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Maryland AskUsNow! Plan
A Cooperative of Partner Libraries in the State of Maryland
Maryland AskUsNow! Plan
A Cooperative of Partner Libraries in the State of Maryland
AskUsNow! is a cooperative online project of Maryland libraries. This 24/7 live interactive service uses the expertise of librarians to provide residents of Maryland and students of Maryland educational institutions with answers to questions, research guidance, and help navigating the Internet.
Definition of Service: The provision of real-time information service to customers via web-based interactive software.
What the service provides to library customers
Increasing numbers of library customers are seeking their information in an online environment. They will be able to rely on the expertise of an expanded pool of trained library staff adept at performing information searches.
Library customers can expect:
What the service provides to partnering libraries
Libraries are seeking new ways to support customers wherever they are. An increasing percentage of the population is seeking their information online. AskUsNow! connects all libraries and librarians around the state in a way that has never been done before, creating a learning community and sharing of professional reference services. Through cooperation every partner library system can make cost effective use of available resources. Partner library systems will increase their visibility as information authorities. These Maryland libraries will build an infrastructure for the development of future statewide services.
All Maryland library systems, including public libraries, academic libraries, school libraries, and special libraries are invited to join this project as a service partner.
Software will be reviewed, evaluated, and selected by the AskUsNow! planning team. The following criteria will serve as the rationale for selecting the software to be provided by a reputable vendor:
Administration and Funding
The first year of the project begins January 2003. First year seed money will be fully funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, LSTA grant funds, through the Division of Library Development & Services, Maryland State Department of Education. Funding for the first year includes software, training, a full-time statewide project coordinator, and statewide marketing.
A grant will be given to the Baltimore County Public Library to administer the project, as a continuation and statewide expansion of their successful local online reference project with Harford County.
The project is administered by a full-time project coordinator responsible for writing, implementing, and evaluating the grant. The Project Coordinator will report to the Baltimore County Public Library and the staff liaison from the Division of Library Development and Services.
Each partner library system will provide a project liaison and staffing for the service during regular hours using existing equipment.
Future funding models will be examined during the first year of the project to determine best possible scenarios for the sharing of expenses.
AskUsNow! coverage will be provided by partner library systems during regular operating hours (this will include 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 p.m. Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 Saturdays). Off-hours, including late night and Sundays, will be covered as needed by the software vendor or another source of coverage. Partner library systems will be required to dedicate staff hours to AskUsNow! service.
AskUsNow! will begin with four librarians available to provide service simultaneously. Adjustments will be made to the schedule and load-level on each partner library system as the service progresses. It is estimated that each partner library system will provide service 5-15 hours a week. The number of hours for each partner library system will be determined by the number of participating partner library systems. Consequently, as more library systems participate fewer hours will be needed by each to contribute.
The project coordinator maintains the AskUsNow! statewide schedule. Local project liaisons at each partner library system will be responsible for scheduling staff hours. Local project liaisons will work with the project coordinator to schedule staff hours. Less desirable hours will be rotated among the partner library systems, but the scheduling process will be kept as simple as possible to avoid confusion.
The State Library Resource Center (at the Central Library of the Enoch Pratt Free Library) will provide at least one librarian in the evening until 11:00 p.m., 21 hours a week. AskUsNow! will begin with a core group of library systems, and others will join later at designated intervals to accommodate training.
Each partner library system’s project liaison will have the following responsibilities:
Staff assigned to AskUsNow! must participate in an initial regional training session, ongoing practice exercises, and must attend two of eight regional meetings annually. To maintain their AskUsNow! skills, staff will be scheduled to provide coverage at least once every two weeks.
AskUsNow! staff must have or develop through project training the following competencies:
Who can use AskUsNow!?
AskUsNow! will be made available to residents of Maryland and students of Maryland educational institutions. The service will answer questions equally no matter what Maryland zip code the online user has entered.
Resources & Databases
A completed resource profile will be required of each partner library system as part of the AskUsNow! project. The profile identifies databases and unique local resources of partner library systems to answer questions and make referrals.
Partner library systems will also provide specific information about their policies, procedures, and resources in order to ease the sharing of information to AskUsNow! customers with questions about local library use.
Policy development is the responsibility of the local project liaisons and the project coordinator. Policies will be developed based on the best practices of other similar services. Examples of such policies include:
The project coordinator will collect and analyze the following data regarding use:
1. Volume handled per partner library system
2. Volume according to location of online user, based on zip code
3. Types of questions asked without linking to user
4. Duration, times, and dates of all transactions
5. User satisfaction
6. Adequate staffing levels
7. Suggestions from online customers and trained staff
The project coordinator will have access to all transcripts of service. Each local project liaison will be provided access to all transcripts of service provided by their staff. All comments and concerns received by the project coordinator will be relayed to the appropriate local project liaison.
As required by all LSTA grants, Outcome Based Evaluation will be created to assess the project.
Marketing and Promotion
Marketing, branding, and promotion will be developed by a team of staff with marketing experience from the partner library systems and the project coordinator. Funding will be available in the grant for overall statewide marketing. Partner library systems will be responsible for incorporating promotion of AskUsNow! into local marketing campaigns.
How to participate in providing AskUsNow!
AskUsNow! partner library systems are expected to sign a first year “Letter of Intent” and submit it to the project coordinator by November 8, 2002. By participating in this project, they will:
Once the Letters of Intent have been received, information will be sent regarding the December 10, 2002 meeting. This meeting of the project liaisons will address process and technical requirements for the project.
To participate in AskUsNow!, the signed Letter of Intent should be submitted to the project coordinator via mail or fax by November 8, 2002:
Joseph Thompson – AskUsNow! Project Coordinator
Information Services Department
Baltimore County Public Library
320 York Road
Towson, MD 21204
Questions may be submitted via e-mail, phone, or fax:
Planning Committee and Reviewers
Many thanks to the AskUsNow! Planning Committee and Reviewers for their valuable time and input into the creation of this plan.
Stacey Aldrich - Division of Library Development and Services, MSDE
Alan Bogage - Carroll Community College
Irmgarde Brown - Harford County Public Library
Suzanne Carbone - Montgomery County Public Libraries
Jim DeArmey - Baltimore County Public Library
Kathie Eichfeld - Calvert Library
Gail Griffith - Carroll County Public Library
John Krivak - Prince George's County Memorial Library System
Susan Pedersen - Eastern Shore Regional Library
Joe Thompson - Baltimore County Public Library/DLDS
Wesley Wilson - State Library Resource Center/EPFL
Eileen Abels - College of Information Studies,
University of Maryland College Park
Brian Auger - Howard County Library
Della Curtis - Baltimore County Public Schools
Louise Greene - Anne Arundel Community College
Ruth Hodgson - Maryland State Law Library
Neal Kaske - Engineering and Physical Sciences Library,
University of Maryland, College Park
Betty Morganstern - Anne Arundel County Public Library
Teresa Neely - University of Maryland Baltimore County
Darlene Reimond - Western Maryland Public Libraries
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