05/29/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Have A Question? Text A Librarian

Oregon State University and Yale both encourage a convenient, tech-savvy and library-friendly method for students to ask librarians reference questions: The text message.

Students text a question to an advertised number during library hours, and an alert appears on the computer screen of any librarian who is signed into the library's instant-messaging service. The librarian uses the computer to send a text message back to the student's cellphone.

Librarians at Oregon State were surprised by the depth of questions they received.

Margaret Mellinger, an assistant professor and engineering librarian at Oregon State, said the library staff expected that students would ask only questions with quick, simple answers. But they were wrong; one of the very first questions was: "What is the function of interneurons?"

A librarian from Yale told the Chronicle that the service is "not very popular." No word on whether or not texts are vetted based on spelling, grammar and readability.

Does your school have any programs like this?