Your State Library – Providing Live Help to Government Information Seekers
From the desk of Mary Paynton Schaff
The expertise of the reference librarians at the Washington State Library has enabled even more people to find the government information they’re looking for. During the first quarter of 2014, librarians answered 449 questions regarding Washington State government, including referring individuals to the correct state agency, locating information on agency websites, and providing access to thousands of Washington state publications. Additional referrals were made to the appropriate federal or local government agency. The majority of the questions received came from users of Access Washington, the state’s centralized website for government information.
Through a partnership with the Department of Enterprise Services, the Washington State Library provides assistance to website visitors struggling to find the information they need. The Pew Research Center’s Search Engine 2012 report indicates that 41% of online searchers retrieved conflicting information during a search and weren’t able to tell what was correct, and 38% of searchers have gotten so many results that they felt overwhelmed. Add these facts to the layered nature of government information, and informed help becomes a vital link in creating an engaged, well-informed populace.
During January-April of 2014, staff at the State Library answered 353 questions through its online chat service, which enables an information searcher to chat in real time with a librarian who can walk them through the process of locating the government information they need. Live chat is accessible through a customizable widget that can be placed on any website to allow a seamless transition, or by linking the Washington State Library’s Ask page .
The Washington State Library’s customer surveys for the first quarter of 2014 indicate that 89% received an answer better than they could find on their own, 96% would use the State Library’s Ask service again, and 96% would recommend the service to a friend.
The Washington State Library is eager to expand this vital service to additional governmental and quasi-governmental agencies. If you are interested in placing an Ask a Librarian chat widget on your website, or want to find out how to leverage the knowledge of the librarians at the State Library to assist your customers, contact Crystal Lentz at [email protected].
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