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Library to launch online help service

Parents who would lose on Are You Smarter Than a Canadian 5th Grader? but have kids who need homework help can soon turn to a friend at a library in Ontario — without leaving the house.

In an innovative partnership with Ask Ontario, Vaughan Public Libraries and nine other public library systems from across the province will begin offering an online, chat-based service on Jan. 7.

Called askON, the new service will allow anyone with an Internet connection to find real-time answers from librarians from a network of 10 public library systems: Vaughan, Hamilton, Innisfil, Kingston Frontenac, London, Middlesex County, North Bay, Sudbury, Welland and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry County.

“Creation and delivery of askON has been a true collaborative effort on the part of Ontario’s public libraries,” Ask Ontario Project Manager Virginia Roy said in a statement.

Each library system will contribute 40 hours of live chat service per week, to help users find everything from answers to quick questions to guidance with in-depth research inquiries.

French speakers will also benefit from the service — organizers of askON are anticipating the ability to offer about 10 hours a week of French-language help.

In addition, eight academic libraries will be involved in the first phase of the project: Algonquin College, George Brown College, Lakehead University, Mohawk College, Ryerson University, Seneca College, St. Clair College and York University. Each is expected to contribute 60 hours per week to the virtual reference initiative.

Though askON has yet to launch, Roy said expansion may be just a few months away.

“We are already looking forward to the future, perhaps as early as May, when we can add more libraries and increase the number of services we offer,” she said.

Vaughan Today
Online: January 5, 2008 [link]