them off for her.

I have done browsing for Illinois sites and found a lot of useful information that I use a great deal in answering reference questions.

A common type of question seems to involve statistics for a particular area. Example: how many women, in various age groups, live in Elgin County, and what is their level of education, etc. Browsing through Statistics Canada site helps me to be familiar with what is available.

I got to the US Department of Labor site while helping a patron find current CPI data for the US, and looked around to see what else was there and how the site in interconnected to other US government sites.

Common areas of requests such as genealogy have allowed me to find a core of sites that I can visit in order to answer patron questions. Many of the best sites have been found in passing while looking for something else.

Reader's advisory, finding an author's name based on a description of a character. New medical online sources for medical questions and information on Harry Potter.

By browsing, I found the MLA online site. Within the week, a patron was looking for an example of a bibliography. I was able to refer them to the site and they were very happy.

Looking at an open records government site brought me to a pictorial listing of sex offenders. A patron later needed such a listing.

It has been a valuable exercise to shelf study my entire career. I do it without thinking. As I have said, life in a small public library is very different than that in large libraries when there is a dedicated reference staff. Since I am the only degreed librarian, I do most things and cannot devote myself to the study of new sources, but dedicated staff need to be allowed to do that. I may not have been as helpful as you had hoped but perhaps you will have gotten the idea that size does make a difference in how things are done. Basic principles remain the same but their execution can be very different.

One of the other librarians passed on a web site to me that had anatomical illustrations of animals and I had bookmarked it. I ended up later referring it to a student who needed a drawing of a manatee.

Yes, there are instances where knowledge of a particular websites has allowed me to go directly to that site rather than using a search engine to find appropriate information.

I was able to find the other drug information needed by this nursing student by going into our online magazine databases.

A patron needed a picture of Armstrong for a school report. Used a site I had seen previously.

Especially during election time and at times of the year when people are looking for tax forms and help with the forms. Both the IRS and our state tax sites are very good and useful.

Yes, this has been frequently been helpful, for example, someone wanted help with a landlord tenant dispute in public housing. Having come across it in my previous browsing, I was able to refer them to the local county housing authority very quickly, whose site is linked to our reference page under local government.

I once had a question about registering domain names that I was able to answer because I had browsed the ICANN site. Usually consulting the Internet is just part of answering a reference question.

This type of online browsing helps twofold. One, I am more familiar with specific web sites to use to answer reference queries. And two, I am better skilled at using the Internet -- knowing what kind of information is out there and forming queries to best find the information I'm seeking -- and can thus answer a patron's question quickly and efficiently.

I had a question as to whether a song was in the public domain. I had discovered a site that answered the question.

We were asked a question about a new member of the Israeli Knesset, and I remembered the Knesset had recently put up a parallel version of their official Hebrew-language website in English. I wasn't sure if they would have detailed information about the member, but it turned out they have biographical information and a picture about every member in both languages, and this information is generally available within days of the member's election, unlike similar print sources. Another question involved an article in an obscure periodical we don't carry, but I thought it likely it might be in one of the small press indexes. I was able to find the article full-text because I had already explored those databases and had an idea what they carry.

Since I have browsed European library catalogs, it has been easy for me to recommend this resource to patrons. The same goes for online collections of historical sheet music, which I often tell people to consult.

Finding song lyrics and knowing which are apt to be digitized, or poems, has been quite helpful.

We are a depository library for both state and federal documents. I know that only through browsing have I been aware of which sites have full-text laws, etc.

A site for locating historic consumer prices was suggested on the Stumpers listserv one day. I bookmarked it and used it about one week later for a reference question.

Yes, because you learn which sites provide the best information with accuracy and quickness.

Used "Who We Re" site to answer a question about the makeup of the local community.

We were able to locate information on a small business in Eugene, Oregon, for a patron having spent time seeing how the Reference USA business database worked in a trial.

Able to provide real estate and educational statistics by knowing that this information was readily available on Rand's web site.

A patron wanted to find the worth of her stock on a particular day a few years ago. I knew where to find this historical information on the yahoo financial web sites because I had browsed these pages and also needed to know for my own information.

Through the recent voting process, familiarity with various sites helped answer many questions quickly.

It has helped a few times when kids had homework assignments. I get a lot of information from Amazon.com. It is fun to look at what Google comes up with.

Someone recently came in looking for life expectancy rates in the US. I cannot recall which of our bookmarked sites I found it on, but my browsing helped me here and on many other occasions.

I had a question about photodynamic therapy for macular degeneration. I went to Medline Plus and to PubMed because I had recently been looking at both of them and found information for my patron.

A patron asked me about the cost of living in an area that he was planning to move to. I remembered seeing a website, which offered salary computations that reflected the differences of cost-of-living between two cities. This information was useful to the patron as a rather general indicator.

It hasn't helped yet, unfortunately.

Yes, I found a marine fisheries page quite by accident and used it this morning to help a young man doing a report on Gulf Coast fishery limits and the resulting fish population changes.

In general it improves my speed. Patrons expect very fast service. Shelf study of online resources helps me to find authoritative information on a subject in advance of receiving the question. This is an issue that does not exist with hard copy reference; those items have already been selected based on authoritativeness, but online it can be very time consuming weeding through all of the questionable sources. Patrons often don't care whether or not the site is a quality one when it means their time, so in order to be professional, I need to do my homework ahead of time. Specific questions I have had have been on how to print out past years' IRS tax forms and what hurricane evacuation zone the person lives in. In both of these cases, I had practiced using the search features of the web sites ahead of time so that I knew where to click, what information to input, etc. so that the patron was not standing over me saying Why don't you trying clicking there.

Many times. Today a man came in looking for a local address. I used our link to Map Blast and got small printed map showing the location. Yesterday a young girl needed to find ten places in the United States named Stillwater. I went to Gazette of the United States and printed out the locations; yesterday I also our history directory to find significant events during the life of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary. Other times I've used to find federal, state, and local news, get investment information, identity the members of the president's cabinet, provide information on foreign countries and locate medical information.

I had a question yesterday on the White House's address. I knew the site had that information so I printed it out for the patron. I also had a query about a particular car. I went to a car website that I had looked at in the past and found the car and the specifics and printed it out for the patron.

I have become very familiar with IRS publications online and this has been very helpful in doing tax questions.

Yes, actually this has helped in several situations. I have been able to use government sites to answer a number of medical questions very well, for school assignments and other patron questions. My skill with the American Business Directory has come in very useful.

This is a knowledge-building process that is of use every day, sometimes I'm sure without consciously being aware of it. I'm afraid I can't come up with specific instances. Keeping up on current issues and topics of possible interest to patrons is something I think every good reference librarian just does. We don't necessarily think about it a lot. When we use the results of that process in answering a question, we're not always consciously aware that something we just absorbed last week helped us. I pick up information on subjects and issues wherever I encounter them. I like to know about many subjects and to use that awareness to further expand my knowledge and understanding. Being a reference librarian helps me do that, but I would do it whether or not I was a reference librarian.

Every time we get state reports and books are all checked out, I can tell the patrons the state web address code and they can go to the state's website for reports. We get people wanting to contact various government agencies. In some cases I've been to the website and in other cases I can go without knowing the address. I've become fairly good (not great) at scanning and navigating quickly through websites just with practice.

No, nothing comes to mind immediately but I'm sure it has had a positive effect at some point.

I get a lot of medical questions, and by browsing the web sites I get a better feel for which is the best source, giving patrons up-to-date information.

We get many questions about medical problems and being familiar with medical sites helps us.

A lot of our government information is just knowing what agency is responsible for what type of information. So exploring our federal and to an extent our state websites helps tremendously in this area. Knowing what the federal government agencies will post on their websites helps as well. For example, I know that the federal IRS forms and instructions are posted on irs.gov. This helps a lot during tax season.

When I and others find a particularly useful site, we will call it to the attention of other staff and often bookmark it for future reference. Sometimes we will add sites to our library's website under an Internet subject category for patrons to browse either in the library or at home through remote viewing.

Just today customer asked for a phone number of a Toronto City Counselor and I had checked out the Municipalities' site and Toronto's in particular after their recent election. This was a fast find today.

The provincial and federal government job banks and online job applications are sites we refer to regularly. Stats Canada is also another area in the government web site that we refer to for information some patrons require. Because I have made myself familiar with the content of the sites, I can efficiently retrieve the required information. One patron needed to know how many licensed helicopter pilots there were in Canada.

A genealogical inquiry re Mormon records was answered because I had seen it being used by one other person and had checked it out after they used it.

I found a site on a Halloween recipes by serendipity and was able to bookmark and use for approximately five customers immediately.

Becoming more familiar with the online Ohio Revised Code has been a big help.

Again, it is the process of self-knowledge and edification that can't be compartmentalized into a specific chore or question. We often surf the net, use print sources and electronic databases all for just one question.

I came across a site http://www.smartvoter.org and it became very helpful when elections started in November. It contained national issues as well as local offices and gave extensive information on issues that people wanted to vote on.

I can't think of a specific reference question this helped me with, but where it is very useful is in being an efficient Internet user. I browse so often, and search for topics so often, that it is excellent practice for using the Internet and being capable of helping patrons use it, whether it's for a reference question or for patrons using our Internet terminals in the branch.

Yes, I was able to navigate the baseball hall of fame site very quickly to get information for a telephone reference question on several black baseball players. The specific questions had to do with dates of indoctrination, teams played for, etc.

I have looked at school board sites and known to go there for data on test scores and classes for professional certification. I directed a patron interested in papers published in Jamaica to ethnic newswatch where I found information.

A patron came in five minutes prior to closing one afternoon and needed to find the closest patent library. By being familiar with search engines and how to phrase queries, I was able to retrieve and print a list for him in just minutes. I am certain that we would not have had a print resource for this information unless it might have been in the often-overlooked Almanac.

With the current presidential election here, we were able to keep up and answer patrons' questions regarding developments. But it is often used when patrons say they heard about a book. It is a great way to keep up with publishing news.

I had a student looking for poems on a chemical element. I was able to find one on a website I have shared with everyone here at the library.

Yes, this type of information helps us when we have medical inquiries. One question was the need for by-pass surgery. One of the different treatments was discussed in print matter and online sites, and the patron was able to have access to the information.

I have visited the Family Self Help Center on the Clark County web site. The patrons needed certain forms to complete their divorce proceedings.

A patron had a question about a rare childhood disease. I remembered seeing the sites on the web that posted radiology pictures. When I pointed her to them, she was able to tell her doctor and he made a definitive diagnosis of her child's condition.

Has helped me find biographical information on authors, bibliographies of recommended books on topics for children, and program ideas for storytime and after school age programming.

None that I can specifically remember.

This has helped me find state-produced statistics, state documents and referrals to state agencies many times over the last nine years (I was the state documents librarian for a long time.) It has also helped me find free legal forms on the Internet for patrons.

There was a day someone requested (through ILL) a book by the US Small Business Administration. Having previously browsed through the site, I knew they had a wealth of information readily downloadable. I chose to download a similar document rather than borrow the book from another state.

I have used this to find current statutes on the Young Offenders Act to assist a patron find the most current information on the topic for a project.

There are many self-employed prospectors in this area. Being familiar with the MNDM site has helped me to help them find maps, abstracts and other information pertinent to their work.

I can't really be specific, although it has helped in directing patrons to census information in the Statistics Canada site, and to things like the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid web site for genealogy.

Whenever I hear a question I try to think of a source where I might have seen the answer or kind of answer being sought. I can then go to that source immediately. Otherwise, I have to go through our catalogue or a search engine searching for a likely resolution.

Being familiar with web sites is extremely helpful when working on the Information Desk. Currently, grade 7 classes in our area are looking for information related to New France. There is an excellent site that we documented and linked our electronic board - this is very helpful in a busy branch location.

Having at one time browsed our local Genealogical Society web site, when someone from a distance asked me for names of people in the area who would do genealogical searching I was able to refer him to a list from that site. Because I had familiarized myself somewhat with the Stats Canada site I was able to find fairly quickly the current rate of inflation for a patron.

I have had patrons ask me about specific diseases and I can go to that web site and get information for them.

Yes, it helps to know what's available on the web to direct your patrons to for inquiries.

I use the information I garner from keeping up with new sites all the time in reference work. I recently learned about the soundtracks search feature at the Internet Movie Database. I was able to use this site to answer a patron question about which Shirley Temple movie was the song On the Good Ship Lollipop used. We did not have any movie musical reference books that could have answered this question.

Using search engines such as Copernic, helps find answers to almost any reference question instantly.

Wilson Select provided the needed statistical information on a question regarding teen pregnancy and the number of males who remain with the female partner after the birth of the baby.

Patron wanted a particular legal form. I had found Lexis/Nexis web site with legal forms.

Just this week, I had a child ask for biographical information on Dot Richardson. Just today, (Sunday) while surfing the net, I came across the Britannica Encyclopedia online and I found a couple articles for her that I printed up at home.

Patrons in our computer lab always want to check their email remotely, and by browsing the Internet I discovered mailstart.com and emumail.net which allows a person to check their email remotely.

I had just checked out a site on forms on dance from India when I had a student who needed information on some sort of cultural activity in India. I was able to show her the dance site. It had all the information she needed for her report.

I have had patrons who needed information from the Michigan Compiled Law site, Federal tax forms, federal and state addresses, candidate information, state and federal Representatives and Senators voting records to name a few.

Again, just an awareness of the wide array of sites that you stumble across by browsing can help answer reference queries. When I find an outstanding site I recommend that it be included on our web page under our topical arrangement of Internet sites so that others can benefit from it too.

Requests for information about a particular disease, state tax forms, specific government laws and acts online, address and phone requests.

At one time I had browsed bn.com (another fave) and a patron was requesting Oprah books. Since I knew this site had a link or two and bibliography complete with a plot blurb and reviews if I needed them, I was able to help that patron locate a couple of Oprah's books and she was most gratified. As you may be able to tell, I believe reader's advisory is a very important part of reference. For the most part, Michael, I have been happy to answer your survey questions. This has been a most enlightening exercise and I plan to begin to devote even more of both my DOWN time as well as my own time to the practices mentioned above. It is my contention that one can never read too much. Good Luck with your survey!

You can look at www.auburnalabama.org/library to get an idea of helpful sites that we've found in the process of answering reference questions. Whenever I find a helpful site, I bookmark it so that I can later add it to our web site.

I had received a recommendation for a government site for students and after I had looked there to see what it had, someone came in with a question about Alabama congressmen. That site had the answer.

I used the Census site for a minister who wanted current U.S. poverty rates for a weekly sermon. This site gave me current statistics (as current as population stats can be) and broke the stats down into ethnic groups which is what he wanted.

I have many web addresses and I spend time exploring them at my leisure. The IRS.gov address is one that I explore. We have a file with many URLs and I just go into them and see what they are like. At least one hour a week.

We have a bank of 16 online computers. While manning the reference desk we get constant queries for "how can I find this?" We can then refer patrons to our online reference links as appropriate.

This was not on-line browsing, but after the library subscribed to Ancestry.com, I was made aware of the Social Security Death Index. This week, we received an email genealogy question. The inquirer was asking about an obituary for her father, but was not even clear about the date he died. I used the Social Security death Index to find the exact date (assuming I located the right person). Unfortunately, we did not have the microfilm of the newspaper for that date, but I think I gave the inquirer a substantial lead that was missing in her quest for information.

Browsing investment sites such as Yahoo Finance has led me to lots of information useful to our customers.

By having engaged in electronic shelf-study, I was familiar with several medical sites on which I could obtain information for a patron about a medical condition - syringomyelia.

Numerous times helping patrons, both adult and child, with homework questions, special projects. I also make myself aware of what is being posted on Dr. Laura, Focus on the Family, and other conservative political action groups so I can have a polite, intelligent, and well-developed response when people who believe that stuff come in pitching a fit about the anti-library issues raised.

Tonight, because of checking out voting sites, I knew which one was the easiest to use to let people know where to vote and even give them a copy of their ballot. Did that several times today. I also look at kid's sights for repeat questions like California missions to be bookmarked for staff. We answer both kids and adult questions at the adult reference desk.

Again, this is far too frequent. Yesterday I went to Kansas City Public's web site to link me to www.salaries.com because I'd forgotten the URL, but remembered I'd seen it in reviewing KCPL.org's web site design of business reference links. I needed to compare cost of living between Escondido and Temecula, our neighbor to the north. I still hope to use the idea they have about "1000 stories" on the genealogy page to promote the use of our web site. You can learn a lot from their design and links.

Yes, someone had a question about what the price of a piece of property in Burlingame would sell for in a particular neighborhood. LII had a site listed that gave this information.

I was asked recently for information on the US code of regulations regarding Indian tribes. Because I had spent some time exploring the index to the Govt. site I was able to find the information for the patron.

California Codes is a site used for reference purposes every day at least once.

I am interested in pre-school education and funding for it. I had been checking on that subject when a group of parents requested information on grants and funding to continue the program that was ending here. By having researched it for myself I was able to go to the site and print off the information for the committee. www.naeyc.org & www.fndcenter.org were two sites I used for this.

Government questions about how to contact this person or what is the way you would address a letter to public officials. Medical question on different topics and information on rare diseases.

On-line sources are becoming more frequent sources of information for our reference questions. Example: recently looked up a physician for a patron on-line. Basic information.

A student was looking for information about the presidential candidates' stands on various issues. I referred him to a site (Vote Smart) that I had specifically checked out a few days before.

A local lawyer called looking for a decision for a Supreme Court case and I was able to find it after remembering some of the legal sites I had browsed through weeks before.

Yes, I helped a person who was looking for old pictures of the city and from an antique postcard collection that I knew was online at the local Free-Net site. I probably have more than the usual amount of local web info because I happen to be a key volunteer for Rochester Free-Net. The way I put it is that in the library, I am used to acquiring information and making it available to the public after library hours. I do the same thing as a volunteer, but I do it from home.

Yes. A patron, who was doing a booklet on the election 2000, missed a very important article concerning the debates. I had the page bookmarked that she needed.

I use online browsing just to keep up with current affairs for eventual questions posed by students.

From three-thirty until closing time, library staff have waiting lines of school children to use the library's six computers. The current project is information on states for reports and posters and will soon be African-Americans, science projects, and term papers. Limited library staff must make the most of time and knowing where to locate the information and getting the child to it is most important. Don't have time to do a lot of searching databases.

The more I browse, the better I can help patrons browse.

Patron needed a table of LIBOR rates. Print sources provided some. AltaVista search provided many possible hits. But having browsed through the site of the St. Louis Fed Reserve Bank once before, I recognized it as a likely site and selected it from among the many possibilities.

Only in knowing where to go from previous experience.

We've had questions on types of crosses Saint Katharine Drexel, directions on how to find places, obscure tax forms, holidays in foreign countries, words to songs, etc.

I was just interrupted by a phone call asking if George Burns is still alive. Although I knew he was dead, I brought up the dead people server and was able to give them his date of death.

Amazon.com has been very useful, particularly in verifying out of print titles which patrons are unsure of (Low Fat and Loving It, for example). For election info, the candidates web sites, and the League of Women Voters web site.

With this being election time, I had a student who needed to know the various platforms that the two presidential candidates were taking. I had found a site that contained many candidates and their platforms and was able to print out 2 candidate profiles and their campaign issues for the student. Once I had found this information for one student, I had another student who I was able to help soon after.

Yesterday, I had a patron ask me what would be a "cool" site for him to visit. I asked him if he had a topic in mind and he said no. So, I suggested Google.com as a search engine and explained how it worked. Our director wanted statistics for local or county population estimates for a large range of years. I was aware of a web site for the Penn State Data Center that I have found to be a priceless tool for very current and extensive statistics on Pennsylvania and its counties and municipalities. I use it more often than I do our printed (and often more outdated) data books here in reference.

Census information: it's always helpful to be able to show patrons how to navigate the census sites. Without prior browsing, we are at risk of appearing inept in front of patrons.

I have already mentioned how the shelf-study helped me. The on-line browsing has helped me with business and genealogy questions in particular. We have excellent databases through our consortia and I have answered many queries using them. These include health, literature, and newspaper among others.

Someone wanted to know when a specific actress had passed away and I went right to the obituary web site and pulled up the actress' name and death date. It was easier than using the local newspaper sites as obituaries are so hard to search and the magazine indexes had yet to reflect such a current date.

I had a reference question from a student looking for a recipe from the Elizabethan period/Shakespeare. I searched the Internet and found a perfect site.

I found a great site for use with an annual school assignment on elements, We never have enough print resources to satisfy the many students doing the assignment at the same time and this site was perfect.

I found a great web site for newspapers from around the world. I was able to help many students access the local newspapers in the country they were studying. It was a super resource and I found that through the yahoo link.

No specific examples, but we have used each of the sites above (as well as many others) to answer subsequent questions.

Regarding these questions about whether self-study of the reference collection or perusing the Internet for Web sites or knowledge of current affairs is helpful for answering reference questions, yes, I believe they are very helpful but I cannot give you any concrete examples.

Good sites for telephone numbers, company information for investment clubs, genealogy resources for family researchers, and author interviews for patrons doing book group research.

I urge you again to remember the size of the library responding. When I was in library school (20 years ago) small public libraries were pretty much disregarded as viable to the library world. Well I here am in south east Iowa and I am the only professional librarian in our region at a library my size or smaller (that would be half the libraries in our region.) The pay is lousy but the challenges and benefits of working to bring an excellent library to a small community are tremendous. Small communities need good libraries and reference service more than ever, maybe "because" of the Internet rather than in spite of it. By the way, just so you have an idea of what I'm working with. The reason I waited until now to answer your survey was because we open at 1:00 p.m. on Thursdays; and Thursday morning is the only time I can use the computer without competing with the public.

I became acquainted with a web-site that accessed information on almost any country in the world. I had a mother come in looking for information about an area in Germany where her son had recently been stationed in the armed forces and was able to help her with that.

I have found that governmental and medical questions are the primary reference questions that I have used electronic researching for and it has helped to know what search engines and sources to go to find the information quickly.

A patron was looking for information on lupus. Since I had recently attended a workshop on Medline Plus, I was able to use the site to find useful information for the person.

It has made me aware of what sites are available and what they have to offer. Specifically, I could answer questions about our legislators from information from the web-site.

We have questions all the time about local issues and the Iowa City Gazette has a new on-line web-site that has full text access. We are able to find articles from the past eight years. I helped someone with an article from October about second hand shops.

I need to know if my doctor is Board Certified. I recently had a PET scan. What was the doctor looking for? My doctor did a fingerprint test. What was he looking for? I need some information on West Nile Virus written in Spanish.

A friend once asked me to find the meaning behind the Chicago Lyric 25 or 6 to 4. I tried the usual Chicago sites, printed reference materials, periodicals but no luck. A staff member recommended a trivial site (straitdope.com or maybe straightdope.com) they found as a possibility. Sure enough it was there. Not the most important question but then who am I to judge?

I was able to find current information on an alternative treatment for prostate cancer for a customer.

We have been browsing Find IT-RI, a government source of information about RI and were able to direct a patron who wanted information about voter registration to this site as a result of having previously browsed through it.

Knowing what is available helps you to be more prepared to answer reference questions.

Well, unfortunately the greatest impact was when I was surfing for the White House and got whitehouse.com instead (I've used this example so often, I feel like it happened a hundred years ago instead of within the last 18 months). This led to other "innocent" questions that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Ultimately, this dabbling led to a workshop, created and run by me, on the value and deficiencies of filters to protect our patrons from the seamier side of life. (My conclusion: nothing works 100%, not even diligent vigilance). The real example for this question might be: Several times, Library Sport had shown me items that I had bookmarked "just in the nick of time" such as "amillionlives.com for a History fair project that needed a Holocaust benefactor like Schindler.

A foreign language exercise retried an online dictionary site that was shortly thereafter useful when a patron needed a Swahili phrase translates (we have no Swahili dictionaries).

While noodling around on the official state site I followed a link that brought me to a printable booklet for students about North Carolina. This is absolutely perfect for the North Carolina project that is required of all fourth-graders. I printed out copies for reference and the children's department and we have been using it heavily.

There are no concrete examples except that I have used some sites repeatedly and some not at all. I find sites like I do print sources. I tend to return to them if I find them useful. Unfortunately, I am not a concrete example type of person. In my career I have seen a little bit of everything, but I am constantly surprised by something new. I try to find what I need from all around me and usually try not to limit myself.

This browsing has proved very helpful in answering clients' questions about relocation and home buying.

Browsing helped me find a lot of investing information, places that have stock quotes etc. I use these a lot.

I know how to scan classifieds, find schedules, airline tickets, and hotel reservations. This has all benefited me helping patrons.

I had a student who was writing a paper comparing the witchcraft trials to the Holocaust. Our witchcraft books have all been stolen. By exploring a list of government web sites concerning women's history, I stumbled upon a host of web sites on the history of witchcraft trials. I placed these sites in my Internet file and was able to provide this student with valuable information that she would not have had otherwise.

Most reference questions I've answered using the Internet have been concerning current issues, newest technology, consumer and business trends, latest stock info, obscure topics such as little known people whom a biography was needed for, and topics that usually aren't easily located in print.

For obscure or out-of-the-ordinary reference questions it is easier to find information that you have browsed through before. Also, the fact that just being on the Internet helps you become more familiar with searching techniques and navigating. As far as specific questions, we had a question about the width of the Cape Fear River and had a really hard time finding it. Eventually, on a fishing site they broke down the river into sections and gave information for all of the rivers in North Carolina. We have since had several more questions about this type of information for rivers. It had never really dawned on us to check fishing sites until we found the first one.

This online browsing has assisted me in putting together a scheme when I am answering a reference question.

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Librarians and Their Use of Television and Radio to Answer Reference Questions
Librarians and News Radio Shows
Has Current Awareness Helped Librarians to Provide Reference Service?
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Television News Magazines and Reference Librarians
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Are Librarians Paid to Read?
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Newspapers or Magazines in Library Staff Lounges


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