Social Networking and Online Reference Help at Wayne State

Wayne State University, the home base for the owner of this blog, has six locations throughout the downtown Detroit Campus. The Oakland Center Library closed this year, I am sad to say.

In the 2009-10 year there were 110 professional library staff members who handled a total of 41,318 reference questions throughout the year and 441 instructional library sessions. A total of 171,758 items were checked out to students and 2,278,025 people walked through the door. And, if my math is correct, they have over 9 million items in the collection (not including the Walter P. Reuther Library), including digital journal subscriptions, multimedia, monographs, etc [1].

Wayne also has a visible social networking community, although it is small in comparison to other large research universities such as Michigan State University or the University of Michigan. I found this very odd, as I mentioned in the side note blog post about Facebook.

Wayne can be found on Twitter, Foursquare, a Blog and YouTube. The twitter page, I found out by sending them a tweet, is run by the Library System staff group, and is very active. The Foursquare page has interesting potential to draw attention to points throughout the libraries, but is not used. The only comment on it by the library system is dealing with a fruit fly infestation back in May of 2011. The YouTube and Blog pages, however, are updated often with many tips, news posts, and instructional videos.

However, the most interesting aspect to social network at Wayne is the Ask a Librarian feature. I may be stretching to consider this social networking, but I feel that IMs are a social networking item. The Ask a Librarian feature at Wayne allows a user to conduct a reference interview without even being on campus.

While I have not used Wayne’s feature, I have used other online reference help chats, and they are in my opinion one of the most useful features that an academic library can offer the patrons.

Here is a sample of my most recent use of a similar application, via a 24/7 service offered for students and alumni association members at MSU. The transcript they emailed me afterward, and Wayne’s program does this as well.

Patron: Chat Transcript: I am trying to find out how to cite a transcript of an oral history interview in APA formatting. I have the APA guide, but it seems not to cover this issue.

Librarian 1: Librarian ‘Pat M (24/7 Librarian)’ has joined the session.

Librarian 1: Greetings, Amy! I’m Patricia. I am helping out your library as their staff aren’t available to chat right now. I’m reading your question…

Librarian 1: I’m happy to help! Is this transcript something you made yourself? Or was it posted online?

After a short interview, Patricia couldn’t find an answer for me, at least one that she felt comfortable with, and instead sent an email on to someone else. The next day, the answer showed up in my inbox, and I was good to go. So, at close to midnight, while trying to figure out how to put together my bibliography, I was able to get help from the comfort of my apartment. Sure, I had the time to go to the reference desk the next day, as my paper wasn’t due for another four days, but I wanted everything done and finished.

However, many online students do not have the option of just hopping down to their local academic library for assistance, or even to their local public library. Not with jobs, children, and homework from other classes. The option to contact a professional librarian so easily, is invaluable. Many other libraries also offer this feature, and I hope to see it become common place in the future.


[1] WSU Libraries: A Statistical Profile, http://www.lib.wayne.edu/info/about/stats/

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