IL2009: Creating Connections & Social Reference in Libraries

Presenter: Margaret Smith

Traditional reference has been one-on-one, but now there are options online for many-to-one reference, such as Yahoo! Answers, Askville, AskMetafilter, etc. The problem is that not all of the hives are equal in the quality of the answers they provide. For an example, look up "where do deer sleep?" sometime.

One of the benefits of social reference sites is that they generate a reference bank of questions and answers that can be linked to when/if someone asks the same question again. These can be both public forums like AskMetafilter, or a private forum like something you develop internally for your library or organization. Similarly, you can use wiki software to create an interactive social reference tool, but unlike a forum, it isn’t designed to make new content the most prominent.

One of the biggest challenges of implementing social reference sites is getting answers to the questions. A frustrating aspect of some social reference sources is an overwhelming number of unanswered questions. Your library can use any of the "free" services that are out there, or go with one of the vendor services like LibAnswers, just make sure you actively engage with it.