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Happy Birthday AskMN!

March 24th marked the first anniversary of Minnesota’s Statewide Cooperative Digital Reference Service, AskMN: The Librarian Is In. It has been an energetic year, to say the least. Since launching with eight founding libraries, we have added five more -- and additional libraries are expected to join later this spring.

We set out to create a cooperative network so libraries could contribute and participate more easily in an online reference service for the benefit of their communities. Many libraries cannot support a stand-alone virtual reference service, and we wanted a program that required limited local staff commitment. We also created a flexible training schedule to better integrate libraries into the AskMN schedule with continuous support.

We see AskMN playing a vital role in helping Minnesota residents to meet their information needs wherever they are, whenever they need assistance through a visible, accessible Internet presence. Our intent was to create an online service for information and research help that would be available to Minnesota residents and students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When Minnesota librarians are not available to answer patron requests, QuestionPoint’s 24/7 National Reference Cooperative helps fill in the gap to assure continuous, ‘round-the-clock coverage.

Here is what a couple grateful patrons had to say recently after their chat sessions:

* “GREAT service to have ... especially on weekends (Saturday afternoon) when my academic library online chat wasn't available ... and it's a larger institution! THANK YOU Minnesota!!!”

* “Wow! I'm so glad someone was able to help me with my project! Ii love this.”

The service’s reach beyond individual library hours has proven to be a great benefit. We have found that about 55% of the requests to AskMN are coming when their library’s doors are typically closed. In the one year of service, AskMN has taken in over 6100 questions!

For more information about AskMN’s first year, see the March issue of Reference Notes, which will be available at:

http://www.minitex.umn.edu/publications/refnotes/Default.aspx

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