February 12, 2001 Library of Congress and OCLC to Collaborate on Digital Reference Project

Contact: Nita Dean, OCLC (614) 761-5002; e-mail: nita_dean@oclc.org
Contact: Guy Lamolinara, Library of Congress (202) 707-9217

The Library of Congress and OCLC have signed a cooperative agreement to develop a prototype for a new reference service based on the Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS) pilot, begun in early 2000 by the Library of Congress and 16 participating libraries. Now in its third phase, the pilot project has expanded to include more than 60 libraries and other institutions internationally.

The goal of CDRS is to provide professional reference service to researchers anytime anywhere, through an international, digital network of libraries and related institutions. The 24/7 service will deliver the direct benefits of quality reference service to a broad spectrum of users: a reliable and authoritative knowledge navigation service, a large searchable archive of authoritative answers, and increased visibility and support for libraries everywhere. The service will use new technologies to provide the best answers in the best context by using Internet resources, as well as other resources that are held by libraries. CDRS supports libraries by providing additional choices for the services they offer their end users. Libraries will assist their users by connecting to the CDRS to send questions that are best answered by the expert staff and collections of CDRS institutions from around the world.

According to the agreement, OCLC will provide technical and development support to the CDRS pilot by:

  • Building and maintaining a database of profiles of participating institutions that will provide answers through CDRS
  • Building and maintaining a question-and-answer database system that will enable CDRS participants to catalog answers and store them in a searchable/browsable database
  • Providing administrative support for CDRS, including marketing, registration, training and user support

Together, the Library of Congress and OCLC expect to develop a viable model for a self-sustaining digital reference service and promote CDRS in the library community.

OCLC and the Library of Congress co-sponsored a symposium on "Building the Virtual Reference Desk in a 24/7 World" at the Library of Congress on Jan. 12 that was attended by more than 600 librarians. Speakers at the symposium described their experiences with virtual reference services in academic and public libraries in the United States.

Chip Nilges, director of New Product Planning at OCLC, informed the audience that OCLC was exploring several possible roles in the cooperative reference services environment that could include supporting emerging networks, delivering a low-cost alternative for local use and supporting cooperative efforts to deliver reference services through the Internet. In his concluding remarks, Frank Hermes, vice president for Planning and Marketing at OCLC, said that "cooperative reference services is central to the OCLC strategy, and it is also central to the future of libraries and librarianship."

Diane Nester Kresh, director for Public Service Collections at the Library of Congress, provided an overview of the Collaborative Digital Reference Service during the symposium. "By linking libraries for reference services," Ms. Kresh said, "the CDRS would combine the power of local collections and staff strengths with the diversity and availability of libraries and librarians everywhere, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There would always be a librarian available to provide to users located anywhere the interchange and experience of trained assistance in providing access to collections and resources both analog and digital."

The Library of Congress, with more than 120 million items, is the largest in the world. Its collections are in all formats on which information is recorded - books, manuscripts, films, audio tape, maps, prints, photographs, musical scores and digital disk. Its Web site www.loc.gov is one of the most popular in the federal government, handling more than 115 million hits per month. The Library's newest Web site, America's Library www.americaslibrary.gov has recently been names by USA Today as one of the "hot sites" of 2000.

Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, OCLC Online Computer Library Center is a nonprofit organization that provides computer-based cataloging, reference, resource sharing and preservation services to 38,000 libraries in 76 countries and territories. OCLC was founded in 1967 to improve access to the world's information and reduce information costs and conducts ongoing research to develop technologies to support that mission. Forest Press, a division of OCLC since 1988, publishes the Dewey Decimal Classification system.

In the United States, more information is available at (614) 764-6000 or toll free: (800) 848-5878; fax: (614) 764-6096; e-mail: oclc@oclc.org. In Europe, the Middle East and Africa, contact the OCLC Europe office in Birmingham, England at: 44 121 456 4656; fax: 44 121 456 4680; or e-mail: europe@oclc.org. In Asia and the Pacific region, contact the OCLC Asia Pacific office in Dublin, Ohio at (614) 764-6189; fax: (614) 764-4331; or e-mail: asia_pacific@oclc.org. In Canada, contact the OCLC Canada office in Montreal, Quebec at (450) 658-6583 or toll free (888) 658-6583; fax: (450) 658-6231; or e-mail: canada@oclc.org. In Latin America and the Caribbean, contact the OCLC Latin America and the Caribbean office in Dublin, Ohio, at (614) 761-5196; fax: (614) 718-1026; or e-mail: america_latina@oclc.org.

More information about OCLC and OCLC regional service partners is available on the Web at www.oclc.org.


PR 01-015
ISSN 0731-3527