AskColorado, a virtual 24/7 reference desk, returns to CSU for
the second year.
AskColorado is a completely anonymous, real-time, reference
system staffed by Colorado academic librarians every day until 9
p.m. and then by a group of librarians located in the southeast
region of the country.
“It is really easy and accessible,” said Audrey Spor, freshman
elementary education major. “I’m in a speech class and it was
helpful because they showed me both sides of an issue.”
One of the benefits of AskColorado is that users can access it
any time from any computer with Internet capabilities.
AskColorado was launched statewide on Sept. 2, 2003. In the
first year of the program, library staff entertained 23,101
question sessions in both English and Spanish.
This federally funded program offers assistance in four areas.
There is a link for K-12 student questions, general questions,
university student questions and a tutoring service that is
designed primarily for K-12 students but can also help in lower
division college classes.
“As one of two of Colorado’s flagstaffship universities I think
it is important for us to be involved in projects like this and
support them,” said Allison Cowgill, of Reference Services for
University Libraries and co-chair of the project on campus.
It is available 24/7 with the exception of the major holidays,
Cowgill said. Cowgill also noted there are some disadvantages to
AskColorado, mainly the absence of body language.
“One of the things you learn when you work at a reference desk
is you count a lot on people’s facial expressions and interviewing
them to find out what they really want,” Cowgill said.
“(AskColorado) takes a little longer to find out exactly what
According to the AskColorado Web site, because each session is
personalized to meet the needs of each user a session may take
anywhere from five to 25 minutes for a response. The reason for
this is that librarians attempt to develop a dialogue with the user
in order to provide them with useful information.
Michael Culbertson, an engineering librarian for Reference
Services and co-chair of the project, explained that the time spent
in a session may be longer than coming directly to the reference
desk, due to technical difficulties.
“You are not necessarily talking to a librarian at CSU,”
Culbertson said. “(But) they will be very professional and
knowledgeable about the resources available to students at
Despite any technical difficulties, Eric Hammer, a junior
open-option major, was optimistic about the program.
“I’ll definitely try it out,” Hammer said. “Being able to access
it whenever you want is beneficial.”
From the Morgan Library Web site home page,
http://lib.colostate.edu/, there is a link to the AskColorado
service, which leads you directly into the “Academic Q” section of
AskColorado, which is tailored to meet the needs of college
students. After logging off the system, students may request a full
transcript of the session, including links to Web sites pulled up
Chad Workman, facilities management and a junior open-option
major, elaborated on the many uses of AskColorado.
“I didn’t know it existed, but if you’re doing research for a
paper and you can use Web sites or if you had questions I’m sure
they could answer it,” Workman said.
Hints for Students
* Allow enough time to use
AskColorado (finding valuable information may take a few
* To get new information inform the
librarian where you have already searched.
* Be specific, what is the
assignment and what types of reference materials are you looking