Monday, November 16, 2009

Have A Question? Text a Rio Librarian

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

Why is the sky blue?
Why did the Berlin Wall fall?
What is the average circumference of a human head?

The answers to these questions and many more can all be found with a little research. But for college students on the go and in need of a reliable source, they can find the answers quickly by text messaging their questions to My Info Quest: Text 4 Answers, where a librarian will answer the question within 10 minutes.

On certain days, the answers may come from a Rio Salado College or Paradise Valley Community College librarian, where the program is called ASK! Txt 4 Answers.

Rio Salado librarians Karen Docherty and Janelle Underhill and Paradise Valley librarian Shelle Witten are taking part in the pilot program, which is a free text messaging reference project consisting of more than 50 libraries across the country. All of the participating librarians contribute to the project for a combined effort to answer questions for thousands of students at the participating colleges.

Like the other librarians, Docherty, Underhill and Witten only work two hours a week toward the project, but their students can use the service from Monday through Friday, 6 a.m.-8 p.m. and Saturday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m.

To keep the program costs low and efficient, the librarians are not using cell phones to answer questions. They log onto a project Web site e-mail account to receive questions and provide answers.

“This program really expands our services,” said Karen Docherty, virtual reference coordinator at Rio Salado College. “We contribute a couple hours a week, and in return our students are benefitting with more support.”

The idea for the program came about out of necessity. The average number of text messages by wireless phone users age 18-24 is 790 a month according to a report by Nielsen, the media and marketing information company. The report shows that future college students who are 13-17 years old are texting more than any other demographic with 2,900 messages a month.

“People are now sending more text messages than they are making cell phone calls,” said Docherty. “This is a different way of helping people get the answers they need, wherever they are at, with professional assistance.”

During September, there were more than 645 messages exchanged between librarians and students, which is nearly a three-fold increase from August. According to Docherty, the librarians are on pace to answer more questions than September.

“College students need quick answers,” said Docherty. “Now, they have a new resource at their fingertips, and at the rate they are texting this is good timing to start this program.”

To submit a question, text it to (309) 222-7740 with Rio Salado College’s library code RSC. To learn more about Rio Salado College or the Ask! Txt 4 Answers program, please visit