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Vol. XV, no. 1 TCU Library Newsletter, Web Edition November 2002
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Chat Reference Coming to TCU - by Marianne Bobich 


The TCU reference librarians have replied to e-mail reference questions for several years. They have found this an interesting and sometimes laborious and occasionally amusing endeavor. Questions have ranged from finding the Chinese symbol for power, perhaps for a tattoo, to inquiries about archival holdings and statistics sources.

In recent months, preparations for an online real-time reference service have been under way. Students at home or in campus computer labs will be able to get immediate help with their research without leaving their seats and computers. The increasing number of distance education students at TCU should benefit in particular. The service is currently open a couple of hours a day (2 P.M to 4 P.M. weekdays). It has not yet been publicized beyond an icon for “Ask a Question” on the library home page, to allow the librarians to adjust to a rather different way of doing reference work, where primarily online resources have to be relied on. Fortunately, an increasing number of standard reference works are becoming available online.

Sophisticated interactive capabilities are built into the software purchased for the live reference service, allowing the librarians to negotiate database and other web searching with the student on the other end being able to observe the librarian’s actions step-by-step on his or her computer screen.It is hoped that the number of hours the online chat reference service can be open will increase with time.

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