How is Finnish Ask a Librarian service organized and how it functions (including technical aspects)?
Ask a Librarian is a joint online reference enquiry service with a trilingual user interface. In its present form the service was started in 1999. Use of the service is free of charge.
At the moment, 27 public libraries, Parliament library and Library of Statistics are available for answering questions. More libraries are expected in join in.
Answers are given within 3 working days. The answer is sent to the e-mail address given by the customer in the question form. 2569 answers were given in 2002 and 2647 in 2001, with very positive feedback from users. Most of the answers are stored in a public archive. In the archive the answers can be searched by free-text, date or keywords. All public answers are stored in the The Finnish archive, archives in Swedish and English contain only answers given to questions that have been sent in using an English or Swedish question form.
Production: Participating libraries form a voluntary-based network and a nationwide "virtual community". Participating libraries are responsible for the answering. The questions can be answered by any of the participating libraries. Only one person can reserve a question for answering. In every participating library there is a person responsible for following up the answering of the questions. A national editor, who is a librarian in Helsinki City Library, surveys that all questions are answered in time.
The community participates in planning and deciding the functions of the application, principles of the service and rules of answering. There is a mailing list for the participating libraries and a info-board in the interface for answering. The editorial staff at the Networked Library Services Unit, located in Helsinki City Library, is responsible for editing, development and user interfaces. The Unit arranges a national Ask Librarian Meeting in every other year.