OCLC has implemented a pilot project within the Open WorldCat program designed to allow Web searchers to submit questions to librarians through online reference services of OCLC member libraries. The pilot builds on the Open WorldCat program, which is designed to make records of library-owned materials in WorldCat more visible and accessible to Web users through Internet search sites.
The reference pilot will connect Web searchers to librarians much like Open WorldCat is connecting Web searchers to library collections. Once a searcher enters a postal code or other geographic identifier and receives Open WorldCat results listing nearby libraries that hold the item they're looking for, those libraries that offer online reference service display a question-mark icon. Clicking the icon connects the searcher to that library's Web form where they can submit a reference question.
All libraries using the OCLC QuestionPoint platform, the virtual reference service supported by a network of cooperating libraries worldwide, are included in the pilot. The pilot also includes approximately 150 other libraries that run virtual reference desks on other platforms and have provided reference links to OCLC. The reference service pilot will last at least six months. If it is successful, OCLC will consider expanding this reference service option to other online reference services in libraries around the world.