PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.
KnowItNow 24X7 is the virtual reference service serving the citizens of Ohio.
Just completing its second year of operation, KnowItNow 24X7 has been named the "busiest virtual reference service in the world."
No other state has a comprehensive reference service online like Ohio.
Each month, KnowItNow averages 15,242 connections to the service.
This year, the service is showing a 14 percent increase in usage.
So what is it, and how does it work?
KnowItNow 24X7 is an online library reference service that is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to respond to reference questions from the public.
It is not a telephone service, it is a web site on the Internet in which the user engages in a live "chat session" with a librarian who can forward information online.
During regular library hours, librarians from around the state staff the service.
After libraries closed, professional librarians are under contract to answer the service.
KnowItNow 24X7 is administered by the Cleveland Public Library, the Cuyahoga County Library System, and the NOLA Regional Library System.
Funding for the 3 year project was provided by the State Library of Ohio, through the Federal Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Currently, the service is running promotions to attract small business owners who use their computers at night, and would benefit from the service.
The result has been an increase in usage of the service.
Questions with specific local backgrounds are sent to that local library to be answered the next day, if received at night.
Ohio's strong network of library systems and databases help in linking the resources necessary for the service.
KnowItNow has a division called HomeworkNow, which operates from 2:00 pm to Midnight daily.
It works with students and their homework, and has trained professionals to assist a student in their homework.
ReadThisNow is another division, which is a readers advisory to connect readers with their next good book.
KnowItNow is an incredible service unique to Ohio.
It is built upon the early Internet experiences of a system operated by Cleveland Public Library.
To connect to the service, go to the library web site at www.steubenville.lib.oh.us and click on KnowItNow 24X7 right below the card catalog graphic.