The Virtual Reference Service

One more plug for libraries today.

A reason you might not be able to find what you’re looking for with Google (or any other web engine) is that it’s just not there.

However, here comes the library plug, many libraries offer FREE access to databases that contain the full text from thousands of publications often not easily or entirely accessible via a general web engine. Search has become much easier in the past few years. However, if you want to use these databases in an “advanced” manner, they can also be very powerful.

Access is available 24x7x365 without having to visit the library building. All you need is a library card. Here’s a SearchDay story with more details.

Need help answering a specific question? Many libraries around the world offer “virtual reference desk” services where you can chat with a trained librarian. These services can be based locally, statewide, or at a national level.

For example, Australia has a virtual reference service available to any resident via the web. Here’s a list with some (but not all) of these services.

The best place to learn about virtual reference services is by checking your library’s home page or by calling and asking if this type of service is available. Of course, many libraries will be happy to help answer your question on the phone or via email.

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