BU’s Andruss Library tests Ask Here PA

For Immediate Release

Date:  August 15, 2006


BLOOMSBURG—Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s Andruss Library is one of 11 public and academic libraries in the state currently testing a new, 24-hour information chat service.

Ask Here PA, a $125,000 program developed by Pennsylvania’s Office of Commonwealth Libraries, is designed to provide constant, real-time access to librarians when it begins Sept. 6. College students and faculty will be helped by librarians from participating colleges and universities; younger students and the public will be able to contact public librarians.

BU reference librarian and site coordinator Linda Neyer said the system, similar to instant messaging, will give students and library patrons the ability to ask library-related questions and receive immediate answers at any time. Pennsylvania residents may access Ask Here PA at www.askherepa.org and through links at participating libraries’ Web sites, including the Andruss Library Web site,http://library.bloomu.edu.

BU students will be able to sign on anonymously, Neyer said, but they will be required to provide their student ID numbers to access many of the subscription services for journals, newspapers and magazines available through the Andruss Library Web site. Students who provide their e-mail addresses will receive transcripts of chat sessions, complete with links to additional resources, she added.

Reference librarians at BU will volunteer a total of five hours of service each week to Ask Here PA. At other times, librarians from around the state and the country may “co-browse” the BU site with students to help them locate the information they need, Neyer said. Ask Here PA builds on BU’s current e-mail reference service provided by Nancy Weyant, coordinator of reference services.

Although Ask Here PA is a new service in the commonwealth, similar systems are already in place in California, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and, jointly, Wisconsin and Illinois, Neyer added.

Other libraries currently testing the program daily from noon to 5 p.m. are Bethlehem Area Public Library, Cambria County Library, Scranton Public Library, Free Library of Philadelphia, State Library of Pennsylvania, James V. Brown Library/North Central Library District, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Villanova, Kutztown and DeSales university libraries. Ninety Pennsylvania libraries will be part of Ask Here PA when it begins next month.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students and offers 58 bachelor’s, 16 master’s and one doctoral degree.