I had a chat this morning with Brenda Brady and Don Moses, the midwives of islandlibraries.ca, and was reminded of the hidden gem of the service: the online reference service for Islanders called isle@sk.
Anyone — or at least any Islander — can go to the isle@sk page and submit a reference question. Questions get automagically doled out to the most appropriate librarian at Holland College, UPEI or the Provincial Library Service, and answers come back to you by email.
I’ve used the service several times, and have always been overwhelmed with the quality of the replies I’ve received — I ask a simple question, and receive back several pages of pointers and references and suggestions for further research.
I told Brenda and Don that, from my perspective, the biggest hurdle to wide adoption of the service by Islanders is the notion that using it would be “cheating.” Why should I tie up the time of professional librarians to answer questions that I could get the answer to with a little research of my own, in other words.
The thing is — they reminded me — librarians are actually trained answer finders. That’s what they do. And so they know not only where to look, but how to look. And so the results of their searching are, at least in theory, broader and deeper than a simple “type keywords into Google” would come up with.
Given that most of my friends and family are or have at one time been reference librarians, I can say with some authority that having a meaty reference question to dig their teeth into is a great gift, and not at all an imposition.
So, what are you waiting for… @sk.