or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Librarian Q&A Forum At StackExchange Now Live!

   May 30th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Unshelved comic stripGreat News - the Libraries and Information Science question and answer forum, by librarians for librarian, is now open for business! Check it out:


This is the long-awaited replacement for Unshelved Answers - at least, I've been waiting for it, because I used it all the time. I love that librarians have a place to ask each other questions, share tips, ideas, and best practices, and just easily communicate - all with a searchable archive.

Thanks to all the early committers and beta testers. If this is completely new to you, please check it out - it's worth it, and is definitely useful professional development.

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Reference Question of the Week – 8/24/08

   August 23rd, 2008 Brian Herzog

Georgia invasion question on Yahoo AnswersA few months ago, I listed online services that provide answers to peoples' questions.

In the library world, the big concern is usually the quality of the answers - do these services provide the same level of quality in the answers that someone would get from a librarian?

As I read on studio twentysix2, perhaps we should be more concerned with the quality of the question.

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Reference Question of the Week – 6/22/08

   June 28th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Magic 8 Ball: Ask Again LaterThis isn't a reference question, but instead is a list of a few other places where reference questions (and answers) are being archived:

Help Build a Library Q&A Custom Search
A post on the Library 2.0 Ning group mentioned a project to create a Google custom search engine of just reference questions from libraries. If your library does this, be sure to add it to the list - the more data it can search, the more useful it will be.

"The Oracle Collective"
An article in this week's New York Times Magazine talks about asking questions on the internet, and a few services that provide answers (Yahoo Answers, Ask.com, etc). It's an interesting article, and the recommendations at the end are worth reading. Via LISNews.

I Get By With A Little Help From MeFi
No roundup of ask-a-question resources is complete with mentioning Ask MetaFilter. MetaFilter, a.k.a. MeFi, is a community blog to which interesting websites are posted (essentially "filtering" the internet for the rest of us). In Ask MeFi, volunteers from the community provide answers to questions asked by site visitors.

Internet Public Library Reference Desk
Staffed by librarians and library students, the Internet Public Library is always a reliable source for answers. Their list of frequently asked questions isn't as fancy as some, but it still gets the job done. (And in the interest full disclosure, I volunteered with the IPL when I was in library school.)

Surely There Is A Wiki...
Very similar to Yahoo Answers and Ask MeFi in principle is WikiAnswers. As a wiki, anyone can ask or answer a questions, and also edit existing answers. The format of a single answer can be easier that reading lots of individual replies from different people, but here you can also view the discussion of the answer. Part of Answers.com.

I know lots of individual libraries are doing this too, and some are twittering their reference questions. If you know of other good sources to ask questions online and search through answers, please share.

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