In 2004 there was no YouTube and no Hulu. Friendster was the cool new social networking site, and Google was just a search engine company. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was still in college and the word Twitter was not quite so ubiquitous. For a medium as fast moving as the internet, 2004 is ancient history. Many websites and web services have come and gone in that time. One web-based service that started in 2004 has not only survived, but continues to thrive. That web based service is the AfterDark Virtual Reference Service.
The AfterDark Virtual Reference Service was launched in 2004 by the Northern Ohio Library Association, now the Northeast Ohio Regional Library System (I told you a lot has changed). The AfterDark Virtual Reference Service is funded through an IMLS grant awarded by the State Library of Ohio. AfterDark was created to provide virtual reference librarians for Ohio’s statewide virtual reference service KnowItNow24x7. Originally, AfterDark librarians only covered hours when the daytime provider libraries were closed, but because of the high call volume and library budget cuts, AfterDark librarians now cover KnowItNow 128.5 out of a total 168 hours per week.
The AfterDark librarians are a mix of public and school librarians who work from their homes all across the state. Working from home has some benefits, like being able to work in your pajamas, but it can be just as challenging as working in a brick and mortar library. The AfterDark librarians have to be prepared to answer a wide variety of challenging questions. While the majority of KnowItNow patrons are K-12 students, AfterDark librarians also answer questions that come in from college students via KnowItNow Academic. AfterDark librarians have to be equally comfortable using the advanced database offerings of OhioLINK as well as the Ohio Web Library databases. Because of this constant exposure to online databases, AfterDark librarians are a valuable resource to their brick and mortar patrons as well.
In September 2008, AfterDark librarians began covering Oregon’s statewide virtual reference service, L-net. The three hour time difference means that as the KnowItNow service is slowing down, it is prime homework time for the L-net patrons. At times it can be challenging to work with patrons in another time zone; the AfterDark librarians have nevertheless adapted well. One very satisfied L-net patron took to her blog with a post titled, “Last Night a Librarian Saved My Life”.
These examples illustrate that, like the internet, things change quickly for the AfterDark Virtual Reference Service. It takes a quick and nimble librarian to keep pace. I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank the AfterDark librarians for all their hard work and professionalism.
In these days of budget cuts and reduced hours, it’s important to remind patrons that YOUR library is open 24 hours a day. KnowItNow24x7 is available to all residents of the state of Ohio and the AfterDark librarians are awake all night. We are here to help your patrons 24 hours a day. All it takes is a link to KnowItNow24x7 on your library’s website. The night owls of the AfterDark Virtual Reference Service are waiting to chat with you.
If your library doesn’t have a link to KnowItNow24x7 on their homepage, or if your library would like to join KnowItNow24x7 as a daytime provider, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Any future AfterDark Virtual Reference Service hiring announcements will be posted to the NEO-RLS website, as well as the appropriate listservs.Are you stuck on a reference question, or looking for a quality website? Check out the KnowItNow24x7 wiki , which was created and maintained by the AfterDark librarians.