Managing a Statewide Virtual Reference Service: How Q and A NJ Works

Abstract: The author chronicles the beginnings and successful strategies of a 24-hour, 7-day a week virtual reference service offered statewide in New Jersey.

Bromberg, program development coordinator for the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative, chronicles the beginnings and strategies of "Q and A NJ" - a 24-hour, 7-day a week virtual reference service offered statewide in New Jersey.

Initial strategies were:

  • go where people are;
  • offer services that will delight and surprise users - and put those services front and center on web site;
  • build a marketing campaign around one amazing service; and
  • do customer satisfaction surveys to which your service responds.

They agreed to the following group norms:

  • make and abide by system-wide decisions;
  • choose quality of service over quick expansion;
  • focus on marketability; and
  • develop a coordinated approach to marketing and publicity.

In addition to excellent personnel, he lists the positive behaviors that contributed to their success:

  • constant communication;
  • training and practice;
  • transcript analysis and privacy;
  • customer feedback;
  • marketing and scaled growth.

Their challenge for the future is to transition from volunteer-staffed and grant-funded to an ongoing statewide service.

He ends by giving many insider links to the documents produced by this project at


I admire the common norms and strategies adopted by Bromberg's organization. The user-first mentality, as well as the resource-awareness are key to success for any service offered by an organization.

The cooperative nature of this endeavor allowed for "poor" groups to share the burden of providing reference. Collaboration is one of the only ways that non-profits and educational organizations can make these sorts of service possible. One should leverage global citizen resources of time in this fashion to save money.

I also enjoyed reading their careful approach to communicating, training, and assessment. These internal processes seemed key to maintaining the quality of services provided.

I wish more organizations, particularly non-profits and educational, would look at this article and its hyperlink and try some of these strategies in such a unified fashion.

Bromberg, Peter (2003). Managing a statewide virtual reference service: how Q and A NJ works. Computers in Libraries 23(4), 26-31.