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OCLC Member Services     Virtual Reference Desk

Department of Education     Reference & User Services Association

About VRD

The Virtual Reference Desk (VRD) is a project dedicated to the advancement of digital reference and the successful creation and operation of human-mediated, Internet-based information services. VRD is sponsored by the United States Department of Education.

What is Digital Reference?

Digital reference, or "AskA", services are Internet-based question-and-answer services that connect users with experts and subject expertise. Digital reference services use the Internet to connect people with people who can answer questions and support the development of skills.

VRD Resources and Services

Connecting AskA Services and Users

  • Collaborative AskA Service. A network of AskA services and volunteer information professionals that ensure user questions are addressed by the most appropriate experts.
  • The Learning Center. A Web site for the K-12 community with curriculum-related Web sites, frequently asked questions, and other previously asked questions.
  • AskA+ Locator. A searchable database of high-quality K-12 AskA services.
Supporting Service Development
  • Incubator Software. Developed for start-up AskA services; provides a front-end for the public and management system for administrators and experts.
  • Instruction and Support. Consulting and training services for help desk providers, federal government agencies, libraries, the K-12 education community, and other types of organizations building digital reference services.
  • Research and Development. Research on interoperability standards, metadata and other aspects of digital reference services.
Facilitating Collaboration and Discussion
  • Digital Reference Conference. The Virtual Reference Desk Project organizes and provides conferences on digital reference issues for information professionals in libraries and other contexts.
  • Publications. VRD edits and publishes books, articles, and other materials on the topic of digital reference service, including VRD conference proceedings, instructional manuals, AskA digests, journal articles, and white papers.
  • AskA Consortium. A group of organizations dedicated to shaping the field of digital reference through collaboration and discussion.
For more information, contact: Blythe Bennett, VRD Project Coordinator (vrd@vrd.org)