DHS gains online reference service

You can look it up: The Library of Congress' Federal Library and Information Center Committee has sponsored a new online reference service for Homeland Security Department employees that went live on the department's Intranet last week.

The service uses QuestionPoint reference software from the OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. of Dublin, Ohio, to provide chat services.

DHS employees can use the service to quiz reference librarians via the chat service. The project will run initially as a yearlong pilot.

The FLICC has corralled 23 federal libraries into the new service on the DHS Intranet. Eight DHS libraries, with reference professionals, service only four specific segments of the department so far, according to the project's organizers. 'This leaves a significant DHS population without library service, so a working group was established that consists of librarians from other federal government libraries,' according to a statement released by the project sponsors. DHS is funding the project.

Janice Beattie, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's library system, added in the statement that, 'This is the first time in recent memory that so many federal libraries have come to the aid of a new federal agency in providing information services. The librarians saw a need, provided a plan and are now, with the aid of technology, going to provide virtual reference to [DHS'] 170,000 employees.' She said she hopes that the demonstration will provide DHS a model to follow after the pilot ends.

The various federal libraries and information centers supporting the project will provide staff time, expertise and access to their substantial collections. DHS will cover the costs for subscription and training for the QuestionPoint reference software. The volunteer librarians will gather use statistics and assess the department's library services needs, project sponsors said.


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