05/24/2012 07:00 pm ET Updated Jul 24, 2012

At Your Service -- 24/7

A lot has been written about the growing number of online courses in higher education. For many years this arena has been dominated by the "commercial universities" but recently Harvard and Stanford have stepped into the playing field with much success. Combining the best in technology with the intellectual expertise of professors provides countless opportunities for student success and enhanced learning. To paraphrase Andrew Ng, an Associate Professor at Stanford, the success of these courses has a lot to do with accessibility; if it is a 3:00 in the morning, there is always someone awake somewhere to answer your question!

Libraries have known this for years! In fact, providing 24/7 online reference help is a long established services in libraries. We recognized early that we can't always "be there" when our students need us so working together, which is something librarians are great at, a global network of reference librarians was developed to provide live chat services 24/7. Let's face it, the open Internet and myriad of complex information resources can be a murky place to navigate and librarians can provide guidance to students.

The University of Puget Sound and the University of Cincinnati could not be more different, but we have in common the commitment to provide our students with access to information and that mean's anytime/anyplace!

Both libraries participate in the "Ask a Librarian 24/7," a cooperative virtual chat reference that includes hundreds of libraries from around the world. In fact, there are over 50 participating libraries in Washington State alone. Rebecca Kuglitsch, Science Librarian and Coordinator of this service at Collins Library, knows how much students appreciate this service, "Many of the questions come in the evening, after hours, and I'm so pleased to know that no matter when students need help, they can get it! Ask a Librarian 24/7 means that a librarian somewhere is always available to answer our students' questions and help them get started on their research.

And if that wasn't enough, librarians deliver personalized information services to students studying abroad. Andrea Kueter, Collins Social Sciences Librarian, often finds herself helping students literally 1000's of miles away! According to Kueter, "This past year we worked with students who were on our "Pacific Rim/Asia Study Travel Program," who were in Central and Latin America, and students throughout Europe and Scandinavia. Students often comment on the startling differences they find between the myriad of resources available to them through UPS compared to what they find in the libraries abroad.

Librarians have been some of the first in the Academy to recognize the power of collaboration and sharing. First with online catalogs, with sharing of collections via ILL, and now with sharing expertise across the miles. At your service 24/7.