Q. How Do Libraries Participate in AskWA?
Washington libraries participate in AskWA in a few ways. The Washington State Library subsidizes a large portion of the costs associated with the project using LSTA funds. The remaining costs are shared among participating Washington libraries; these costs are based on population served for public libraries, and by enrollment numbers for academic libraries. Costs are affordable for all participating libraries, from the smallest to the largest, and are paid once per year.
In addition to monetary investment, participating libraries agree to commit their librarians to a certain amount of staff coverage in the global, 24/7 reference cooperative. On average, most libraries cover between 2-4 hours per week in the 24/7 cooperative. During these hours, the covering librarian is expected to have no other obligations so that they can focus entirely on providing an excellent virtual reference service.
AskWA uses LibAnswers software, which is a product available through Springshare.
In addition to weekly coverage responsibilities, participating libraries may spend 1-2 hours a week administering the service and answering email questions from their own library users.
When staffing Ask-WA, librarians are expected to provide excellent reference service to every user they assist. In turn, we expect the same from other libraries when they help our users.