Ask a librarian

Ask-a-Librarian Services

Electronic Reference Policy

Mission: Our mission is to help guide users in the search for information and make them independent user of research materials. Off-Campus Library Service’s Ask-A-Librarian service gives distance students, faculty, and staff assistance from a librarian by live chat or e-mail.  You can also call us and talk to a librarian by phone.

See the right side menu for options to chat or email.

Ask a Librarian Live

This service is a chat session which allows a patron and librarian to chat live via a computer. We are able to instruct the patron while he/she is still connected to the Internet.

Ask a Librarian E-Mail

This service allows patrons to send us their questions via e-mail. The patron will receive a reply within 24 hours (except for weekends and holidays). This service is helpful to patrons when the live chat mode is unavailable or if the question is a more lengthy research question. A reply may only acknowledge receipt of your email. A full answer to your question may be sent later.

Who can use this service

Both the live and e-mail Ask-A-Librarian services are available to students enrolled in University of Maine System distance education courses. All others may be referred to your local public or campus library if we find we are unable to answer the question.

Questions we answer

The types of questions best handled by chat are ready reference (quick research and answer) and instruction in the use of our URSUS book catalog, the Mariner indexes and databases, and other resources. For reference questions that take a longer time to research and cannot be answered during a chat session, we will either reply through e-mail or call you, providing you leave us a daytime phone number where you can be reached.

The types of questions we handle by e-mail are the same as for chat. In addition, we can answer more extensive reference questions.

Examples of the types of questions we cannot answer but may be able to provide a source:

Medical or law-related advice
Product evaluations, appraisals
Legal questions, tax questions

Days & Time


Monday through Thursday 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Sunday 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM

E-mail: 24 hours a day. We send a reply within twenty-four hours of receiving your message, keeping in mind the office is closed Saturdays and has limited Sunday hours. Some questions may take longer to answer. In this case, we will at least let you know we received your message, and we will send an answer as soon as possible. If you don’t get any response from us within twenty-four hours, this means we did not get your message. Please e-mail us again, or call our toll-free number: 1.800.339.7323 (Maine) or 1.888.479.4452 (out-of-state).

Please be aware that the timeliness of the replies depends on when the e-mail message was originally sent. If the e-mail is sent on Friday evening, or during holidays, there may be a delay in our response time.

Terms and Conditions:

Before using our services you need to read the applicable rules and policies pertaining to the Live and E-mail  Ask-A-Librarian. By using these services, we understand you have read the applicable rules and policies regarding the Live, Ask-A-Librarian services and have agreed to these rules and policies.

Rules pertaining to the questions submitted to our services:

We may refuse to answer questions.
We may refuse services to you if we determine you are not using our services in the way in which they were meant to be used. This includes, but not limited to, questions that are: illegal, harassing, libelous, threatening, harmful, obscene or objectionable, or that violates any applicable local, state, national, or international law or regulations.
You agree that your question will enter the public domain, and you will retain no ownership rights to your question.


All reference transactions are confidential. Please be assured this information will not be shared, sold, etc., outside the Off-Campus Library Services Office. For statistical purposes, we will keep track of the questions and number of users–but not specific information on the users. Transcripts may be kept for a period of time to help us evaluate our service and help us with collection development.

Need Help? Ask a Librarian via chat or email or call OCLS toll-free instate Maine 1.800.339.7323  National 1.888.479.4452