Virtual Reference Funding

I attended a class on virtual reference taught by Katt Tomeson (Second Life name) which is part of a series called Virtual Librarianship sponsored by Alliance Virtual Libraries. One of the areas that Katt discussed was the institutional challenges faced in Second Life.  Local agencies have some difficulty funding Second Life reference because the users are from all over the world, and there is no valid method (or non-intrusive method) for determining if the user is local or otherwise.  This can cause issues if the usage from non-locals causes an increase in the resources needed.

Perhaps as individual libraries, we need to capitalize on the collaboration model that is such a strength for Second Life.  Libraries can join a ‘consortium’ of reference services similar to that provided by the Alliance Virtual Library (AVL).  They would be the natural choice to spearhead such an arrangement as they already collaborate with volunteers from across the world to provide reference services on Info Island.  The difference with this model is that other libraries would then provide AVL funding and/or small amounts of staff time to provide reference services through a consortial contract.  Think of the amount of reference services that could be provided if only 10% of libraries provided one hour of reference service to AVL!

With general reference being covered by AVL, local libraries would then provide reference at their own location for only their unique collections. In the case of New Mexico State University Library, some of our unique collections are New Mexico history and literature, Rio Grande Historical Collection, a unique collection of Mexican papers with articles related to border violence, and Senator Pete Diminici’s papers.  As an academic library, we are thrilled when people from around the world make use of our collection.  It increases our standing and reputation. The local libraries would provide reference for research pertaining to these specialized areas.  General reference questions can be directed to the ‘consortium’ librarians via a teleport link to their reference desk or instant messages.

What are your thoughts regarding virtual reference?


~ by jenymn on May 7, 2009.

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