KnowItNow24x7 Service Ends December 31
After 11 years of State Library of Ohio funding support KnowItNow24X7 will end on December 31, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Following a cost analysis and declining usage, the State Library of Ohio Board recently voted to cease federal LSTA funding for the statewide virtual reference library service. The board did not arrive at this decision lightly and wishes to express their sincere gratitude to the many Ohio librarians, libraries, and library organizations for their help developing, implementing, and operating one of the first, and for many years the most successful, statewide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week virtual reference services in the country.
“KnowItNow’s success over the years was largely due to the partnerships across Ohio’s library community,” said State Librarian Beverly Cain. “The State Library Board is deeply appreciative of all of the libraries, librarians, and organizations that came together to make KIN24X7 a successful endeavor that benefitted Ohio’s libraries and residents for so many years.”
When the Ohio LSTA Advisory Council drafted the first LSTA Five-Year Plan for 1998-2002, they had a vision for a virtual reference program. KnowItNow24x7 began in 2004 with a $936,000 federal LSTA grant awarded by the State Library of Ohio to Cuyahoga County Public Library in partnership with Cleveland Public Library and NOLA Regional Library System (NEO-RLS). Ohio’s first statewide virtual reference library service launched that year with KnowItNow, ReadItNow, HomeworkNow, and an evening tutoring service through tutor.com. The Cleveland Public Library was responsible for the platform and technical support and daytime reference staff and subject specialists. The NOLA Regional Library System was responsible for after-hours coverage, training and evaluation, and Cuyahoga County Public Library managed marketing and fiscal administration. Reference librarians from Ohio Libraries were recruited and provided after-hours service.
After just eight months, there were 101,000 virtual reference sessions and the State Library Board has continued their commitment to the project by awarding federal funds each year since. In 2007 the tutoring service from tutor.com was eliminated. Cleveland Public Library was administering the program and subcontracting with Northeast Ohio Regional Library System (NEO-RLS) for after-hours services.
OhioLINK began a partnership which led to KnowItNow Academic in 2007 that continued through 2013. Other partnerships included INFOhio and the Kent State University School of Library and Information Science. A national partnership with L-Net, the Oregon virtual reference service, was in place for several years. Cleveland Public Library, the State Library of Ohio, and librarians from public and academic libraries across Ohio provided statewide reference services during day and evening hours. In 2013, after-hours services moved from NEO-RLS to a national contract service provider.
Don Boozer was hired in 2008 as the KnowItNow24x7 Statewide Coordinator when administration of the project moved to Cleveland Public Library, the Quality Assurance Committee was formed, and software upgrades to improve services were implemented. Working from the IT department offices at the Cleveland Public Library, Don led KnowItNow24X7 through significant advances in online and mobile technologies. Don took a new position at the Cleveland Public Library in March 2015 as Manager of General Research Collections. “Serving as KIN24X7 Coordinator has provided priceless opportunities to view library services from a wide perspective and I have come to greatly appreciate what can be accomplished when institutions and individuals band together,” expressed Don Boozer. “I have no doubt the collaborative and cooperative spirit I have seen in action will continue to influence my professional career for years to come.”
“The State Library Board thanks Don Boozer for his enthusiasm and hard work on behalf of KIN24X7,” expressed Cain. “His passion for the service was evident in all he did. The Board wishes Don well in his new role at Cleveland Public Library.”
In 2004 statewide virtual reference service was a visionary endeavor. The service expanded awareness and access for all Ohioans to high quality reference resources online and on the go. Since that time advances in mobile devices and network technologies have soared. Information on the web has expanded dramatically and authenticity of content is more apparent. We now have many options for accessing information resources available at libraries and beyond, and some libraries have instituted their own local virtual reference services. As a result, the need for and usage of KnowItNow24x7 has declined. The service will continue through December 31, 2015. This will allow libraries time to assess their needs and options for virtual reference in their communities.
“As a major research library we must stay on the cutting edge of technology when it comes to providing our patrons with information. That technology has changed and we must change with it,” said Felton Thomas, director of Cleveland Public Library. “We are grateful to Don Boozer and others who helped pave the way and contributed to the successful history of KnowItNow24X7.”
KnowItNow24x7 was an outstanding example of the collaborative efforts of Ohio libraries. The State Library of Ohio continues to support a number of programs and services that maximize the use of public funds by facilitating resource and information sharing among Ohio’s libraries.