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Penn State University Libraries

About Ask!

Who can use this service?

Email reference service is available to everyone, although priority may be given to current PSU faculty,staff, and students. Non-PSU users may be referred to local libraries for further assistance.

What kind of questions can I ask?

We will answer questions via email as completely as possible, but we will not do complex database searches or create lengthy bibliographies. For assistance with complex research needs, please contact a SubjectSpecialist or Campus Librarian. You might wish to call the Gateway Reference Desk at (814) 865-6368 or contact your nearest Reference Desk. Please note that we will not give medical, legal, patent, appraisal,or investment advice or recommendations, but will instead direct you to resources that may contain the information you seek. If you have a question about renewals or other Library circulation questions,please check our FAQ or call Access Services at (814) 865-5429. For assistance with questions about borrowing materials from other libraries, see the Inter-Library Loan page. Please submit your question using the form provided. Do NOT send attachments, since these will NOT be opened.

What kind of a response can I expect?

Responses may include lists of sources to consult or citations to articles that may be useful, but will not include copies of books or articles, photocopies, full-text articles or telefacsimiles. To obtain books or journal articles, Penn State faculty, students and staff may contact our Inter-Library Loan andDocument Delivery services. Non-PSU users should contact their nearest public library.

How quickly can I expect an answer?

You will receive an acknowledgement within 24 hours on weekdays. Brief factual questions, policy questions or simple technical questions should be answered within 24 hours. Questions that must be referred to a subject specialist may take up to 72 hours, not including weekends and holidays. If this turnaround time is not fast enough to meet your needs, you may call or visit a library reference desk.

What's really happening when I submit my question?

The text of your question is sent to a centralized reference desk. Someone will review your question and either respond directly to you or forward your message to an appropriate subject specialist.

A note on confidentiality

Because your query may need to be forwarded to a subject specialist, more than one person may see your question. Individual queries are not shared with anyone except authorized staff. Identifying informationsuch as IP address, email, names, phone numbers, etc. that might be included as part of a query will never be shared outside of the service. Statistics generated from queries, as well as anonymous excerpts,may be used for reports or publications.