CDRS Pilot In The News
"Libraries Meet the World Wide Web: The Collaborative
Digital Reference Service," by Diane Nester Kresh, ARL
Bimonthly Report 219, December 2001.
"From Sshh to Search Engine: Reference.net
on the World Wide Web," by Diane Nester Kresh, Information
Technologies and Libraries, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 2001,
Digital Reference Service, Internet Scout Report, September
Need to Know: Library of Congress creates global network to track
down answers to tough questions, by Greg Langlois. Federal Computer
Week, July 2, 2001
Facts: The Library of Congress Tests its Virtual Reference Network.
Government Computer News, May 28, 2001.
Offer Online Reference Services to One Another. The Chronicle
of Higher Education (Information Technology), May 22, 2001.
The Shape of E-Reference (Future of the Library
Series). Library Journal,
February 1, 2001.
Library, OCLC Cosponsor ALA Symposium on Digital
Reference, by Angela Kinney. The Gazette (Library of Congress),
January 12, 2001.
a Librarian, Not Jeeves, by Kendra Mayfield. Wired News,
November 24, 2000.
Distributed Librarian: Live, Online, Real-Time Reference (The
Internet Librarian), by Karen G. Schneider. American Libraries,
of Congress Leads Cooperative Effort to Develop a Global Online
Reference Service: Libraries in U.S.,
U.K., Canada and Australia to Offer Collaborative Digital Reference
Service. Library of Congress News Release, August 7, 2000.
High Quality Reference Service on the Web: The Collaborative
Digital Reference Service (CDRS). D-Lib Magazine, June 2000 (Volume
6, Number 6).
Library of Congress held a two-day institute June 29-30th,
1998 that helped to get the CDRS pilot project off and running.
Hosted by Diane Kresh, Director for Public Service Collections at
LC, in cooperation with Anne Lipow of the Library Solutions Institute
of Berkeley, California, this conference, "Reference Service
in a Digital Age," grew out of discussions among reference
librarians the previous January at ALA midwinter about how the growth
of the Internet was affecting their work. Participants in the institute
discussed the challenge of "remote" users, the difficulty
of training staff to adapt to a rapidly changing digital environment,
and the potential for developing collaborative and innovative responses
to these challenges using available technologies as a starting point.
(shift-click to download):
Building the Pilot: Software
After a series of follow-up meeting and discussions at various
professional meetings, the Library of Congress began to build CDRS
in the Spring of 2000. Remedy, a help-desk software, was "broken
and rebuilt" by the Library's in-house programmers to function
to the specifications agreed upon by members of the group. The new
software had three main components, a database of library profiles
describing a library's services and its collection strengths, an
automated "Request Manager" which would route a question
automatically to the member of the network "best-suited"
to answer it, and finally, a Knowledge Base, a database of Questions
and Answers which could be used as a resource for members of the
Related Documents (PowerPoint):
Building the Pilot: Early Participants
From the beginning, libraries of all types -- national, academic,
special, and public -- joined the effort, and each brought its
special experience, knowledge of user behavior and needs, and subject
expertise to bear. The rapid development of CDRS was a direct result
of the resourcefulness and dedication of these early members: The
National Agricultural Library, the National Library of Australia,
the National Library of Canada, the Smithsonian American Art Museum,
the University of Texas at Austin, Cornell University, Santa Monica
Public Library, Morris County (NJ) Public Library, the Peninsula
Library System of the bay area in northern California, University
of Washington, Vanderbilt University, Arizona State University,
University of Southern California, Metropolitan Cooperative Library
System (Los Angeles area), Ask ERIC, and The EARL Consortium (UK).
These early members decided that not only would the Collaborative
Digital Reference Service capitalize on the strength of the Internet
to convey information but it would also provide unprecedented access
to global resources, create an archive of questions and answers
as a resource for its members, and generally, add value to information
on the Internet, enable 24/7 service, and redefine the role of librarian
in the Internet Age.
CDRS Goes Live
The first live question was posed on June 29, 2000. This reference
inquiry -- regarding ancient Byzantine cuisine -- was sent by
EARL Ask-A-Librarian, a participating public library consortium
in the UK. The request, received by the CDRS server at the Library
of Congress in Washington, was matched based on subject matter,
and time of day, and routed to the Santa Monica Public Library at
10:40 a.m. Several hours later, a list of five books was on its
way to London. During its first month of live testing, the member
institutions exchanged more than 300 questions and answers, creating
a virtual reference desk spanning three continents and 15 time zones.
The Pilot Grows
Pilot Three of the project began in November of 2000 and continued
through the May of 2002. It focused on scaling up the workflow,
creating and implementing an online profiling tool, an "on
call librarian," and developing and implementing the prototype
of a Knowledge Base (KB). This last goal was achieved with the help
of the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) of Dublin, Ohio, with
whom the Library of Congress signed a collaborative agreement in
A year after this agreement was signed, CDRS had 250 members from
all over the United States and beyond exchanging questions and answers
across time zones and continents -- several more National Libraries
had joined the effort, including the British Library, the Koninklijke
Bibliotheek of the Netherlands, the National Library of Norway,
several libraries in Asia, and public libraries in various parts
of Europe. "Proof of concept" had been achieved.
Related Documents (PowerPoint):
Next Phase of Collaboration
In January 2002, as the scale of the project was beginning to exceed
the ability of the pilot software to function smoothly, the Library
of Congress signed a second collaborative agreement with OCLC to
develop what is now known as QuestionPoint,
a fully-integrated reference management system. As of June 3, 2002,
the CDRS pilot was completed and QuestionPoint was launched.
Related Document (PowerPoint):