The Internet and Reference Services

By Zumalt, Joseph R.; Pasicznyuk, Robert W. | Reference & User Services Quarterly, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

The Internet and Reference Services


Zumalt, Joseph R., Pasicznyuk, Robert W., Reference & User Services Quarterly


A Real-World Test of Internet Utility

Many libraries now provide Internet access for their patrons and staff or are planning to do so. The push toward Internet access in libraries is proceeding despite the fact that establishing and supporting access is time-consuming, expensive, and fraught with political and policy implications. How useful is the Internet in carrying out the mission of contemporary libraries? Given that library budgets are finite with extreme demands for diversified collections and services, what gains, if any, should library professionals expect from the investment in network connectivity? This study seeks to test the Internet's effectiveness at an important facet of library practice-answering reference questions. Researchers conducted a three-fold test of Internet effectiveness: depth, accuracy, and durability. Using a variety of search tools, they found that the Internet could provide answers to a significant percentage of actual reference questions. There was little significant difference between the accuracy of information obtained through Internet sources and traditional reference sources. The Internet sites showed surprising durability throughout the project.

What was prediction is reality. There is now widespread access to network information. The volume of information being produced and stored on computer networks is massive and increasing. Current choices include multiple formats: complex data sets, high resolution graphics, sounds, video, and animation are available in addition to plentiful text databases and documents. The current availability of billions of records in proprietary databases and public-domain networks is only the beginning.

The Significance of the Study

The watchword for today's Internet is variety. The Internet is a hodgepodge, with constantly changing tools, protocols, standards, and quasi-standards: e-mail, the World Wide Web, Telnet hosts, FTP archives, discussion groups, and gopher sites. Together these tools form the latest attempt at fulfilling a dream, over a half-century old, of being able to obtain information regardless of time, space, or format. [1] While the Internet's intellectual lineage spans the greater part of this century and its technological roots are decades old, library interest in and use of the Internet began only about ten years ago.[2] Scanning library trade, research, and professional journals reveals the first mention of the Internet in 1988.[3] Since then, the Internet, not to mention other network tools, facets, and issues, has accounted for thousands of articles.

Conferences and workshops sponsored by professional associations, regional library cooperatives, graduate programs, and private trainers all seek to give library workers the skills, knowledge, and experience to cope with the Internet. There are a few large projects seeking to build virtual collections accessible on public networks.[4] Some libraries are building community information networks where clients can find a wealth of local information, ranging from community events to social services. In addition to adding content to the Internet, a number of cataloging projects sponsored by libraries and library utilities are seeking to impose order on a disorderly Internet.[5]

A recent American Library Association survey noted that 25 percent of public libraries provide some kind of Internet access to patrons.[6] The 1996 National Survey of Public Libraries and the Internet documented a 113-percent increase in Internet connectivity in public libraries since 1994.[7] The Barron list, which contains instructions for connecting to library catalogs on the Internet, shows more than four hundred library-sponsored Internet sites in North America alone.[8]

Though libraries are instituting Internet access in increasing numbers, there is still a wide disparity in access. While 96 percent of public libraries serving populations of 250,000 to 499,999 and 82 percent serving a population of 1,000,000 or more provide Internet access, only 31. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Internet and Reference Services
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.