Believing that a good way to reach teenagers is through that tool they all so dearly love (their phone), in late September, Ask WA Coordinator Nono Burling headed to SE Washington. With the start of the new school year she hoped to spread the word about Washington State’s Virtual Reference Cooperative and how it could help them.
But wait, step back! What is Ask WA you ask? Ask WA is a cooperative of public and academic libraries around the state that work together to provide 24/7 help from a librarian to Washington residents. Almost 60 libraries and library systems belong to the cooperative and any library in Washington is eligible to join. Washington State is one of the “pioneers” for this program. We have many librarians who have been doing chat reference for many years and are highly skilled.
But back to the road show… Knowing that some of the smaller libraries in our cooperative are hard pressed for time, Nono offered to visit their High School students to tell them about the program. Asotin County library and The Denny Ashby library in Pomeroy readily accepted the offer and made arrangements with their local high schools.
Day one: Clarkston High School. Asotin County Library has adopted the Library Now app which WSL developed a few years ago. This was a boon as there is a live webpage where she could demo just how it would look on a student’s smartphone. The teachers allowed the kids to get out their phones and install the app right then and there. In each class Nono talked about the service, showed how to find the download app on the Asotin County Library’s webpage and then connected with a librarian. During the early morning classes we chatted with librarians on the east coast but later in the day it was all Washington librarians. The kids asked great questions and were very excited to be chatting live with a librarian. Best story from Clarkston … the sophomores. After the first “normal” question a hand was raised. “Ask her ‘Why did the plane crash?’” “Hmmm…Can you give me a bit more information?” “Oh it’s a joke.” So the question was typed in clarifying that it was a joke. While the librarian was searching the answer was requested. “Because the pilot was a loaf of bread!” ??? The whole class looked dumbfounded; this made no sense. Then up on the screen, an answer from the librarian, “Because the pilot was a loaf of bread!” The class erupted! Point and Match to Jen from Seattle Public Library!
Day two: Was a repeat performance in Pomeroy. The school had set up a schedule so that over the course of the day Nono would see every 7th-12th grader in Pomeroy. Bouncing back and forth between two classrooms she chatted with librarians from as far away as Maine and Minnesota. But then a Seattle Public Librarian named Becky stepped in. Apparently she enjoyed herself because she picked up class after class. “Hello 7th grade!” She completely WOWed the kids fielding questions from “How tall is Mount Everest?” (29,029 feet) to “How many bones does a dog have?” (It depends on the breed, tail bones you know!), to “How many strands of hair does the average person have?” (Every half square inch of the human skin has about 10 hairs.) “Ewwwww!” One Reader’s Advisory question had the kids scrambling for a pencil to write down the recommended books. The kids were very impressed and excited enough to return often over the next few weeks.
All in all it was a successful visit, and the students of SE Washington now have a new place to find answers when they are stuck on an assignment. Are you an Ask WA member that is interested in having Nono visit your school? Are you not currently a member library but would like to know more about the program? Either way please contact Nono Burling.