What is LibAnswers?

LibAnswers is a web 2.0 Q – A reference system & knowledge base builder offering SMS/TXTing and Twitter integration. LibAnswers is an online reference tool. Much the same way Google works as a federated search of all things internet, LibAnswers is a ‘one-stop’ search box for an individual institution’s library. It is a knowledge base populated and maintained by the library itself and it is dynamic in that it becomes more robust as more questions and answers are added. A patron uses natural language to ask a question, whether it be, ‘How do I print microfiche?’ or ‘What’s the age of majority in Florida?’ For common questions and answers already in the knowledgebase, patrons are given the answer instantly! When a patron asks a question not already in the knowledge base, a librarian answers it once and becomes part of the searchable knowledge base for all patrons allowing the librarian to anwer it only once.

How does LibAnswers work?

By clicking on ASK US . Patrons type a question in natural language into a question box. As the query is typed, an auto suggest feature will suggest questions. If the question has already been asked and an answered given, the patron will receive the answer immediately. If it is a new question, it will be submitted to the institution’s librarian and the answer will be emailed to the patron. Once the question has been answered it will be added to the knowledge base so that if it’s asked again, the answer will be available. LibAnswers also uses widgets to provide the same features on Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc.

Who uses and benefits from LibAnswers?

Both patrons and librarians benefit from LibAnswer for different but similar reasons. Whenever a question is asked in LibAnswers, the answering librarian is given the option of assigning a topic to the question and up to five keywords. What this means is that once the question has been answered, any future searches or questions using those keywords will auto suggest questions and answers that use the same keywords. That means, if a question has already been answered, the patron will see that and similar questions and answers. By assigning topics to questions, patrons are given the option of browsing particular topics to review what other questions have been asked under that topic area. This saves time for the librarian as well. Rather than answer the same question repeatedly, patrons are given access to common questions and answers in an easy format. Since it auto suggests questions and allows for browsing, the patron ends up having greater access to more information. And since LibAnswers allows for anonymous questions, patrons who might not otherwise discuss a sensitive subject with a librarian can easily have answers to his questions while maintaining his anonymity.

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