Virtual Reference Training Program

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NOTE: This site is no longer being updated and maintained. LSTA funding for the Washington State Library’s Statewide Virtual Reference Project will end on September 30, 2006. Please read below for information about the training tutorial currently under development.

Since fall 2002, more than 150 staff members from 38 libraries participated in sixteen Anytime, Anywhere Answers (AAA) classes, reporting on their high quality and usefulness. No more classes will be scheduled. The Statewide Virtual Reference Project has contracted with Seattle Public Library to covert the trainer-led classes into a self-paced, Web-based tutorial, which will be completed by late spring 2006.

Virtual Reference Training: The Complete Guide to Providing Anytime, Anywhere Answers by Buff Hirko and Mary Bucher Ross (2004) is available from ALA Editions (ISBN 0-8389-0876-4). The book not only describes the AAA curriculum, its development and results, but also offers many insights and observations from class participants and trainers.

Mary Ross and Buff Hirko traveled to Montana in March 2005 to train a group of librarians who are now delivering classes in that state. Again, reports from participants are enthusiastic and appreciative.

Anytime, Anywhere Answers addresses core competencies-the critical skills, abilities and aptitudes-for library staff providing virtual reference services. The curriculum was created for the Statewide Virtual Reference Project by Mary Ross and Daria Cal, Seattle Public Library, assisted by Emily Keller, a student at the University of Washington Information School. The curriculum web site is still available at for those interested in its user-based approach to chat reference training.

Two short articles describing the curriculum were published in CleneExchange: "Secret Patrons and Virtual Field Trips" (December 2002) and "Secret Patrons and Virtual Field Trips: the Sequel" (March 2003).

For more information about the training and its implementation, contact Buff Hirko, Project Coordinator, 360-704-5206 or

Sponsored by the Statewide Virtual Reference Project, Washington State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.
Funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Library Services & Technology Act (LSTA).