|ISSUE NO. 71||JANUARY 1999|
College Library and the School of Library and Information Studies (SLIS) at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison have been awarded a grant from the University's Kemper K. Knapp Bequest Committee
for the 1998-99 academic year to develop a pilot program designed to provide late-night research
assistance to undergraduates. Currently reference services close at 9:30 p.m., although the library
is open until 2:45 a.m. The grant has enabled the library to hire graduate students from the SLIS program to work in the library's Computer and Media Center (CMC) Sunday through Thursday evenings from 9:30 p.m. until midnight. In addition to their computer consulting and circulation responsibilities, these SLIS students are trained in the use of the library's OPAC, full-text journal indexes and Internet search engines. The late-night reference assistants are available by phone and on a drop-in basis.
The program provides many benefits. The library is able to offer basic onsite and telephone reference services into the late evening hours when students are disengaged from prime-time television viewing and ready to begin their library research. The SLIS students receive extensive training in the use of general computer applications, reference tools and the library's integrated circulation system. They also have the opportunity to practice their skills in an exciting and dynamic public service environment. Finally, students benefit in a number of ways. Unlike the reference computers in the library, the CMC workstations provide access to a host of general computer applications including email, word processing, spread sheet and presentation software programs as well as the library catalog and over 100 research databases. Thus, students can get needed help, do their library research, and write papers or produce class presentations at the same workstation in the lab. Finally, the CMC houses a collection of computer training materials and an array of multimedia development hardware and software making the location an attractive point of departure for a variety of research projects.
Use of the late night reference service is growing slowly. Questions include the full range of reference assistance, including basic information about the library catalog, suggestions of appropriate sources for a topic, and performing effective searches in databases such as Academic Search, LEXIS-NEXIS and the ProQuest Research Library. Students have been very grateful that there is someone who can help them with their research needs. One student was so happy, she offered to buy the staff person a cafe mocha for her help.
Preliminary discussions are underway to expand the scope of the service to other campus libraries. It is anticipated that the CMC could serve as a central point for patrons seeking basic level research assistance from home and other libraries during late night hours. In addition to phone referrals and on-site assistance, the libraries will explore the use of email and chat services to provide wider access to the service.
For further information, please contact Lee Konrad at 608-263-4564 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.