Libraries' Ask Us Now Chat Reference Service Now Available To More Users


NEW YORK, February 24, 2003 The Libraries' on-line reference service, Ask Us Now, will offer increased functionality at the end of February 2003. Ask Us Now is a joint real-time chat reference service offered by Columbia University Libraries, Barnard College Library and Teachers College Library, and serving students, faculty, and staff.

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Ask Us Now began operation in May 2002. Since that time, reference librarians from Columbia, Barnard, and Teachers College libraries have staffed the service, responding to over 500 questions from affiliated students, faculty, and staff from the three institutions. Ask Us Now is available to anyone with a valid Columbia e-mail ID and password, and is available via any World Wide Web connection, on or off campus. The service hours are 1-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Beginning February 24, Ask Us Now will use virtual reference software from Live Assistance (http://www.liveassistance.com/). This software will extend the availability of the service to users of Macintosh and Linux operating systems and to a greater variety of Internet browsers, and will enhance the speed of communications.

Users of the Ask Us Now service have received help with a variety of reference questions, including CLIO searching, finding journals in the electronic and print collections, placing requests for library materials at off-campus locations, and much more. In addition to sending chat messages, the librarian can open web pages on the user's computer, helping ease navigation by the user. At the end of the chat session, users receive a transcript of the session via e-mail, which includes live links to all web pages visited.

For further information, please visit the Ask A Librarian page at <http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/services/reference/>, for a link to Ask Us Now and other reference services.

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 7.5 million volumes, 49,000 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms and other non-print formats. The collections and services are organized into 22 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. The Library's web site at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to the print and electronic collections and to services.

Contact: Deborah Wassertzug
Ask Us Now Coordinator
(212) 854-3916

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2/21/03 KRS