AskUsNow! Service Guidelines

Maryland AskUsNow! (AskUsNow!) is the statewide chat reference service that provides chat for Maryland residents, students in Maryland schools and institutions, and people outside of Maryland who find the service have online conversations with chat librarians.  The service started as a pilot project between the Baltimore County Public Library and Harford County Public Library, and is currently coordinated by the Maryland State Library Resource Center at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.  AskUsNow! went live as a statewide service on March 17, 2003 and has been growing strong since. Much of our success is thanks to the dozens of libraries and hundreds of librarians around the state who provide and support the service. Thank you for your continued support.

AskUsNow! unites the information expertise of librarians, the resources of Maryland's libraries and tomorrow's advanced technology to meet the information needs of Marylanders whenever they need it, wherever they are. AskUsNow! is accessible from, or chat form URLs OR chat widgets (i.e. Qwidgets) on a Maryland library's website.

These guidelines explain the expectations of the service for liaisons, providers, and administration.


Service Structure

AskUsNow! is a family of over 1000 librarians who have been trained across the state of Maryland representing all types of libraries; academic, public, special, and federal. Maryland AskUsNow! is a project of the Maryland State Library, funded through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and coordinated by the Maryland State Library Resource Center at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

The service is run by the Statewide Coordinator who monitors usage and provides quality control, trains staff, heads marketing initiatives, grows the service with new partnerships and technology initiatives as well as schedule staff and troubleshoot. Each partner library appoints a Liaison to represent their library with AskUsNow!. The Liaison is responsible for attending the quarterly liaison meetings, making sure their staff (i.e. Providers) is up-to-date on service expectations and information and other duties.

AskUsNow! is provided by trained reference and information services Providers at each of the Partner Libraries. While over 1000 people have been trained over the years, we currently have about 200 active Providers. Without the enthusiasm, dedication and service skills of our Liaisons and Providers, AskUsNow! would not be as successful as it is.

Librarians from partner libraries around the state staff the service during regular library hours. Backup and after-hours coverage is provided by OCLC QuestionPoint’s freelance staff as part of the QP service agreement.