Frequently asked questions about the Ask a Librarian service

What is Ask a Librarian and who can use it?

Ask a Librarian is a service that enables users to ask University of Texas library staff reference questions. Questions can be submitted by email or users can instant message (IM) with library staff. Although the service is intended for current students, faculty and staff of the University of Texas, librarians will answer questions from users outside the UT community as time permits.

When is this service available?

Questions can be submitted by email at any time.

Our IM service is available: Monday - Thursday, 10am – 10pm; Friday, noon - 4pm; Sunday, 6pm – 10pm. This service is not during university holidays.

You can also ask a question in person during reference desk hours or by telephoning the reference department.

Do I need any special software to use the chat service?

You do not need to install any special software to IM with a librarian. The online text box/widget enables you to contact a librarian directly from out web page. However, if you do have an IM account, you can add the Libraries to your buddy list and use an IM client to contact the Libraries.

What types of questions will librarians answer?

Questions pertaining to University of Texas resources, the academic research process, and other related topics will be addressed by librarians staffing the Ask a Librarian service. Librarians will provide answers, source suggestions, search strategies, and referrals to appropriate agencies.

Who answers my reference questions?

Library staff at University of Texas at Austin will provide answers to your reference questions. Subject-specific questions may be referred to a subject specialist.

How long will it take a librarian to answer my question?

Email is checked several times a day, Monday - Friday, 8am-8pm. Responses are usually sent within two business days, excluding weekends and University holidays.

Questions are answered in priority order:

  1. Questions from currently enrolled UT students, faculty, and staff
  2. Requests for information about UT Austin libraries and special collections holdings and services
  3. Requests for information about the University
  4. Request for information about Texas
  5. Requests for other information

IM requests will be answered during service hours. At peak times, users may have to wait for the next available librarian. IM sessions typically take 15 minutes or less. If your question requires more time, the librarian may ask if they can research your question and send a response to your email address.

Can I ask a question anonymously? Who else sees my question?

Questions can be submitted anonymously. After your chat session, a transcript of your chat will be sent to your email address.

This service will make every attempt to respect and preserve your privacy. Only library staff members have access to questions submitted to this service.Questions may be added to a database of frequently asked questions accessible to librarians for training and evaluation purposes. Any identifying information, such as names and email addresses, will be deleted from questions..

Who should I contact if I have questions or comments about this service?

Questions or comments about this service can be sent to: Joe Dobbs, Virtual Reference Coordinator, 512-495-4224