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This fall the Mississippi State University Libraries joined the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries’ (ASERL) “Ask-A-Librarian” chat service, a cooperative virtual reference service staffed 71 hours per week by librarians and other expert reference staff at 13 leading research libraries across the Southeast. Providing 24/7 service is a goal for the future.

Virtual reference uses online chat technology to connect people to people – not just to digitized information or to a pre-programmed automated response. Accessibility, prompt turnaround, interactivity, privacy, lack of bias, and access to knowledgeable staff, as well as instruction for finding information independently, are some of the key benefits of virtual reference.

With Ask-A-Librarian, when a user starts a session, a virtual reference staff member will chat with them in real-time. These experts can provide quick answers to quick questions and, when necessary, they can instruct users on how to find and evaluate the information they seek.

Sponsored by the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries, Ask-A-Librarian is the first major collaborative virtual reference project involving academic libraries across a geographic region in the United States. It is a cost-effective means for providing more virtual reference services than can be provided by any single ASERL library.

The Ask-A-Librarian service will begin on Thursday, September 9, 2004. Select the "Ask a Librarian" link in the maroon bar to chat with a librarian.

About MSU Libraries:

Mississippi State University Libraries is a premier research library providing its communities of users an ongoing, creative, technologically advanced library program that provides new and emerging technologies; enhances and inspires teaching, research, and service of the highest caliber in an environment of free and open inquiry and with a commitment to excellence. For more information about MSU Libraries, please visit .

MSU, Mississippi's flagship research university, is online at