Scoop: Nerd Report: Ask a Librarian app

Breakthroughs and news from the local geek crew

Once upon a time, people with questions went to a library, where a trusted librarian would help dig up answers. More recently, people stayed put and called the Ask a Librarian phone line to get answers. When a question arises in the age of Google, you whip out your smartphone, open the ask-WA mobile app and chat live with a librarian— anytime, anywhere. Launched in August by the Washington State Library and the first of its kind in the nation, the Ask-WA app builds on the web-browser-based Ask-WA online reference tool (in operation since 2005). The app connects Android and iPhone users with research librarians, who extract facts by navigating the tangle of questionable information online and accessing resources unavailable to the public. Knowledge seekers can ask for anything—obituaries of family members, where to get a timeline of Japanese history, even, simply, “Do you have this book?” Are the librarians secretly just Googling for answers? Ask-WA consultant Ahniwa Ferrari laughs. “The truth is, librarians Google better,” he says. “We have super Google powers.”

Published November 2010

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