What's Wrong With My Tomatoes? Answering Questions Collaboratively

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Extension educators and librarians share a mission: connecting people with information. Librarians are finding that many customers like to ask questions electronically: via email, web forms, or chat technology. This paper reports on a survey of electronic methods available for customers to direct questions to extension staff from the main Extension website in each state. The presentation includes examples of the extension web pages, summarizes the opportunities to ask questions, characterizes the availability of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), and reports on evidence of collaboration with librarians. Also included is a case study of cooperation between the OSU Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences librarians and the College Communications and Technology unit to offer Ohioline users the opportunity to “ask-a-librarian” for assistance. Most questions were answered by sending a factsheet or other resource, referring the questioner to a local extension office, or referring the question to an Extension specialist when a more detailed answer was required. This ‘triage’ protocol allowed the librarians to handle the routine information requests, while referring to Extension staff only those questions requiring more extensive subject expertise.


Presented at the 2005 Biennial Conference of the United States Agricultural Information Network (USAIN), Lexington, KY; May 18, 2005


librarians, Extension, Ask-A-Librarian, questions, collaboration