Online Reference Basic: Updated Self-Paced Course

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Screenshot from the online course
Screenshot from the online course.

Picture this: answering a question for a patron from the comfort of their kitchen table or while one waits to pick up their kids from school. The opportunity and flexibility that online reference service provides makes a positive difference in the lives of our users. For some users, an in-depth email exchange is the perfect pace to meet their research needs. For others, an immediate reference source via an instant online chat can be just the answer they are looking for.

Online, or virtual reference, has rapidly become a standard patron service offered by many public libraries. It uses the tools of the internet to extend traditional reference service to the point of need, bringing the service to a patron rather than requiring the patron to come into the library.

  • Explore the key steps and considerations using email and chat tools
  • Practice writing an email response to a patron inquiry
  • Gain familiarity with chat tool best practices
  • Consider or adapt your online reference policy and become clear about this service at your library
  • Sharpen your basic reference skills to include online reference

Online Reference Basics is a 1-hour course that will help you provide basic online reference service involving email and chat. This introductory course addresses the advantages and disadvantages of online reference, gives step-by-step guidance, and provides tips and resources.