Monday, February 28, 2005

Reference wish list

I've been asked to participate in a few weeks in a brainstorming session where attendees are asked to envision an ideal world for reference work. In advance of that session, I thought I would post some of my preliminary ideas here.

  • Better chat reference software
    • compliant with all browsers (IE, Netscape, Firefox, Opera, AOL) in both basic page-pushing and in co-browsing modes
    • compliant with screen readers and other accessibility tools
    • indicates when user is typing and when librarian is typing
    • can transfer to other chat reference systems
    • rock-solid stability (no crashes, freezes, etc.)
    • speedier transmission of messages (same speed as IM)
    • ability to be viewed on user's portable devices (cell phones, PDAs, etc.)
    • not bothered by firewalls, pop-up blockers, etc.
    • chat window can be undocked from web page to float on screen if necessary and then later re-docked
    • co-browsing can scroll the user's windows
    • e-mail forwarding of chat transcripts able to get past spam filters

  • Mega fulltext database of reference books
    • one large subscription datatabase that offers full text of thousands of reference books (especially subject encyclopedias and dictionaries) from hundreds of publishers
    • xReferPlus, Oxford Reference, Gale Virtual Reference Library, Reference Universe are all too small in scale now; I don't want to have use several small reference book databases, I want one really big one that includes one-volume and, particularly, multivolume reference works; must include standard subject encyclopedias and dictionaries, such as Grove dictionaries of music and art, as well as staples like Who's Who, Statistical Abstract, etc.

  • Downloadable library help tool bars and Firefox extensions, such as these:

  • Links to chat reference service in all subscription databases and online catalogs

  • Array of communication channels for reference
    • phone reference via 800 phone number and system for transferring to available librarians
    • IM reference
    • SMS reference (see my earlier posting about this)
    • full featured chat software (with co-browsing)
    • e-mail reference
    • reference desk
    • consultations with librarians
    • RSS feeds for new items added to knowledgebase (for users and librarians to see)

  • Software that makes it easy for the librarian to construct flash-like movies with demos of how to do searches

    • demos could be done on the fly at the desk, in e-mail chat, etc. so that the user could view the demo at the time of their choosing)
    • at the desk, we could build the file and save it on the web for the user or give them ability to save directly to their own media (floppy desk, flash drives, etc.)

  • Regular system of review of reference interactions (see this earlier posting for one place to get started with this)

  • Chat cooperatives where librarians are all tech savvy (see my earlier posting on this)

  • Better library site design (see my earlier posting on this)

  • Collaboration with major search engines to help point users to their local libraries when they run searches
    • message that appears on search results page, "Didn't find what you were looking for? Click here to chat with a librarian from your local library."

Whew! I realize that I haven't fully elaborated on all of these suggestions, but hope to in the coming weeks.


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