Electronic Reference @Morris County Library: history and samples

Questions asked via e-ref are up 46.3% and answers sent (question originating in person or on the phone) up 69.3% (2003-2005). The ratio of "standard" to electronic reference in 2005 was 2.5:1. In the first six months of 2006 it is 1.2:1. There are fewer standard, extended reference transactions (in part because of better sources) and more patrons are using electronic reference. That the majority of the public still does not turn to libraries as their first resource for information is seen in the service ratio of 1.97 e-ref question/1,000 population served, Jan-June 2006. (Up from 1.6/1,000 in 2005.)

In-building sampling indicates that 1 in 10 patrons coming into the library ask a question, of which only 33.8% are reference queries. The rest have to do with using library facilities or one's library account and are answered by circulation staff. Right now sampling is tracking to a year of 232,886 walk-in questions, of which 80,284 would be reference. (Children's, Music and Media and Reader Services are separate service desks.) EMUmail and PINE are our mail clients, CraftySyntax the chat software.

2004 update: 2004 e-ref was 173% more than e-ref 2002
E-ref, as we call it, has more than doubled in the now 7 years we've been offering it, but is still only running at the rate of 1.315 question/thousand resident (in the county), year-to-date. Some of this may be because every town has it's own town library, the county library serving as an extra service layer, a sort of floating super-agency. (The county is an area of 469 sq miles, within which there are 38 town libraries, 4 academic [Drew, Fairleigh Dickinson, County College and College of St Elizabeth], an excellent hospital library and a specialty Judaica collection.) The low service rate (SR) remains, however, an indicator that e-ref is not a great public draw. Extended reference (can't answer in five minutes on the phone, so write it up for work and later call back) comes in at rate of 3.1/1,000 (2.4 phone ref: 1 e-ref).

Efficiency rate (ER) is 1.5: for each 1 question in, 1.5 return/replies, meaning some interchanges require clarification or patrons' follow up first reply with additional refinements. Most susceptible to looping are the genealogy queries.

Biggest changes since beginning operations are increasing use of mail-out from databases to patrons and, post-Patriot Act, discontinuance of archiving. Once end-of-month statistics are done, all questions/answers are destroyed. Information that seven years ago was not on the web now is (here, NJ judiciary and licensed child care centers in the state, for example.) All levels of government--federal, state, local--have dramatically improved their web presence and resources since we began offering 'Net access to the public in 1993.

In part because we are more comfortable in multiple formats we are doing more "weaving" (see remarks to RUSA/ALA, Toronto, 2003, pp. 2-3), using any/all formats required to answer questions. We are also providing electronic resolution or follow-up of in-person or phone questions, usually by providing URLs to best sources, rather than recite unwieldly URLs. This tends to generate return "visits" to e-service. Parents looking for homework help are given screen snap of the remote services page, with suggestion to bookmark it and a note to the student in question, from the librarian. In 2003, after a service survey indicated how little the public still knew about library services, the front page of the library web was redesigned (simplified and spelling out services) and a virtual domain--mclib.info-- purchased. In fall of 2004 electronic services were re-publicized with posting to county electronic forum (run by Newhouse paper, the Star Ledger) and to county chapter of EMAnj (Educational Media Assn). Cadre of satisfied repeat users is small, but devoted. Questions about service? Contact Sara Weissman, at the Morris County Library
Question sampler, 1997-2001
These questions were received via our electronic reference box over a period of 4 months, between January and June 1997. About one-third of the queries were for genealogical materials. Those questions are distinguished by researchers thinking there is far more on the Internet than is in fact available. Only two (of over 50) questions were "lemons", submitted by someone fooling around or unfamiliar with electronic forms.

gti.net is a large local provider; the Daily Record is the local daily paper. The Sunday paper features a "LogOn" column which lists library web pages in the county. It obviously brings us electronic patrons. Names and phone numbers have been removed for patron privacy. [Brackets note editing, also to protect the patron.] Approximate disposition of questions are noted **in asterisks**

The surprises in this trial really were: 1) it was not the torrent of questions people fear and 2) most of them were entirely appropriate, were either our homegrown patrons or were querying us about unique materials for which we are responsible. And so many people said "thank you"!!

July-August ..... Sept-Oct. .....Nov-Dec ....1998, Jan-Mar....Mar.-June.....Fall/Winter '98/99
Spring 1999.....Summer 1999....Fall 1999.....2000 samples...2001 sampler

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 1997 15:40:40 -0500 (EST)
From: @stgeorges.qc.ca ()
source: looked in Yahoo and found you as an excellent reference
query: would appreciate info on public library marketing for a seminar
**referred to business librarian and newsletter editor**
From: @JUNO.COM" 16-JAN-1997 20:57:16.72
from: county resident
personal: on
**Gave patron titles--patron came in to charge books out**
From: aol.com" 20-JAN-1997 18:49:13.67
source: Surfing the Internet.
biz: on
query: Need the Census Tract for the following: 101 Boulevard in Pequannock; for the Township of Pequnnock; for Morris County; and Senior Population for Pequannock and total Morris County
**provided information and reference to http://venus.census.gov/cdrom/lookup**
From: SMTP%"nobody@apollo.gti.net" 22-JAN-1997 13:50:07.90
facts: l \
Name: gfd
Phone: ghgyiiuy
Address: jgh
From: garden.net" 22-JAN-1997 17:29:05.49
source: ISchool librarian
personal: on
query: own property but not (yet) a house in the county......can I get a library card?
**forwarded query to librarian in the community in which patron owned land**
From: @norfolk.infi.net" 29-JAN-1997 01:34:03.96
school: on
source: I was told by a teacher.
query: How many reported cases are there of children beating parents -
**mail to address bounced; unable to answer**
From: @bright.net" 1-FEB-1997 21:15:55.83
school: on
query: Please, I need a copy of a 1955 review of William Golding's "Lord of the FLies." Thank you.
**sent two reviews**
From: @aol.com" 2-FEB-1997 12:30:11.56
source: Research
personal: on
query: I had a relative X killed by indians on the NJ frontier in 1757, but I cannot find any further info on him. He is a blank in an otherwise consise history of the family. He lived in Morristown prior to 1757. Any suggestions?
**referred to our genealogy librarian**
From: @Prudential.com" 4-FEB-1997 22:14:15.26
school: on
query: I visited the Morris County Library a couple of months ago looking for information on the Morris County Schools (K-12). The reference desk gave me a folder containing certain articles as well as pamphlet from the state on each of the schools. I w as also told that I could access some more information through the Net and was given the following web names: Linkname: Philadelphia Online: New Jersey School Data, http//www.phillynews.com/packages/njschools/. Problem I'm having is that I tried these web address and could not get any useful information. Could you please direct me as to where else I might look or if I could download some information from your system or suggest any other publication I may get this information from. I'm particularly interested in the Boonton school system and how it compares to others schools in the county of Morris. Your assi stance is greatly appreciated. Thank you
**after exchange of e-mail, patron came in to use materials and get instruction in use of school report cards database. Question recurred so often, wrote web page**
From: @juno.com" 7-FEB-1997 15:55:27.84
school: on
source: friend
personal: on
query: who should i talk to to volunteer at the county library for the school year 1997-1998 this is for school credits. Thanks for answering fast.
**referred to head of our circulation dept**
From: @worldnet.att.net" 9-FEB-1997 13:44:56.61
source: I just searched for the Library main page, and thought that you may have an 'internet reference desk' I was right! This is a VERY good idea!
personal: on
query: I'd like to get a listing of the African countries sorted by: area polpulation density I've tried the various search engines, and have not found the information (at least 1 hour spent on this) I know that this info is in almancacs/atlases, I just wanted to get it from the internet as a 'test' case. Do you have a site you can point me to?
**did not find what patron wanted, but referred patron to UN, WorldBank, and Population Library at Princeton (online) as sample sources**
From: @bellatlantic.net" 9-FEB-1997 14:40:50.07
school: on
source: 2/9/97 Sunday Daily Record
query: Do you have copies of 1960's sitcoms' scripts (i.e. Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched) on file at the library? (Please note correction to question.) Thank you!
**patron referred to Museum of Television and Radio in New York City**
From@worldnet.att.net" 9-FEB-1997 17:08:26.16
school: on
source: Just found you surfing the internet The references are from a course I took with [a NJ] College query: Does library have either: Public Administration and Public Affairs -- Nicholas Henry, 1994 or Public Administration: Challenges, Choices and Consequences by Charles Levine, 1990 Thank you
**We owned one, found locations for other; ours on reserve, patron advised as to ILL on the other**
From: @beaches.net" 13-FEB-1997 08:20:24.86
source: Netscape - Yahoo browser
biz: on
query: I need good reference material on advertising and promotions for a building contractor that is the only builder in a new subdivision. We are trying to determine how to best spend our advertising dollars to promote not only each home, but the overall image of the company while still making the public aware of all the developments we are working in. Are there publications or reference materials that I might study?
**advisory on business research online and sources in library provided**
From:Compuserve.com" 14-FEB-1997 11:15:48.00
school: on
query: how do we obtain info on former governer Florio
**some information provided [bio from back copy of Legislative Manual]; sources suggested**
From: @max.state.ia.us" 14-FEB-1997 13:16:51.59
school: on
source: A co-worker's daughter used the internet for a report. She used a listing of news headings and didn't knowhow to list them as a source.
query: If you use an internet site as part of a paper, how do you list that in your bibliography? This is a new "source", and I haven't seen how anyone reports it.
**guidelines suggested and reference given to PubLib Reference Desk Repeats of this type of question resulted in homework page.**
From: @gti.net" 18-FEB-1997 15:52:22.51
source: I use to be on Main,Morris years ago
query: I used to be able to access the Morris County Library system to look up availability of books. Is that no longer available or is it under something else. I always got it through the gopher system at main.morris.org
**advised to try telnet://main.morris.org
From: @gti.net" 19-FEB-1997 19:17:32.37
personal: on
query: I need a list of all the towns in morris,sussex,and summerset counties
. **advised available in atlases and Legislative Manual and referred to state web page From: @aol.com" 20-FEB-1997 10:25:00.66
biz: on
query: I am interested in getting some background information on the Fields of Bio-Tech, Computer Manufacturing and Pharmacutical Industries across the United States? Is there an on-line location at the Library that may be of service or do you know where I could go to obtain this information? Thanks so much for your help.
**advised patron about library business resources**
From:@ aol.com" 20-FEB-1997 10:56:07.25
source: Browsing the web
biz: on
query: I'm trying to find information rgarding Training Needs Analysis. Can you direct me how, using your on-line access, I can research this topic?
**referred patron to Infoseek and Hotbot and suggested search terms. Also advised as to library's holdings of business materials.**
From: @rvcc.raritanval.edu" 27-FEB-1997 19:39:24.62
query: hello! what is the dial up # to access M.a.i.n.? i am phoning from X, so i wonder whether you have a # local to 908 781....also, is m.a.i.n. a service exclusive to morris cty libraries or is it a dial up svc also avail via other companie s and libraries? i have a somerset cty library card and they have just launched their web page, so i wonder whether they will have your m.a.i.n. svc available as well....thanks in advance for your response
**Gave telnet address and dial-up information**
From: @redshift.com" 2-MAR-1997 01:25:39.76
personal: on
query: need telephone number for county recorder and for the hospital in Boonton to obtain a birth record. Thanks...
**referred to our page on local vital statistics**
From: @gte.net" 4-MAR-1997 03:45:23.00
query: Would like to know if there was an 1875 census-Randolf Twnshp.in particular-Minehill. And how to make an inquirey or if a genealogist could help me. Have not been able to obtain it through the Church of Latter Day Saints. Your help is very much appreciated.
**genealogy librarian**
From: @pipeline" 7-MAR-1997 09:11:23.87
source: Resident of Morris County
personal: on
query: Can I obtain access to the genelogy(?) files using the internet into your records to search for my relatives who have lived in Morris County for at least the last 200++ years???
**genealogy librarian**
From: @erols.com" 8-MAR-1997 12:32:02.77
personal: on
query: Do you have a learning tape on Windows 95. ank if so is it avaliblet to veiw at home, or can I view it at the library. Send you reply by E mail
. **located materials in catalog; advised patron of holdings and procedures for borrowing**
From: @worldnet.att.net" 11-MAR-1997 20:31:45.62
source: Daily Record
personal: on
query: I Need to know the names and e-mail addresses for the current Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders. The names that appear on the Morris County home page are not current, I think. Thank you for your help.
**provided names and single e-mail, freeholder@main.morris.org**
From: @bellatlantic.net" 11-MAR-1997 21:04:11.65
school: on
source: yahoo search.
query: How do I compose a bibliography from material on the internet, with and without authors?
**guidelines suggested and reference given to PubLib Reference Desk**
From: SMTP%"nobody@apollo.gti.net" 12-MAR-1997 16:06:05.95 school: on
query: "What is viral syndrome"
**No return address; unable to respond**
From: @gti.net" 21-MAR-1997 14:43:10.39
source: notice in Daily Record Computer Page
personal: on
query: Looking for info on air raid statistics, civilian casualties, and also food rationing (cant remember the amounts after 50 years Tried my library in X to no avail. Thanks
**provided information from books on WWII; advised NYTimes accounts for the period also available here. Follow up phone call; patron is giving speech on WWII conditions in Gt Britain to senior citizen group.**
From: @mcvts.org" 25-MAR-1997 10:03:12.85
school: on
source: Live in the county.
biz: on
query: Do you have educational research journals?I'm looking for the Review of Educational Research, Encyclopedia of Educational Research, and/or the Review of Research in Education. Also American Educational Research Journal.
- **provided locations of journals**
From@interpow.net" 27-MAR-1997 07:41:02.99
Sara Weissman/Morris Cty Library wrote: >We have county maps for 1868 and 1887 here at the library. They include > locations of buildings and names of property owners ...for anything > older we would probably have to talk to the state library or state > historical society. Can we check something in the 1868 atlas for you? Let me tell you what my problem is and perhaps you can suggest help. When my property was subdivided, 10 feet of road frontage was deeded to the municipality for future road improvement. This was necessary because the municipality did not know the legal width of the road and therefore was restricted to the roadway traveled.[..five sentences of explanation] Without being able to show that the course of X Road was significantly different then the existing road, I will lose additional road frontage. However if I can produce a copy of a map that was developed using the deeds of the time and the map shows that X Road had a different course [...] The most encouragement I have seen was a map in the Morris Museum that shows Morris County and indicates that it was developed by deeds of the time. I don't know if this map is available in copies or if there is a process to obtain pictures of such a map. If you know of any help I would appreciate your suggestions.
**talked to Map Room at County Courthouse to determine holdings, hours, and assistance.....passed information along to patron**
From: @fcrc.com" 1-APR-1997 09:38:18.
school: on
source: Net Directory
query: I am looking for info re Business Administration. Can I get this info via the internet from your library?
**advised patron of holdings**
From: @imedia.com.au" 2-APR-1997 20:46:37.18
school: on
source: Internet
query: How has marketing changed in the last 20years.
**Discussed marketing and suggested online and "tree-based" sources**
From: @AOL.COM" 5-APR-1997 10:33:02.02
school: on
source: One of the victims was a father of a friend
query: Trying To find Information about adouble murder in X on Y (date). Names of victims were A and B
**In-state; out of county. Nothing found here; referred to county library for crime location**
From: @prudential.com" 11-APR-1997 11:35:32.50
source: Workmate
personal: on
biz: on
query: Can I get a library card if I work in [a town in the county]
**query forwarded to reference librarian in the town in question**
From: @access.mountain.net" 14-APR-1997 00:34:38.04
source: Debbie Robinson home page.
personal: on
query: I am interested in genealogy and cemetery listings in your county. What do have that I can access on the internet. I am serching the name X, especially XX, est 1730-1810 and his wife and sons. Any help you can offer would be appre ciated.
**genealogy librarian**
From: @prodigy.net" 14-APR-1997 13:26:30.32
source: Found you on the net. Ed Ball page.phone:
personal: on
query: Eagerly seeking pre-1790 census figures for Mendham Twp.. Looking for details on John X and any other Xs in Mendham. Have found figures for other townships, but not Mendham. Any Xs that might be in Chatham Twp. in same period would be helpful too. Please help me. I would come in myself if I were anywhere near you.Thanks,
**genealogy librarian**
From: @gti.net" 16-MAY-1997 08:01:14.59
source: through Internet sitewww.state.nj.us
personal: on
query: i would like to know if I can access The Daily Record for library
**Gave URL for paper and advised we have holdings 1900+ and reader/printer**
From:@aol.com" 4-JUN-1997 21:26:07.76
school: on
source: Found you on the web through Yahoo
query: Looking for books on Cherokee indians. History, educational discrimination, discrimination in general of the tribe, etc. Wanted to know what books you may have on subject.
**Advised as to titles held in library [100+] and reference tools in MCL**
From: @mail.cybernex.net" 7-JUN-1997 11:13:04.64
query: how do I use the catalogue from the internet dite, I keep getting an error message, "Cannot find application" Thank you!
**advised on installation and use of telnet application**
From: @aztec.asu.edu" 14-JUN-1997 23:31:43.53
source: Family History.
personal: on
query: [detailed inquiry about history of maternity home in county community.] Thank you VERY much for this service!
**referred to librarian in town in question; information found and provided**
From: @erols.com" 15-JUN-1997 23:21:28.19
source: Internet
biz: on
query: Is there any medical facility doing MRI scan in morris county ?
**offered to create list in American Busine ss Disc; patron withdrew query as HMO would not cover the procedure**
From:@midcoast.com" 18-JUN-1997 15:32:18.64
source: found you on teh Internet
personal: on
query: I'm doing research on the genealogy of the X family and am looking for reference sources. Can you help?
**genealogy librarian**
From:@cybernex.net" 19-JUN-1997 21:57:29.78
source: Do a lot of research. I decided to check county library system on Web
personal: on
query: Do you have 3 volume set of New York in the Rebellion or New York at Gettysburg?
**Located in New York Public Library; patron so advised.**
From:@davidgrp.com" 20-JUN-1997 09:00:33.49
source: I'm just getting acquainted with the Internet and am spending timing "searching" for info.
biz: on
query: I am beginning to gather info on the best sources for recruitment of individuals aged 50+. I work with many businesses who are seeking quality job candidates. can you make any recommendations? thank you.
**referred to career librarian. Question came up again; class assignment in local grad business program!**
From: @aol.com" 20-JUN-1997 09:07:35.73
source: from your web site.
personal: on
query: Could you possibly provide me with info on adult retirement communities in X My mother-in-law currently lives there in a home which is too much for her to care for but cannot seem to make a change. Concerns are proximity to transportation, moderate price and security. She tells us that there are few options there !??? Thank you. **referred to Cty Office on Senior Services, to Cty Housing Authority, to municipal senior assistance office, and to Senior Services web page for information on state listings of housing.**
From: @cyberhighway.net" 22-JUN-1997 15:59:25.18
source: I believe you have been able to assist me before, but i found your address on the Internet.
personal: on
query: In 1913 my mother lived in Z, on Z St. How can I discover, which elementary school, and the school district, in shich this school would have been?
**In another NJ county; referred to Board of Education in community in question**
From: @engergisresources.com" 25-JUN-1997 10:35:07.80
source: did a net search on NJ library's
biz: on
query: I need to find an N.J.A.C. pamphlet on Boilers, Pressure Vessels, and Refrigeration. It is put out through the NJ Department of Labor, Division of Workplace Standards
**advised that NJAC is in the library, available for inspection and copying, but is not yet online Also suggested Natl Plumbing Code**
From: @worldnet.att.net
source: Just lucky I guess - searching on schools and morris county etc.
. personal: on
query: I'm preparing to buy a home and I need to find a list of New Jersey Schools and how they rank. I want to know the top ten or twenty school districts. Is there a list or reference book I can turn to - can you e-mail or fax me this information? Thank you for your help - I will be looking forward to your response.
**advised no such ranking; referred to New Jersey Monthly annual listing of "top 75 high schools" and to page on county schools including link to School Report Cards. After receiving this question several more time, from walk-in patrons and by phone, wrote a web page on the information.**
Questions? Contact Sara Weissman

© Morris County Library 1997
5 July 1997