The following post was written by Betsy F:
When you need information, a book recommendation, a research question asked, whom do you ask? Ever thought about your local library?
Our Knox County Library is a great library for our size county. The local branches are diverse, helpful, and easy to access. Don't want to go downtown? Don't have to--have the book or movie sent to your local branch (through the website: www.knoxlib.org). In addition to helpful resources, most local branches offer at least one children's storytime. We are FAITHFUL attenders at our local library's storytime. As a result, my children are comfortable in the library, look forward to going to the library, and I've gotten to know the staff at my local branch quite well (this is especially helpful if one of your children escapes the library unnoticed by you and a friendly librarian alerts you or--even better--rescues your child).
But the piece de resistance is the virtual reference help you can receive. From the main library webpage, click on the "Contact Us" link at the top. One of the first links listed is Reference "Ask a Librarian." Click on that link, and you will be taken to a page with a form to fill out that includes your contact information and a sizable square in which to type your query. My reference questions have all had to do with children's materials, so the children's reference librarian has always answered my queries. You don't have to specify which department--whoever filters the questions will send it to the right person.
The feedback I've received from my online queries has been outstanding. Case in point: when we were about to put our dog to sleep, I asked for help in finding some children's books that dealt with the death of a pet. Not only did I get a reply the next day several titles listed, but the librarian also told me which ones ended with the family getting a new dog--in case that wouldn't apply to our family (it didn't; we were/are not planning on a puppy anytime soon!). She also offered to have the titles I liked sent to my local branch. Great service, eh?!
When filling out an online reference form, make sure you put in ages of children if you're asking about children's resources and any other information that will help the librarian assist you.