Library Council, University of Toronto Libraries

So Near and Yet So Far: Reaching out to the Patron at a Distance

Report of the Task Force on Services at a Distance submitted to University of Toronto Library Council, March 2000

Executive Summary

As our society undergoes fundamental cultural changes, the way in which libraries are being used is also shifting towards greater use of electronic materials and more frequent access of these resources from beyond library buildings. The belief that library services and resources are important to all users, concern that equitable access and service be available to everyone, and a desire to see all University of Toronto libraries offer the best of new technologies to their constituents, prompted members of the Reference Services Committee to recommend the establishment of the Task Force on Services at a Distance.

An extensive literature search looked at national guidelines, other such services already in place, operating features of some of these, and North American projects such as the Library of Congress-sponsored Collaborative Digital Reference Services pilot. Practical advice and possible applications are noted. A questionnaire distributed to University of Toronto libraries was designed to gather information about reference and resource services presently in place and planned for the future. The twenty-nine replies received show that our libraries are all looking at ways to provide additional and innovative support to remote users. Good interlibrary loan/document delivery service, adequate consultation with faculty, staffing and training, and strong technical support are primary concerns. Testing new technologies, as did the UTLive pilot, and incorporating them into services offered at a distance will help ensure the best possible access and service to our users. It will also encourage vital partnerships with other organizations.

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