It’s almost midnight, you have the bio test in the morning, and this is the last concept you need to understand.  You have read the same words describing cell respiration over and over again and just can’t make any sense of them.  Of course, you may have played Zelda a little too long.  What if you could just talk it out, look at it in a different way, and ask a few questions about it?  Do you know that you can?  You can “talk,” or rather chat, with a live person on the web.  Maryland AskUsNow!  is a reference service that you can log onto from the Cecil County Public Library’s website, or any Maryland library’s website, no matter what time of day (or night) it is…24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

All you need to do is go to the “Using Your Library” menu tab across the top of the CCPL’S website, and click on “Ask a Librarian” or click here. This site will have all you need to know about the service, including privacy issues.  The fun stuff page even has links that you may find helpful.

When you log on, you can be anonymous or even make up a name if you want.  An e-mail is not necessary, but it may prove to be helpful to access all the information that was given to you during your chat.  A transcript is sent to you after the session has ended. And, if the librarian cannot find the answer within the session or finds more links after you’ve logged off, those are sent to you automatically.

The cool thing is that you may be chatting with someone from Idaho or Oregon or Montana–or even the UK!  Besides librarians, you may be chatting with reference staff from one of the many universities that monitor the service.  So, if you have a complicated math problem, someone from Cal Tech may pick up your question.  An important tip: when you type in your question, be sure to be specific.  For example, if its high school level physics, college level bio, middle school math or an elementary school science fair project, be sure to mention that in your initial question. This way, the person who picks up your question will be the best one to give you the fastest answer!

Anyone with a question, no matter the subject, can get answers. It’s certainly not limited to students.  For example, legal questions are often asked. If the chat librarian is unable to find the answer, the question will be referred to the Maryland State Law Library’s Reference Staff. They do not chat live, but any question that is referred to them is answered promptly by e-mail.

If you haven’t used this service, try it!  AskUsNow! is always available, and Cecil County Public Library’s staff monitors 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. every Wednesday!

7 Responses

  • Leah Posted February 23rd, 2010

    AskUsNow is really great. I used it once to help my mom find the value of a really, really rare plate from Germany, and the librarian was even able to help me find where she could purchase another plate within the same series (also really hard to find!). Great service.

  • AJP Posted February 23rd, 2010

    I’ve tried a few of the other online reference services and AskUsNow is easily the best.

  • RDH Posted February 24th, 2010

    The AskUsNow staff really knows their stuff–and it’s not cheating on your homework to ask for help from a professional!

  • Lewis George Posted February 24th, 2010

    CCPL’s AskUsNow is an invaluable resource to people who are looking for information via the Internet and need the flexibility of 24/7 access. My compliments and congratulations to CCPL for providing this opportunity to its customers.

    Lewis George

  • Cathay Crosby Posted February 25th, 2010

    Suzy, thanks for your informative blog posting. You described the service beautifully! I’m delighted to be part of Maryland AskUsNow! and it’s people like you and the CCPL team who make it what it is – GREAT!

  • EBB Posted February 26th, 2010

    Wow! I didn’t know all this about AskUsNow! What a great service! Just one more example of how the library takes care of our community’s needs.

  • KRO Posted February 27th, 2010

    I love the Ask Us Know Service! Thanks for helping me out…