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ChaCha in Indiana

This session is explaining the relationship between ChaCha and Indiana University (including IUPUI) to a very empty room. Speakers are Polly Boruff-Jones (IUPUI), J B Hill and Jennifer Laherty (both from IU Bloomington).  Polly explains ChaCha. ChaCha is now mobile search with a guide, as they’ve done away with guided search on the Web. J B talks about the actual deal between the univeristies and ChaCha. It seems that it’s a happy relationship – the librarians enjoy the deal because it extends libraries’ reference presence throughout the University web site and course management system and allows libraries to have an impact on campus search. ChaCha benefits by exploring new market, increase in customer base, increase in knowledge resources. Jennifer says the ChaCha architecture is web-based platform. It has authentication via CAS (Central Authentication System from Yale). Logic has ability to take infoseekers (that’s ChaCha’s term for end-users) to the guide best able to answer query. So a health question goes to the Health Center; if it’s research, it goes to the library. Now she’s got up a flowchart on the screen. Sends to best available guide, waits 3 seconds, if no answer, goes to 2nd guide, wait 2 seconds, and so on. Corporate call center technology.

Jennifer is showing search form for movies. When they started the library sent pre-vetted results to ChaCha. Apparently at IU and IUPUI, the web “search with a guide” platform still exists. She’s now showing the guides’ screen. In theory, the system relies on the Knowledge Base and adds to it as the system learns from questions asked and answered. The difference between what ChaCha can do inside the university and outside is that the librarians can access premium content databases for the academic community. Jennifer’s showing EBSCO’s Academic Premier. She can search it and show to a student in her capacity as guide.

IU is only academic partner. IU has 140 guides, will add another 20. There have been 998 session requests, there were 853 last year. Most come from IUB campus. ChaCha gives them lots of statistics, like requests per hour and ratings of the guides.

Marydee Ojala

Editor, ONLINE: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals

Libraries Enter Second Life

Libraries have entered the virtual world of Second Life (SL)!  The Alliance Library System (ALS) in Illinois and the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County (PLCMC) in North Carolina have established a library on the "Alliance Info Archipelago" in the adult area of SL and the "Eye4You Alliance Island" in the teen’s area.  They have been extremely successful, the Info Archipelago receives about 5,000 visitors a day, and Eye4You receives between 2,000 and 3,000 daily visitors.   Services provided include reference, programs, exhibits, collections (web resources, EBs, audio books), book and genre discussions, and training.

One of the questions that the ALS and PLCMC developers had was whether the SL avatars would want or need library services.  The answer was a resounding YES.  Over 400 librarians from around the world are therefore volunteering their services and bringing their expertise to the Info Archipelago.  They see the following advantages:

  • SL is a new professional frontier and it’s where many users and non-users are.
  • Attract new users to the traditional library through referral.
  • They can investigate library services in virtual worlds and provide services 24/7.
  • SL is an opportunity to meet and work w/librarians worldwide.
  • They can learn and use the 3D web, emerging web interaction interface.

Surprisingly, even in SL, one of the more frequent requests is for books.

A major challenge in SL is that it is highly addictive and time-intensive, so the rate of burnout for the volunteers is high.  Another challenge is that colleagues or managers of the volunteers may be skeptical that they are actually working in SL.  Other lessons learned include:

  • Virtual world residents DO want a library—they are coming in droves!
  • Collaboration is very important
  • The exhibits are very popular and the events draw crowds.
  • SL is fun and is a catalyst for amazing growth.  The speed at which it is growing is unbelieveable.

As a result of their involvement with SL, ALS and PLCMC have received huge national and international attention and have become recognized as key innovators and leaders in the library community.

For further information, see the following two blogs:, and

Don Hawkins
Columnist, Information Today and CIL 2007 Blog Coordinator

Final Thoughts on CIL 2007

What a buzz this week at the Crystal City Hyatt for the Computers in Libraries 2007 conference and exhibition!  Check the bloggers coverage (here’s an interesting feed of blog posts about CIL on PageFlakes).  Things are winding down today with a number of post-conference workshops.

Many people were overwhelmed by the facilities this year — yes, there definitely were issues here at the Hyatt.  Last year I posted the reason we were coming to the Hyatt  and yes, we are committed to a second year at the Hyatt — CIL 2008 April 7-9, Crystal City Hyatt.  We have many ideas of how to improve the experience for our conference attendees.  BTW the final attendance this year was 2612.

Bottom line, most people really enjoyed their experience here at CIL 2007 and are energized and excited about the future.  That’s what we value and work towards.  It is wonderful to hear from you and to start reading the feedback forms; thank you all for your comments and suggestions.  Thank you all for coming and we hope to see you next year.  Watch for the call for speakers for CIL 2008 in July of this year. 
Jane Dysart, CIL 2007 Conference Program Chair