Fairfax County to end 'Ask a Librarian'

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 16, 2009; 5:06 PM

Fairfax County public libraries will end their popular online "Ask a Librarian" program to help offset a $4 million budget gap, officials said, making them the first library system in the Washington region to stop such a service.

The reference tool, which allows customers to e-mail questions directly to librarians, was started in 1993 with a virtual bulletin board. It later morphed into a popular e-mail program. An interactive chat and text messaging were introduced in 2004 and 2007, respectively, but those services were less popular, said Lydia Patrick, director of the library system's Internet services.

Librarians at Fairfax's 23 branches answered about 9,300 questions last year, Patrick said. "Ask a Librarian" will be discontinued at the end of this month.

Five part-time employees managed the service last year, but budget cuts reduced the number to two. Those two employees will be transferred to other departments.

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