May 23, 2022

State Library of Ohio Ending Statewide KnowItNow Virtual Reference Service at End of 2015

From the State Library of Ohio:

After 11 years of State Library of Ohio funding support KnowItNow24X7 will end on December 31, 2015 at 11:59 p.m. Following a cost analysis and declining usage, the State Library of Ohio Board recently voted to cease federal LSTA funding for the statewide virtual reference library service. The board did not arrive at this decision lightly and wishes to express their sincere gratitude to the many Ohio librarians, libraries, and library organizations for their help developing, implementing, and operating one of the first, and for many years the most successful, statewide 24 hours a day, 7 days a week virtual reference services in the country.


When the Ohio LSTA Advisory Council drafted the first LSTA Five-Year Plan for 1998-2002, they had a vision for a virtual reference program. KnowItNow24x7 began in 2004 with a $936,000 federal LSTA grant awarded by the State Library of Ohio to Cuyahoga County Public Library in partnership with Cleveland Public Library and NOLA Regional Library System (NEO-RLS). Ohio’s first statewide virtual reference library service launched that year with KnowItNow, ReadItNow, HomeworkNow, and an evening tutoring service through The Cleveland Public Library was responsible for the platform and technical support and daytime reference staff and subject specialists. The NOLA Regional Library System was responsible for after-hours coverage, training and evaluation, and Cuyahoga County Public Library managed marketing and fiscal administration. Reference librarians from Ohio Libraries were recruited and provided after-hours service.

After just eight months, there were 101,000 virtual reference sessions and the State Library Board has continued their commitment to the project by awarding federal funds each year since. In 2007 the tutoring service from was eliminated. Cleveland Public Library was administering the program and subcontracting with Northeast Ohio Regional Library System (NEO-RLS) for after-hours services.


In 2004 statewide virtual reference service was a visionary endeavor. The service expanded awareness and access for all Ohioans to high quality reference resources online and on the go. Since that time advances in mobile devices and network technologies have soared. Information on the web has expanded dramatically and authenticity of content is more apparent. We now have many options for accessing information resources available at libraries and beyond, and some libraries have instituted their own local virtual reference services. As a result, the need for and usage of KnowItNow24x7 has declined. The service will continue through December 31, 2015. This will allow libraries time to assess their needs and options for virtual reference in their communities.

Read the Complete Announcement

Comment from Gary Price, infoDOCKET Founder and Editor:

I think it’s wrong to believe that, “authenticity of content is more apparent” today than it was years ago when it comes to the open web material. It’s not. In fact, apps like this one make it simple to create authentic looking web pages with incorrect data. This is only one example of potential problems.

While a virtual reference service is a costly undertaking the library communities work in collecting and sharing authentic resources (what some call curating) and teaching others “how to” judge the authenticity and credibility of content is more important now than ever before.

On a related note, MSNBC had to apologize for some material they used on the air last week.

Hat Tip:@mattweaver




About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.