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  NEWS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release

2006EDU0107-001236

Oct. 17, 2006

Ministry of Education

Ministry of Advanced Education

 

PROVINCE, LIBRARIES LAUNCH VIRTUAL REFERENCE SERVICE

 


VICTORIA – British Columbians will have better access to more information thanks to a new virtual reference library service called AskAway, Education Minister Shirley Bond and Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell announced today during the Libraries in Dialogue with Government conference.

 

“AskAway lets British Columbians get the information they need from a real librarian in real time using a simple live chat format – no matter where they live in the province,” said Bond. “By putting the knowledge and resources of librarians online, AskAway will help make B.C. the best educated, most literate jurisdiction in North America.”

 

The Province is partnering with public and post-secondary libraries to provide the AskAway virtual reference, which is available at www.askaway.org. The Province has provided $530,000 in start-up funding and will contribute $350,000 in ongoing annual funding. AskAway will be staffed by public and post-secondary librarians.

 

AskAway uses special software to connect 160 librarians from 46 public libraries to residents across the province. AskAway also connects 100 librarians from 20 post-secondary institutions. The academic librarians provide specialist resources for post-secondary students, including access to academic research databases.

 

“This information age has created a more focused, competitive world for post-secondary learners,” said Coell. “To thrive, our students need fast access to the real research and high quality information that AskAway librarians can provide, whether they are in Fort St. John or Vancouver.”

 

AskAway is a key component of the government’s election commitment to expand library access and services to British Columbians across the province. It also expands on a pilot project carried out by post-secondary institutions. Since the start of the pilot in late September, college and university librarians have fielded more than 800 questions on topics ranging from political figures of the past to psychology research papers.

 

B.C. has one of the highest rates of Internet connectivity in the country, with almost 70 per cent of residents having online access, either at home or through a local community centre. With AskAway, Internet users who can’t get to a library during regular business hours or live in remote areas will still be able to get the information they need. 

 

“AskAway dramatically enhances access to the important service that librarians provide,” said Lawrence Lavender, president of the B.C. Library Trustees’ Association. “It puts expert help just a click away.”

 

 

The Libraries in Dialogue with Government conference is a meeting between local libraries and government to strengthen B.C.’s public library system. Representatives from local library boards, the B.C. Library Trustees’ Association and senior government officials will discuss collaboration and build on past successes, such as the B.C. Public Libraries and Literacy Forum.

 

Since 2001, the Province has invested more than $54 million to support literacy, including: $12 million for public libraries, $10 million for textbooks, $5 million for the community program LiteracyNow, $6 million for the kindergarten readiness program Ready, Set, Learn, and $800,000 in matching donations to the B.C. Raise-a-Reader campaign.

 

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Media

contact:

Corinna Filion

Public Affairs Bureau

Ministry of Education

250 356-5963

Deborah Pearce

Public Affairs Bureau

Ministry of Advanced Education

250 356-7882

 

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