In my last post I mentioned how nice it would be to have an academic mobile chat reference service. I was very rightly corrected by Mosio (see comments on blog post 1/11/09). I now, of course, remember reading about their service in Library Journal ( 11/1/08, vol.133, issue 18, p 22) and it is true, to the best of my knowledge they are one of the only “commercial” services offering a way to have a mobile chat reference that is staffed by librarians (or any other kind of vetted information professional).

My problem with Mosio’s service is that it is not comparative in some crucial ways to the other free services I mentioned in my last post. Mosio’s Text a Librarian service is run out of an academic institution and is intended to be used by that institutions community not the tube-o-sphere like the other free reference services.  The academic institution must pay Mosio for the service and it is nicely integrated into whatever IM or chat ref service they have already set up including archiving which I admit is very cool for the institution. While this is a good idea as an addition to a 24/7 reference service that ones institution also pays for it is yet another bill from another service that I suspect will be added at some point soon to the 24/7 package we are currently purchasing (for my insitution that would be OCLC’s Question Point).

However, Mosio’s other “reference” service is free to all. Additionally, the academic Mosio service is staffed only by those librarians from the paying institution meaning there is a limited amount of time and staff thatis actually available to the community. As opposed to Mosio’s public service which is available 24/7 but staffed by anyone who feels lucky about giving out answers.

My point here is that academic institutions are housing the information professionals and their assistance is being parsed out to the fortunate who are attending the institution and happen to have heard of the service (back to my very forceful feeling that all librarians need vigorous marketing training). Whereas the free public reference services such as Mosio’s are available to all but the information is not necessarily authoritative in any way.

It must not be a profitable business model to have a public commercial reference service that will actually give authoritative answers, or rather can be counted upon to give authoritative answers. Perhaps the problem is with the public that does not care to demand such a service, it’s the “I-can-find-all-the-answer-I-need-on-the-front-page-of-my-Google-search” mentality. It is my belief that information ought to be free I just wish that easily accessible reliable information assistance was easy to access as well.