Imagine you are out and about and have a burning question. Or maybe you have a big paper due tomorrow and there is something you need to cite that defies all logic. What do you do? Pull out your smartphone or tablet, or log on to the internet and Ask a Librarian of course. Ask WA is the statewide virtual reference cooperative coordinated by Washington State Library. Nearly 60 public and academic libraries around the state take part in the program. Ask WA is also part of a global network of libraries that are available to answer questions 24/7. Yes that’s right, 24/7.
Now imagine you are a teenager and the idea of actually visiting a library or talking to a librarian is either too scary or soooo uncool. But honestly you still need their help. Ask WA is the perfect solution. With the thought in mind that teenagers have their phones practically glued to them and love text as a form of communication, Whatcom County Library’s Ask WA Administrator, Aubri Keleman decided to do something about pairing the two. Working with school librarians in her service area Aubri arranged a day where she could visit eleven classes of middle schoolers to demonstrate the service. Just that statement sounds a little overwhelming but the preparation involved was so much more. While the service has librarians available around the clock, having 30 students login at one time is more than it can handle, particularly all day long. But it’s a cooperative right? Whatcom County librarians as well as librarians from all over the state and even country volunteered to take on extra shifts. Aubri created a great list of Q&A’s for the kids to use so that the librarians would be prepared with good answers. The big day arrived and we were off to the races!
Over the course of the school day Aubri visited the classes, demoed the chat service and then had the kids login and try it. 315 questions were asked and answered in that one school day. They wouldn’t be Middle Schoolers if there weren’t a few “Yo dog” type of questions but on the whole the kids were polite and asked good questions. (An aside, the school librarian explained that “yo dog” is a sign of respect!) Aubri reported that they were excited to be chatting with a real person, and wanted to know about them. They were really excited when they got someone from out of state and of course, they loved having permission in school to pull out their phones.
Comments from the kids:
“Thanks that was awesome!”
“That was very helpful”
“Thank you that is exactly what I was looking for.”
“They were very helpful! Thank You!”
It sounds like the day was a big success and that the 7th and 8th graders of Mount Baker Middle School have discovered a new way to get help with their homework.