Stephen Francoeur at Digital Reference has an intriguing post about how the New Jersey Instititute of Technology has a feature in their catalogue where a search result that ends in no hits provides a link to the school's virtual reference service.
That's a great idea! I've already told our Catalogue Wrangler how lucky he is we don't have a centralized virtual reference service here or I'd be poking at him to develop a similar feature in our catalogue. It being Friday, I also suggested to him that perhaps he could develop a script that would direct the patron to the appropriate librarian based either upon the search request or the searcher's major (would have to be determined by the patron's login, which we of course don't require to search the catalogue).
What about embedding a MeeboMe or Chatango flash IM window in the null search results page? Both of those give immediate information about whether someone's actually logged in on the librarian side, and would allow the patron to begin a dialogue w/o even having to leave the page. Sure would suck if the catalogue timed out on them and reset in the middle of a conversation though!
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