Online Shelf-Studying and Librarians

The following are answers to the question: do you online web browse key government or statistical sites (electronic shelf-study)? Reference librarians at North American public and academic libraries were asked to answer this question as part of a study of librarian reading habits.

I do occasionally look at new online sources. Normally they are ones recommended to me by colleagues in other libraries, staff members, or the public. I normally do this only two or three hours a month.

This is one of my main uses of the Internet. I do it almost every day and mostly I use the US and Illinois government websites.

I don't do this often due to lack of time.

I never just browse. I browse in an attempt to find answers when a question has been asked of us.

Medical sites and sites relevant to my area of subject responsibility.

Yes. In a past library position, I was responsible for maintaining the library's web site, which included many outside links. That introduced me to many sites that I now recommend to patrons and my fellow librarians to locate information. In my free desk time, I still look around at various sites, usually ones linked from other library web pages, to stay aware of new sites on the web. I spend about fifteen minutes every day doing this.

Yes, contains a wealth of information.

Yes, as time allows.

I have done this with the Colorado State website.

Yes, I often go to to find out what is happening with the National Park Service. I often go to the county and town government sites to see what they are posting that might be helpful to our patrons. I look at different job posting sites such as Monster because many of our patrons have seasonal postings and are looking for jobs in other areas.

Four of us do this every day and share good websites. We subscribe to WebFeet that also updates information for us on good web sites. We are also part of a seven-library system in Colorado that keeps us informed on good stuff. I have been looking at government things lately because we had a big tax cut amendment and I was tracking that and the state politics. We find many reference questions on the Net. We look at the whole gamut of sites.

I do this fairly regularly during work when I have time. I often look at government sites since they are so complicated, especially the Colorado site, the census site, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

I will visit sites that have been recommended by others but I don't do online browsing as such.

I have not done so. On the advice of various staff that have expertise in an area we bookmark sites. Staff are made aware of these sites. We also list the sites for our patrons, and make reference to them in our newspaper column.

In past years Statistics Canada would send print information to libraries. Now that they have stopped sending print, we find that we visit their website for information on a regular basis.

Attempting to be current in online sites, I often browse the web. I check federal as well as provincial government sites to see how they are organized, how user-friendly they are, are they designed to be used by the public and professional researchers? The provincial library reference coordinator often suggests sites that may be helpful in assisting patrons with their questions.

Yes all the time. I wander all over the Net looking for ideas and potential good sites, bookmarking them as needed. It would appear that over the last four months I'm bookmarking less and less. Google and Yahoo are just so good that entering a search usually gets me exactly what I am looking for.

I browse occasionally, when time permits, but not on a regular basis.

We are a depository library, so I do spend time looking at the government site. We have used the White House site to answer questions and a number of Michigan State sites to answer things like when is Michigan Week? Who is the Lt. Governor?

I try to look at different sites whenever I get some time at work. Typical sites are government information, medical information, new book reviews, consumer products, scholarship information, and genealogy sites just to name a few.

A few times a week I will browse through state statutes and various governmental agencies.

I browse online almost every day and I visit the widest variety of sites that I am able to find. I subscribe to lists that send me ten good links to examine via services such as the Librarians Index to the Internet. I am always looking for sites to use for reference work or teaching class.

I do this by subscribing to Librarian's Index to the Internet. Other than that, I will serendipitously follow links that I come across while doing reference.

During work hours I browse quite frequently when it is slow. I check out sites from the Librarian's Index.

We have a staff member whose duty it is to identify valuable new sites for our Reference portal on our homepage.

Yes we all do online browsing. Sometimes by on purpose just by going deeper and deeper into the searches and finding great information. We look at other state governmental sites, national governmental sites, and reader's advisory sites. When we give presentations on resources at the library we research helpful sites for a webliography to hand out plus we also produce webliographies periodically just for patron information. Also, when we have reference staff workshops we share favorite sites.

Some part of each library day is spent in perusing web sites for approximately thirty minutes.

Yes, I like browsing. I do it every day in slack periods. I visit university sites, government sites, literary ones, medical sites, and fact-finding sites.

Yes, three or four times weekly. I like to browse university library sites to see what statistical/data links they have. I have discovered several for population demographics.

This is my most valuable source of information. I subscribe to dozens of professional listservs and I use the information posted to these lists to harvest websites with reliable information. I have over 2500 weblinks in my personal bookmarks and I frequently amaze my colleagues with the information I am able to pull out of these sites.

At least once a week as this is part of my responsibilities on collection development committee: to find potential websites to add to our webpage.

Regretfully I have done no online browsing except those sites addressed by recent workshops specifically for reference service. No self-discovery of related sites for sources.

The Oklahoma Department of Libraries keeps us updated occasionally on beneficial sites on the web and I view those as I have time.

Most of the time I don't have the luxury of just pointing and clicking with no place to go. Most of the time I have people waiting in line who have papers that were due ten minutes from the time they walk in the library and they want their material yesterday, if not sooner. As an information specialist I have to know where I can get information within the space of two minutes with less than thirty hits so a person can say 'yes I want that or no I don't.' This is a fast-food society we live in and we have to serve up reference much the same way. I just hope our coffee is better. I engage in online browsing as I am looking for people's requests. I take mental notes and if I like a site then I bookmark it and tell others.

The web site I usually watch is called ORIGINS, which is a database of Oklahoma State Statistics. I usually take a look when they email that they have updated or added information.

Yes, once or twice a week. Periodical databases, online reference sources. I really just browse.

Yes, I frequently browse web sites, particularly job and adult basic education sites. These are subject areas that I am mostly responsible for. Medical, legal, and consumer sites are also useful.

I don't do this very often.

I regularly engage in this on library time spending about 1-2 hours weekly, either by the surfing method where I browse or using search and metasearch engines to answer hypothetical or real reference questions that seem important according to reference trends and real failures in finding answers in the past. I especially look for full-text sources of government studies, data from government agencies and statistical sources for US and worldwide, marketing statistics and data, full-text consumer information and readers' advisory tools to recommend popular reading. I have found many US government docs full-text online that are either missing from our government docs collection, are more current than what we have in the library or things we do not own. I have found a host of good literary sites for popular, classic, and obscure authors through my travels, especially the ones on academic and university websites. I found a great site for the collected works of Bliss Carmen, a Canadian poet not well known in the US. I often confirm random facts for writers and marketing executives through random searches uncovering nongovernmental and private statistical and full-text data.

About once a month I browse through a new website I have read or heard about. I have visited the IRS site, CT employment bureau site, and several others.

I'm looking from answers to specific questions that I have and this leads me to explore and become familiar with these sites. Through email I will receive recommendations of websites from other librarians, which I will sometimes go explore without any information-seeking, involved. I don't do this very often, perhaps an hour a month. I've done this most frequently with state websites, but have also browsed local government sites. I've done this with Internet Public Library and Library Spot, as well as a number of e-text sites. Usually when I surf, I at least have a topic in mind, and, while I'm not looking for answers to a specific question, I may be looking for good sites with information on say Orthodox Christianity. If I find one, I will explore and see what type of information is available at the site.

Yes, this and shelf studying comprise a lot of my shifts. I use suggested web sites at the end of professional journal articles/acquisitions catalogues and test the sites. I bookmark and comment on helpful ones and forget the rest.

I evaluate on a daily basis for their potential. If they are authoritative, I will consider adding them to the webpage of the library. When I find a good resource, I will bookmark it on the reference PC and then email my colleagues telling them about the site.

Yes, I do Internet shelf reading. Most of the sites I visit in this manner are genealogy-related. I follow Cyndi's List, A Barrel of Genealogy Links, Rootsweb, and US Gen Web Project pretty closely. I also contribute to the Obituary Daily Times three times a week and am working to put some local cemetery records on the US GenWeb Project's Tombstone Project. I found out about these volunteer-driven sites by browsing the Web for interesting stuff. I also bookmark government sites that are especially good.

Most librarians do this for survival and usually with some idea in mind of upcoming expected events. We try to anticipate questions.

Yes and have ever since we got the Internet here. We book mark sites we think the patrons will find useful. There are many sites about, for instance, establishing a value for a car you plan to sell.

All of us are expected to be familiar with the Internet and to gain that familiarity through browsing. We spend time on the desk doing this. I look at a wide range of sites - governmental, educational, company directories.

I visit the US Patent and Trademark Office website, CIA World Factbook, Presidential inaugural addresses, different car manufacturers, world weather sites, and NASA.

Each week I receive a list of web sites from LIIWEEK and I go through the sites that have potential use to us. As I read articles hat mention potentially useful sites I look at them. If the sites appear valuable, they are bookmarked for future use. The bookmarks are reviewed every few months and kept or discarded.

Mostly governmental sites.

Yes, I often explore websites that I run across that seem to be possible sources of information. I feel that this is an activity that quite possibly could occupy the proverbial roomful of monkeys for the proverbial eternity and might possibly produce the complete works of Shakespeare, if not for the JavaScript errors.

We do online browsing two or three hours a week. We visit many government sites, including agencies, military, career-related, etc. We also browse university sites because we have reference questions concerning those. We also find it very useful to ask regular patrons about sites they use. For example, a genealogist provides us with useful information about sites, which are helpful to our clients.

The typical sites are local government and medical sites. I update our URL Referral File and am constantly or rechecking sites.

When I have time, I like to check out favorite sites that other public libraries list. I created an informal bookmarking system at the public service desks that organizes web sites by Dewey number. When I come across a really good/useful site, I bookmark it under the appropriate section by hundreds.

I usually browse the websites I read favorable reviews about in magazines or in professional journals, to see for myself whether they are as good as the reviewers claim to be or not, and if so, I share the information with my colleagues.

Yes, at least three times a week. Sites visited are often those mentioned in the Stumpers-L listserv, best of lists in publications (any that I see) and sites mentioned in television broadcasts.

I do not have the time for this activity at the library and do not have web access outside the library.

I do this a lot. Mostly I am browsing the sites we have bookmarked on our homepage to make sure that I am familiar with them since changes occur.

No specific time set aside for online browsing; engage in this practice when I discover a new site and have time to devote.

All of the librarians here are responsible for monitoring subject web links at our homepage, deleting old links and adding new. Personally, I do this often, subscribe to a general library stuff list and a public policy list.

We do this on library time. People then share good sites. We post best reference sites on the public access computers as bookmarks so that any staff member could point them out. We look for medical, legal, governmental, and education sites. Maps, telephone directories, weather, travel, and home improvement sites.

I belong to listservs that email me new and useful web sites all the time.

I frequently visit web sites of potential reference use. I usually visit sites mentioned in email discussion lists such as Publib and Dig-ref. I also subscribe to the weekly newsletter of sites added to the Librarians' Index to the Internet to be aware of new sites of interest.

On Thursday, the NY Times publishes a special section entitled Circuits, which includes lists of recommended web sites. I will often check out those that look potentially work-pertinent. Also, we receive a few library newsletters that list web sites by theme, such as finding a physician on the net or election 2000 on the Internet. How often I check out recommended sites depends on my workload, but I try and do this every week.

I subscribe to Librarian's Index to the Internet, a weekly email about sites of interest for reference use, etc. I find this very useful, as I do not have time to do general browsing myself. I will look at the sites that interest me from the LII weekly email make note them.

The state of Illinois provides us with new electronic databases and we scan them whenever we have the time.

Yes, both on my own time and on work time. I visit a variety of sites -- news sites, book sites, and sites I read about that sound as though they might be useful. I set the bookmarks on our public Internet computers so I try to keep up.

I do electronic shelf study for probably two hours a week. I visit governmental web sites most often during this time.

Not as much as I used to, I have taken a number of Internet courses dealing with reference work, and designed the Yorkton Public Library website, and trained staff and children on how to search on the Internet. So I have a good understanding of how to search for information. I am always looking for new sites, even though I don't spend the time I used to.

I have tried to do so but, again, I have little free time for exploring.

Yes, three or four times a day.

I often check justice department and education sites.

Once a week, I go to sites such as GPO Access, Arts & Letters Daily, Yahoo, and Librarian's Index to the Internet.

Yes, I browse Medline Plus,, GPO Access, etc. once a day. Whenever I hear of a site from a colleague or a listserv or a journal, I browse it.

Only when I happen to come across something that catches my interest. I don't go looking for sites. If I were a full-time reference librarian I would, and hopefully, would be given the time to so at work.

Only in my spare time. Science, current events, history, medicine, and fine arts.

All kinds of sites. We get a lot of students doing projects on the thirteen colonies, so I check for web sites that deal with US history and include information on the colonies. We also have students asking about recipes from the Middle Ages and the American Revolution, so I search the web for those, too. I might come across a site while I'm looking for something related and I'll bookmark it if it looks like something that might help to answer a reference question and I'll pass it on to the other librarians.

Generally, I do not have the time to surf the Web. I will, however, look at a web site, if it is mentioned to me by a patron, or in print and bookmark it if I find it useful.

I browse for about two hours a day in financial, governmental, and health-related sites.

Yes, though most of this comes from hearing about a web site in the news or from a colleague, and then going there to investigate.

Yes, as time allows and I feel the need. We have a good many available government and legal sites available through the state. In Kansas it is called Blue Skyways. We are very fortunate to have this capability and any of our staff is very familiar with it.

Yes, I spend more and more time on this for my own edification and this in turn makes me better able to help patrons. I visit book sites and computer sites.

I do very often look up government site and I keep an extensive list of bookmarks that I have found both browsing and while looking up specific answers to other questions. I carry them with me wherever I go so that I can use them off of my diskette.

Yes, I do online browsing of this kind on a regular basis. I would say daily, so that is five times a week. I typically visit the links that have been made to our library page, which are on a very wide variety of reference topics.

I don't do this as often as I would like, perhaps two or three times per week. No typical sites. I've looked at everything from web rings for recipes and sock knitting to genealogy sites.

I engage in online browsing of web sites on a daily basis. I visit as many sites as I can, often getting URLs from print magazines or newspapers, and then follow links once I'm at the site.

Yes, but not as much as I should. Others in the reference staff do this quite a lot when it is quiet at the reference desk. I have other managerial duties to perform.

Yes, because our library's website receives between 40,000 and 50,000 hits a month, we spend a great deal of time developing Internet Guides. That takes a lot of browsing through web sites. I spend most of my time going through web sites. I spend most of my time going through government sites. I spend time each day browsing sites.

Yes, I try to check the web for new sites in those subject areas where we get frequent questions at least every few months. I go to university and government web sites, and also do searches for other substantive web sites. I usually look at the home page and one or two pages that I think we might use to make a decision about bookmarking it. Also, since my library subscribes to hundreds of electronic databases, I run trial searches on one or two new ones a week.

I do this three or four times a week. Usually I am browsing sites devoted to Italian libraries, Italian musicians, or archival issues. Occasionally a colleague will recommend a site that might turn out to be useful.

I do this as time permits.

Not in any formal sense. Curiosity will often lead back to a site once a question is answered. Other items may be found then, however, the online environment is so fluid that I would be afraid to just return without a new search.

When colleagues email me that a particular site is useful, I browse it and then bookmark it if it looks useful. I do this a few times a week.

Once a week and usually state government sites.

Yes, both at work and on my own time. I usually am alerted to sites by electronic lists I belong to. Typically statistical information from government agencies.

We look at new and recommended web sites. Librarian's Index to the Internet's printed bi-monthly guide to new recommended sites gets circulated through the reference staff and the staff is encouraged to look at the sites. Ones we think very valuable we add to our favorites on the reference desk computers. Our library consortium is adding new databases fairly often to our PACs. Reference staff is very much involved in the trials and recommendation or nor of these new products.

During work as time permits, but this is limited with other duties that need to also be done.

I often browse on my own time and have found sites on alternative health issues and investment topics.

Yes, I often browse through the Librarian's Index to the Internet, looking at sites of general interest or curiosity to me.

I do some of this every time I am at reference. I update our bookmarks at the reference station and on the webpage and try to stay on top of adding relevant new sites and deleting sites that sounded good but are never used for reference. The sites I visit range from political to cooking -- nothing specific.

Yes, I do this frequently. Some of the subject areas I concentrate on are medical sites relating to education but many others occur as well.

Frequently, staff will browse websites suggested as good reference sites by public library webpages.

No, again, we have little unstructured time on our hands to shelf-study in print or electronically. I learn about useful web sites partly through trying to answer actual questions that come to me and through my colleagues' passing on interesting sites to me.

Occasionally staff members will alert each other via email to interesting websites. If everyone likes them, they are often added to the staff Intranet pages.

The online browsing I do during working hours relates only to sites mentioned on the dig-ref listserv to which I subscribe, and then only those sites that intrigue me. I often print them out and route them to my colleagues. Of course, I add useful ones to my favorites.

Yes, I do, and it's mostly because I am the person who examines new web sites each month for electronic collection development. We have a web directory and we feature new sites each month. But I don't browse willy-nilly, I use various tools like the Scout Report, Carole Leita's service, etc. I do this two or three times a week. The only times I might actually browse would be when I had been looking for an answer and saw a site I wanted to get back to explore. Or when I explored what was out there for a previously answered question which I was not entirely happy with.

I look daily at state, local and government sites.

I don't know how much time I spend doing this a week, but I do it on the fly every week.

Yes, I do it mostly on work time. I'm in charge of the children's webpage so I take the time at work to look for useful sites. I link to them on the page and that helps me with reference.

When time is available. I'm more likely to do this kind of investigation as follow-up to or in connection with a specific reference question -- to see what other sources are available, or how the question, or a related question, could have been answered differently, using other sources, or more thoroughly. I also investigate as much as possible Internet sources that I read or hear about, and bookmark them if they show potential for future use. At least once a week, but not systematically, just whenever I have a chance and have a particular topic or website I want to explore.

Yes, but infrequently. Mostly governmental sites, local, state and federal.

Yes, I do quite a bit. Especially recommended websites in Booklist. We all recommend websites to one another. I've also noted codes for websites and I can tell or go directly to a website by guessing the web address. It doesn't always work, but sometimes it does. We are encouraged to do this since we help patrons to use the computers a lot.

Yes, during slow times on the reference desk. About one hour a week.

When I do, I would mostly look at government or medical sites.

Yes, I engage in online browsing. I subscribe to several listservs including the scout reports that often highlight new websites. From this I will browse. I also teach an online resources class at a community college, so I need to always look for new and cool sites for the class as well. Often when one comes across something really good, it will be emailed to the librarians. I also update the staff's favorite file, so I will put links on that page to alert staff, too. Also, I am becoming more engaged in keeping the library's website URLs up to date. This takes time exploring new and authoritative sites to add to the library's page as well. I do more electronic then print in the shelf browsing area.

I browse for new sites daily. Often they are humanities, government and medical sites.

Yes, particularly of sites which are important and whose content may change: government sites, news broadcasters. Again, subject specialists are expected to search in their areas and share their knowledge with their colleagues.

I engage in online browsing both on my time and during working hours if time permits. I most frequent provincial and federal government sites. I mostly frequent provincial and federal government sites. I also have tried to familiarize myself with post-secondary education institutes web sites in Alberta. I spend approximately one and a half a week on this activity, mostly on my own time as staff have little time during the day to pursue this activity, although it is encouraged.

There are no typical sites. We have a very good person working on our local web site and he is always adding new sites. I try to investigate these every time I am working on the desk.

I browse online on a daily basis to see what is happening. There is always something new and exciting and potentially useful. I am always curious about genealogical sites as some sites are useful and others are simply chat. Customers are always interested in these sites, but not when they have to pay.

I will often use a question that was difficult, to do further research to see if better or more complete information was available. It is an expectation of all staff that this activity continue on an ongoing basis just to keep up. Staff are encouraged to share what they have learned and self-directed learning tools and helpful hints are provided by professional staff throughout the system. Such learning is seen as the responsibility of the individual staff member with sharing knowledge and skills an expectation for all.

I do this once a day.

The process is part of the day's process.

We are all encouraged to look at new websites and electronic databases, which we may be thinking of buying. Some of us look at these sources more frequently than others. I try to look at one per day.

Yes, I do this at least once a week. I like to see how we have updated our Librarian's Selected Sites on the GCPL web page. I look at POLIN sites. I regularly look at for book reviews, best seller lists and community profiling.

I do this probably about two hours a week. Some recent sites I've looked at include,, and

Yes, I usually do this at the reference desk, between patrons, several times a week. I usually browse sports sites, and religion sites, and also some statistics and educational ones.

Yes, I look at many and bookmark the most useful ones. I look regularly at the Florida State site. I also look Encyclopedia Britannica, Barnes & Noble, Netscape, History channel, travel sites, etc. Have looked at sites to become familiar with what is available.

Only very rarely.

I do this every day. As a matter of fact, I have to avoid doing too much web surfing. Usually I am in Google and click on many of the entries. I also enjoy viewing library home pages around the country.

Yes, we all share news and notes on valuable new websites we discover. We explore them as time permits. They are often websites that are mentioned in newspapers or professional journals.

Not too often.

Yes, when doing research on a question.

Yes, I check out new web sites whenever I see them reviewed, probably about half an hour weekly.

Yes, all my staff does this when times are slow. Probably ten hours per week.

Yes, I do this all the time. I have to do lots of familiarizing myself with certain web sites and how they work. I am on the Net a lot. I am also the department book manager, so I have to keep up with what is out there. I visit about ten new sites each day. Most are information-based. I don't waste time with entertainment sites.

Yes, I do a lot of this. I had a customer last night who wanted political cartoons and jokes. An article I'd been reading in Time magazine listed several so I browsed through those and responded to my customer.

Yes, about once a month depending on the amount of time I have. I have visited the Family Self-Help Center on the Clark County web site. Most recently, I have looked at the bankruptcy site for the Nevada Courts.

Yes. I will regularly review the "electronic library" sites. I think they are the product of dedicated staff time and are updated regularly. I also regularly look at "government" sites to see what and how information is present.

Yes, once or twice a week, Librarian's Index to the Internet, Scout Report.

Yes, an average of about once a month I try to put in about half an hour surfing web sites in my subject areas.

Especially government sites. Since many are so awkward, I have found it useful to familiarize myself with many US government sites, state and national.

I used to browse on-line, particularly in government sites.

I do this all the time. I review sites on science, health, law, literature, library issues, children's literature and on and on.

I do this monthly and sometimes more often. I visit the MNDM site several times a week, the Coast Guard, the MCzCR, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education about once a month.

Occasionally, if I have time. Usually government sites (e.g. federal, Statistics Canada). Or if I read about a useful site, I will check the web site and explore it if I have time. E.g. Ontario Library Association magazine "Access" Autumn 2000 has an article of Resources for Genealogical Research, so I checked those web sites, as we get a lot of genealogy questions.

Yes, online browsing can be easily done while sifting at the information desk, so I do it several times a day. I often begin with Librarian's Index to the Internet ( or BUBL and see where they take me.

We have a binder at the Information Desk listing web site in subject areas. The Oakville Public Library has an excellent homepage and it contains several jumping-off points to the Internet. The links on the homepage were selected by a group of librarians who are subject specialists. The librarians are from the HALI NET region, Burlington, Oakville, Georgetown, Acton, Milton. For example, our government documents librarian selected all the sites related to government laws, statistics, etc. Those of us on working the Information Desk are quite proficient with electronic sources. We provide Internet tutorials and teach the public on a daily basis on the ways/methods to obtain information and set-up email accounts on the Web. The browsing activity occurs when we have the time. The sites that we search vary. For example, yesterday I had a patron who wanted the "Appropriation Act" - Federal Government Doc.

Occasionally, as time permits, I have spent some time browsing web sites such as the Archives of Ontario, Strategis (Industry Canada), Statistics Canada and other government sites. This is helpful because it enables me to deal with them more efficiently when I need to retrieve specific information. Sometimes, when I am researching a specific question I will (if time permits) allow myself to be "side tracked" to follow links that I think might be useful at a future time. This has proved helpful.

I have done this. It was usually health sites that I have browsed.

Yes, at least once per week ... American Library Association, Idaho State Library, Idaho state government,, Scholastic Books, LiLD database.

Rarely, time does not allow it.

Yes, I keep up with several "New Sites" sites weekly to keep abreast of available Internet reference sources - both to be better able to use the Net to help patrons with reference questions and help them use the Net themselves; and to maintain the web site I have that is used by public libraries on Kauai as a home page (to help patrons using the public Internet stations to readily access reference sources). I do this at home on, my own time.

I have occasionally done this and when we first received our new Internet connections.

Yes, one to two hours. Often go to Librarian's Index on the web and try some of their sites.

No, I have no time right now. Being a small library, I have to do everything: Checking in and out, ordering books, weekly story hour, purchasing books, cataloging them, getting them on the shelf. I do have a high school girl who shelves books and I have volunteers who help check them in and do the "circ." daily.

I read Yahoo! Internet Life and various library publications that mention useful web sites and I will explore from there. Otherwise I will go to to see if anything new is available. I do this on a weekly basis.

Yes, our whole reference staff does this. I try to browse on a daily basis. I also check out recommended sites. These recommendations may come from other staff, listservs I'm on, meetings with other librarians, and print sources. The subject matter really varies.

I do review online sites. Usually when I have read about one that looks promising to our needs. These can range from government to weather to used car prices.

When I have time, I usually choose major sites like Google, Yahoo, CNN, etc. to see what's the latest. I rarely do blind searching unless I'm looking for something very specific.

Practically every-time that I am on the reference desk I do this, as do most of my colleagues. We look at a wide variety of sites often recommending good sites to one another or passing them along for inclusion on our web page. I don't have any typical sites that I visit; I browse the entire universe of sites.

Yes, I do. At least 3 or 4 times a week. One of my favorite sites to browse has to do with reader's advisory. It is called the romance reader. It provides scads of reviews and news and author interviews for the romance reading crowd and believe me there are many. I also regularly consult the reference category in Ask Jeeves and Library Spot which is how I found The Virtual Reference Desk which contains a plethora of links. I also regularly visit our official Alabama Government web site, since a great majority of my students' reference questions involve Alabama and Alabamiana.

I spend probably one hour or more of each workday browsing various sites. Some I run across while trying to find information, others I get from magazines and newspapers and professional journals. At home I spend 1/2 hour browsing online sites.

Yes. Several hours a week. Libraryspot, Bookspot, Digital Librarian, Drudge Report, and Library of Congress.

Maybe a couple of hours a week, sometimes more. Usually I am looking at educational sites or governments sites recommended by someone, or if there is time, I may continue to browse in a site or on to links at a site where I have found an answer to a reference question.

I do this type of browsing more frequently than Shelf-Study just because of convenience. I use typical library designed databases such as etc. For government related inquiries I always use government related sites such as the Census site or military related sites. I always try to find the most relevant site and ascertain information for the patron from that site.

Yes, I try to browse for a few minutes each time I get on the desk. Two or three times a week for 15 minutes to 1/2 hour.

On-line browsing may occur whenever it's slow. It probably happens a few times per week. Right now, we have plans to develop a Homework center, so I have been browsing in that area.

I usually do online browsing when I am adding web sites to the library's list of bookmarks or on our subject guide to the Internet. I often check the sites for investments and various government sites.

No, again there's very rarely time to do this.

I engage in on-line browsing of web sites as time allows. Typical sites: the various FirstSearch databases, and Grove Dictionary of Art.

I do so when I hear about a web site that might be of interest or if we are getting questions on a particular topic that I feel I need to research.

Not a lot. There is not a lot of work time that is free for that. We have a lot to do.

Yes, I look at the new sites on Yahoo. I look at different areas in their directory for different topics. I also look at kid sites for repeat questions like California missions to be bookmarked for staff. We answer both kids and adult questions at the adult reference desk.

Yes. We read Library Journal, American Libraries, Publisher's Weekly, etc. and belong to listservs in our individual specialties and responsibilities. They tell us about interesting web sites, and we generally try out those. Then we are also given assignments, which tend to move us towards surfing, like review the library web sites which offer online request forms for interlibrary loan requests or create a display for banned books. Many librarians may answer a request for the latest news on a certain company by going to a local newspaper or Ebsco/Searchbank/Proquest. I also think to go the company's web site to find a list of their latest press releases. News that isn't published is still news.

I usually go through a list of web sites from LII. I am on a listserv and am sent new sites every week.

Yes. Basically the reference dept of the main library adds links to their page regularly. I try to browse those sites to become familiar with them.

I have done a limited amount of browsing reference government statistical sites. I do tend to browse legal sites and scientific discoveries especially in the field of medicine and drugs. I have patrons that are interested in alternative medicine and I frequently browse and give them sites to check for themselves. I don't have a pattern to what I search. It's done almost randomly.

Yes. I have a computer at home and often will browse new search engines or try a new medical web site. I will check out medical web sites with diseases I read about just to see the ease.

Yes. About once a day. Government, health and general interest sites.

Yes, daily, especially the sites reviewed in Tourbus and The Scout Report which I subscribe to.

Yes, about twice a week. A typical site would be a government site.

I browse, maybe once a week. I also maintain our web site, so I browse in order to determine which links we find useful to pass to patrons. I mainly go to government or legal sites.

I don't do this unless it's a site recommended by someone (like our library system web maven) because I just don't have time, and I spend almost all my library time on the computer anyway, since our circulation system operates over the Internet.

I engage in web browsing of government and other sites. Browsing can be beneficial in finding that some browsers are stronger in some areas than others. I try to visit new or unusual sites as I learn about them but do not have much time for this activity (2hrs/wk).

No, no time.

Yes, as time permits. I start with a subject and use a very good search engine, which gives me lots of choices and makes references to similar pages with just a click. I then may bookmark a site if I have used it several times to answer reference questions. Since I've been to several good workshops lately for finding government information, genealogy, and business info on the net. I have bookmarked these sites or have a folder nearby.

Yes, I try to do this. If I read about a good site, I try to look it up if time permits.

I believe all members of the staff do some online browsing. Sites maybe those others have bookmarked or they may be ones recommended in a particular article or guide to areas of the Web. Often we will look at sites that another library has set up as links. Government sites are a favorite of mine.

On line browsing when searching for particular question only. No time to do it for no reason.

No, this is something we need to set time aside for the web is blooming/expanding daily and our view shrinks whenever we do not keep up.

Yes, every day. Government, art, religion, music, holidays, maps, taxes.

I frequently bookmark a web site that was located to answer a specific question with the intention of going back to it at a later, less busy moment to evaluate. There is a separate folder in the favorites for these 'sites in waiting'. After I have gone through them, I show them to the others and ask for their opinion. Those that we agree would be useful are moved to the reference folder so that we will not have to search them out again. Those that are interesting, but not something that we feel would be used frequently we make note of and remove from the favorites. Some are evaluated and deleted and no record kept. Sites that have been retained as "favorites" cover all sorts of information. Switchboard, AMA physician select, a site that quotes the exchange rates, dead people server, Thomas (US Congress), Terra server, Thomas Register, Kelly Blue Book, Vanishing animal list, Grateful Med and the CDC are all sites that we access frequently.

Yes, when there is time, usually at the desk between patrons. I try to browse through subject area sites I am less comfortable with. We have an excellent library system home page with hundreds/thousands of links ( and I try to browse some of those sites to become more familiar.

I do browse government web sites and other sites that could help me in answering reference questions. I would love to do on-line browsing every day, but some days it is not possible. So for the most part, I would say that I browse three or four days a week.

I do a lot of on-line browsing, both for my professional benefit and my scholastic endeavors in grad school. I do this as many time a day as I can fit it in. I visit many governmental web sites and keep my eyes open for new sources of information. I am our government documents librarian and so I must keep up with what the government makes available. I also try to keep up with new professional sites or tools such as search engines. I visit sites on local history, county news,,, other library sites, health organizations (Mayo Clinic & NIH, Johns Hopkins), kids' educational sites (government's "Ben's Guide:), museums and gallery sites, Library of Congress, innovative technology news, etc.

I do not have a great knowledge of more than a few U.S. government web sites. Every now and then I take the time to browse a few government sites in order to seek out potentially useful information.

Yes, I do. I like to look at other people's favorites or bookmarks especially. Some of my colleagues email sites to me all the time and I check them out either at work or at home.

I have in the last three months been daily browsing on-line sites. I find I need to know these sites and how to use them in order to deliver good reference service. It will take me months to get through all I intend to as I collect web addresses at every turn.

Yes, our network (Minuteman - 40 libraries) has over 2200 sites in a variety of categories which I periodically look at, even the children's sites which I would normally not use in my regular adult area. I did find on our children's site (KaCeys Web) a parenting section that linked to a list of licensed daycare centers for the state ... which I promptly bookmarked on the reference terminal. I will usually browse the health and governmental sites.

I do this on a weekly basis. I will have read about a web site in an article or have a person make reference to a specific site and I will go to that site ... browse through it for content info and usability. I often find myself bookmarking many of the sites. I do find that when I return to a site some months down the road that the statistics or information hasn't been updated or that the site is no longer operational. I find myself visiting government type sites the most often for statistics. Editor & Publisher runs a weekly article/column on web sites, and I will check most of those out every week. Not only are these sites recommended for journalists seeking information, but also they are certainly appropriate for librarians seeking information. Some sites have been a weekly obituary site, a conversions web site, etc.

I continually look at sites during my work time. I often look at legal sites ( and sites that would be useful for students' homework ( or We have an excellent Teen Page on our web site ( with links to a wide variety of topics. We are constantly looking for new sites to add.

One of the best an easy way, for me to do that is the weekly listserv of Yahoo picks of the week. Over the last several years, it clues me to arts, government, sports, and just plain unusual information, and I book mark and check and often journal their uses. When I was in a school, I would print the web site entry pages and put them in teacher's mailboxes.

Yes. For example, we have found good sites on dictionaries, Judaism, mystery books, etc. Some of these have been found on our "own" time and some on paid time. Useful sites are either "bookmarked" or noted on a wheeldex depending on how frequently that we think they will be used.

Yes, 2 or 3 times a week, mostly Massachusetts state and U.S. government legal and medical sites.

Rarely, I look at search engines and subject directories.

Yes, again I engage in this activity once in a while, no set amount of time each week. Government sites, sites that provide reference information.

I don't often have the time to on-line browse. I usually only search a site when I'm looking to answer a reference question or I'm researching for a paper myself.

Yes, at least once a week I investigate new sites I've heard about and add links to our library web page if I think they will be useful in the future. I usually visit subject specific sites such as an online foreign language dictionary, a business resource source, a site that promotes reading and might have author interviews or book reviews, etc.

No, I wish we had the time to do that. Our on-line computers are used by the public. We can get on only when the computers are free or if the user lets us do a quick search during their time.

I do this probably at least once a month. I visit governmental sites and reference sites that are listed on my Regional and State Libraries' web-sites. Often when I am researching a question for a patron, I find myself accessing new web sites that lead to further information that I try to "store away" for future use.

If we have questions that are of a "severe" nature where an explicit example or legal information is required, we contact our regional library who provides us with the Reference Service of this type. They are highly trained reference workers and are good. It saves us from having to mess with the few questions we have of that nature.

I encourage all staff to also use time at the circulation desk to do such browsing including myself when I am at the desk. We have book-marked several sources that we have obtained from the state and regional library system with regard to most topics you mentioned in your question. These are most helpful.

Yes, the most recent was a government web site directed at students.

Yes, we try out new subscription databases in this fashion as well as having staff look at them when they are off the desk.

If we run into something useful we bookmark it into an appropriate folder. Our latest addition is Medline Plus, which I heard about at a conference. We are more likely to bookmark a page that we have found useful to help answer a patron's question and, will be likely to be asked again. Some do some browsing. No set amount of time.

Healthinfoquest, Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Center for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health. I try to do this when I have a little time, on average every 10 days or so.

We are always looking for helpful sites. Librarians assigned to off desk time, at the telephone reference desk for example, are better able to browse or sample sites. We used to have an ongoing program where staff would research sites such as Travel, Cooking, News and present them to the public in an hour presentation. Some were successful but many bombed. We abandoned the project since so much staff time went into the prep for often poor turnouts. We did make some nice discoveries though.

Yes, weekly for an hour or so. Digital Librarian and Library Links are a good start.

We look at web sites from time to time, especially when we receive notice from other librarians that new sites have come up we might be interested in.

Yes, we do online browsing. I probably spend 1-2 hours per day doing this. I specifically look for good children's sites, since I am responsible for adding these as links from our web site.

Oh yes! Scientific American, NPR, CNN, World Book hot-lines, Library Spot (love to browse on a different topic ea. Time). I also tend to experiment with a web site after reading a review of it or find a reference to it in an article. I still believe that the web is only a secondary reference tool, primarily because it has not yet become a sophisticated researching tool. It has a long way to go. Meanwhile give me subscriber Internet sites that are meant to be reference tools (full text periodical database vendors, law full-text resource libraries, medical reference shelves with strong specialized search engines) and CD-ROM reference title with web- links as my interim primary solution.

Yes. This is also an exercise in web-searching skills. It happens far less often than specific subject searches on patron demand, however, and time does not always permit it.

I do browsing especially each week when I examine the selections in Scout Report. As a result, I can often remember a specific web site, which is perfect for a starting place. With remote users who are contacting me by email, I can often refer them to such sites where they can then find their way to the data or visuals they need. AFTER responding as best I can to an inquiry, I will be unhappy with the results and keep searching and checking out possibilities to better with such questions when they arise again. Such question-based browsing has paid off often as questions often come in topical clusters.

I check my bookmarks for currency regularly and note sites that I'd like to go back to and explore at length. I look at the official state web site regularly and the Office of State Planning web site at least go once a month.

No, I don't have the time for that.

Occasionally I bookmark sites I think can be of use. Usually I visit sites that are recommended by professional sources or sometimes in print sources or if I hear about something on the TV. There is no typical site I visit but anything that sounds like it might be useful.

Not of a governmental nature, but I do browse real estate and architecture sites (basically because of personal interest) on a regular basis.

I browse government sites. They have tons of information once you know where to look. I do a lot of browsing but much of it is on my own time.

Occasionally, I maintain the government portion of our reference grid so I look for new ones to add.

I do not browse at work. My hours are crammed here. If I have a question, I exhaust sources, but there is no time for browsing at work. I do occasionally browse at home for topics that are of personal interest, but trust me, by the time I get home I do what I can to relax.

I engage in online browsing in order to keep my Internet web site file current. I go to, and explore various library web sites.

Yes. I spend a lot of my reference desk duty time when "in-between" reference questions hunting down useable Web sites for research and informational purposes. I have viewed and bookmarked at least a 1000 web sites in almost any topical area you can think of. I hunt for new web sites on almost a daily basis depending on how busy it is and if I have a colleague on duty with me at the reference desk. I consider the online resources to be far more important to invest time in finding than the print versions being that print material is too expensive and space limitations come into consideration with the amount of material we are capable of retaining. Many types of information, particularly in obscure areas, do not exist in easily obtainable print form and the Internet is a valuable resource in obtaining this information. Typical sites I would look for would be legal, business, consumer, literature, art, music and most "general" areas of knowledge. Sites such as Medline, NCLive, Consumer World, NC Statutes, Cyndi's List and Search Engine Watch are only a few examples. I focus mostly on trying to find "database" type Internet sites. In general I try to mimic a library collection when I do my bookmarks and obtaining of Internet sites for informational purposes. Anything I feel that would be of help answering a potential reference question is "cataloged" into my bookmarks for future use.

I do this a lot. I am in charge of letting the rest of the reference staff know about any good sites. I usually pick a topic and then search sites. Government and statistical sites. I usually start at the top of the page and work my way down.

Sometimes. There isn't a lot of time on the job to browse, but while looking up one web site, a link to another web site will catch my eye. I will go to the web site to look it over. I would guess that I do this every day. Normally, it is when I am looking at some news web site, and a link will catch my eye.

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