Nov 042004
Authors: B.A. Klaene

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

people want.”

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,, 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

by librarians.

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


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