. . . that you have recourse to a world of expertise, if your library’s or group’s resources cannot satisfy your patron’s question? As a subscriber to QuestionPoint, your library automatically has the option to participate in the Global Reference Network (GRN).
Originally conceived by the Library of Congress, the GRN has been offered as part of QuestionPoint since 2002. The vision for this cooperative was to facilitate the information fulfillment needs of patrons by sharing resources, expertise, and even time through a network of many library types and geographic locations. When a library does not have the needed resources to satisfy a question it’s received, it could route that question to a more appropriate library for an answer.
For small libraries, the GRN helps to level the playing field. No longer does this library have to say “Sorry” to a patron with an information need of greater depth than the collection. For larger libraries, the GRN can help relieve load by routing to a library with a more specialized collection or a public library with a more generalized collection, rather than spending hours researching an unfamiliar subject area or saying no to an out-of-scope education level. For all library patrons, the message is “We can get an answer for you,” rather than “You will have to call so-and-so or travel to such-and-such a library.”
Librarian selects the GRN
Originally built on a system that matches a question coded by the requesting librarian with a library whose subject strengths, as specified in their QuestionPoint profile, match the coded question, the GRN was intended to largely function as a hands-off matching tool. We soon found, however, that a simple matching algorithm leaves something to be desired until profile volume (and thus the volume of subject strengths, locations, times available, etc.) grows to a critical mass. So we introduced a selection tool to use in tandem with automatic matching: from several matching libraries the requesting librarian selects the most appropriate.
Coding the question
Selecting a matching library
Note that in the illustration above, the weighted, matching score is exactly the same for 8 libraries, so the routing librarian has a quite a choice. In the final column, none of the libraries have had a question routed to them this week. The second number represents what that library profiled itself to commit to answering per week, should they be called on to do so (should questions be routed to them).
Over 3500 questions have been routed through the GRN since 2003. In 2008 alone, close to 100 libraries were involved in routing and/or answering the questions. Remember, as a QuestionPoint library you are eligible to participate in the GRN. Although there are no rules for ratio of questions asked to questions answered, community consideration encourages libraries that route questions to consider profiling themselves for also receiving (answering) questions should the need arise. Commitments can always be changed through profiling.
For more information about the Global Reference Network, go to http://www.questionpoint.org/crs/html/help/lv/ask/ask_refer_globalinfo.html. To learn how to participate in the GRN as an answering library, go to http://www.questionpoint.org/crs/html/help/lv/profile/pr_gen_profimpr.html. To learn how to route questions, go to http://www.viewletcentral.com/vc/viewlet/706112206/. Member guidelines are available at http://www.questionpoint.org/policies/memberguidelines.html.