Here's Your Guide to VR; Use It to
by Kathy Dempsey
used a few different chat reference services, and they've
worked just great. Some have been library
services, but others were for catalog customer service.
It's really helpful to be able to e-mail a clothing
company in real time and ask "Do these green pants,
item #021B, go with the green sweater I saw 4 pages
later, item #044X?" And in fact I'm more confident
ordering from a place that provides this service, because
I know there's less chance of having to ship an item
back. Everyone wants to avoid hassles like that.
Your library can offer that level of customer service.
It may be a hassle for people to get on their bicycles
or into their cars or onto the buses to go to the
library just to get answers to a couple of simple
questions. Wouldn't it be easier for them to just
chat from home? Of course.
If you're thinking "We already offer phone and
e-mail reference, and that's good enough," then you're
missing the boat. Take a look around. Remind yourself
how libraries are in danger these days: Funds are
being slashed, state libraries are being threatened,
branches are closing, and the Internet is luring
the information-seeking public. It's imperative that
you keep up with the times in order to survive.
Your phone reference is useful; keep up the good
work. But I think that your e-mail reference is useless
unless you can answer within a few hours, tops. Remember
the phrase of the decadeinstant gratification.
Why should anyone e-mail a question to you and wait
hours or days for an answer when they can search
the Internet right now? Most of the public doesn't
care whether the Net's answer is the best answer;
they only care that they can get it now. Your
niche, your area of value, is that you can do both:
Librarians can provide the best answer, now.
If your excuse is "I don't know how to start a
virtual reference service" or "It's too time-consuming" or "We
don't have the staff" or "It will cost a fortune," we've
shattered all those myths in this issue. Our features
cover administrative start-up considerations, sharing
time and staff and money by being one small part
of a large collaborative service, choosing your software,
and managing a project. There's no need for anybody
to reinvent the wheel here. Onethoughtful author
has even created a supplemental Web page just for CIL readers
that shares all his core competencies, customer feedback
forms, evaluation checklists, and more.
There's no reason to go it alone with virtual reference.
Use the wealth of this resource to get started this
Kathy Dempsey, Editor
Kathleen L. Dempsey is the Editor
of Computers in Libraries. Her email address