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My original question for this unit was “ASKJEEVES.COM vs. the Public Reference Librarian: Replacement or Enhancement?” I began by checking out the web site askjeeves.com. The history of the site began in 1996 and it was based in Emeryville, California. The creators were Garrett Gruener, venture captialist and founder of Virtual Microsystems and David Warthen, chief technology officer and creator of Ask Jeeve’s natural language technology. It launched as a public advertised-supported site in April, 1997. A kids version (www.ajkids.com) was added in March, 1998. Live assistance and patented popularity technologies have been to its capabilities. The question I then asked was, “Is askjeeves.com. a good virtual reference service?” I began by reading several chapters in REFERENCE AND INFORMATION SERVICES: AN INTRODUCTION by Richard E. Bopp and Linda C. Smith. I used their example of a reference interview. The divide the reference interview into five main parts: 1.Open the interview; 2.Negotiate the question; 3.Search for the information; 4.Communicate information to the user; 5.Close the interview. The askjeeves.com. actually does follow through these interview steps. When I went to the site, I was asked to state my question as in step one. I then was given several interpretations of my question as in negotiating the question. Next the site completed the search with the selected information, and finally communicated the information to me. The interview was closed by offering additional links to sites with more types of related information. My step was to present the Champaign Public Librarian with the same question. She went through the steps of the reference interview very effectively. I did feel that it was enhancement on her part rather than replacement in that she also began her search by using the askjeeves.com site. She did also suggest other library sources such as encyclopedias and more detailed research using materials relating to physics. I also referred to the article, “The Librarian and Mr. Jeeves.” Coffman, Steve and Susan McGlamery. AMERICAN LIBRARIES 31,5 (May 2000): 66-69. The article questions whether not we should just accept “good-enough” reference service since often virtual reference web sites can reply to a perfectly reasonable question with a “silly” answer. Without human contact, refining the question remains a problem. The availability of the services as a 24/7 service seems outweigh that negative. The writers seem to feel that the virtual reference services are ultimately enhancing library reference services by easily networking reference questions with one another. Smaller library units can especially benefit from these virtual library services since they are provided with access more types of reference sources within their limited budgets and staffing. I also found the web site of the University of Washington dealing with digital libraries to be a helpful reference source. Their research project for the automatic reference librarian seems to be very plausible. Since librarians are not usually specialists in the area of inquiry, the idea of a system being able to automatically select relevant databases according to user queries seems like a great reference tool. I feel that the information that received by reading the relevant information along with actually using the virtual reference service all point to a degree of enhancement to public library reference services with using virtual reference services. Effective reference service is a timeless entity which was documented as early as 1936 by Carter Alexander with his proposed model of the search process. His six steps of the search process:1)Clarify the question;2)Select the materials;3)Prioritize the sources;4)Locate the sources;5)Search the materials selected; 6)Evaluate and repeat if necessary can easily apply to virtual reference service as easily as they still apply to human reference service. Currently the web is the “new medium” for quick reference searching, however, there may be future services that provide even more information to the user. Enhancement of current physical library services seems to be the best description of virtual reference sources. Just as online shopping services have not completely replaced the need for actual stores, it seems very unlikely that virtual reference services will replace the need for library reference services. True reference research will continue to rely on a variety of sources such as online reference, texts, and journal materials. My final answer to my inquiry question, “ Askjeeves.com. vs. the Public Reference Librarian, replacement or enhancement?”, is definitely enhancement. Reference will remain a very important part of library service. Reference librarians can network and enhance their services through the use of virtual reference services. REFERENCES http://www.askjeeves.com/index.asp. http://www.cs.washington.edu/research/diglib/ Reference and information Services: An Introduction, 3rd edition, Bopp, Richard E. and Linda C. Smith, Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, 2001. Durrance, Joan Factors that influence reference success: What makes questioners willing to return? REFERENCE LIBRARIAN 49-50 (1995): 243-265. Janes, Joseph, David Carter, and Patricia Memmott. “Digital reference services in academic Libraries. REFERENCE & USER SERVICES QUARTERLY 39,2 (Winter 1999), 145-150. Coffman, Steve and Susan McGlamery. “The librarian and Mr. Jeeves” AMERICAN LIBRARIES 31,5 (May 2000): 66-69.
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