February 17, 2018

On September 10, Librarians Will Be a Presence onAnswer Sites

By Lynn Blumenstein

On September 10, librarians are asked to “Slam the Boards!” by visiting online “answer sites” such as Yahoo! Answers, Ask MetaFilter, Wikipedia Reference Desk, or Amazon’s Askville, fielding as many questions as possible, and making it clear that the service was provided by a librarian. What began as a word-of-mouth idea has grown into an international effort, as librarians from the U.K., New Zealand, and beyond have joined the grass-roots effort in the U.S. to raise the profile of librarians and libraries that offer virtual reference services by doing what libraries do best—providing answers from authoritative resources.
 The idea originated as a conversation between Bill Pardue, virtual services librarian at Arlington Heights Memorial Library, IL, and Caleb Tucker-Raymond, Oregon statewide digital reference project coordinator, Multnomah County Library, Portland. The idea has been posted on blogs, email discussion lists, and American Libraries Direct. There’s also an Answer Board Librarians wiki where librarians can register to participate and find a directory of answer boards. Tips and tricks including registering beforehand and closing every answer with a library-promoting tagline, such as “Librarians—We eat questions for breakfast!”
“We must recognize that resources like Yahoo Answers, et al., don’t need to be ‘the enemy’ of reference services,” Pardue said. “Instead, they’re a forum in which we can display our quality and promote our services to folks who may not know they exist,” he said. “After the event, I’d like to see librarians stay involved in the boards. I want answer users to get used to the idea that a librarian might answer their questions—and maybe just visit a library (or library site) later on when they have questions they prefer not to air in public.”

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