Ask a Librarian Services

What is Ask a Librarian?

It is a way for members of the NYU community to consult a librarian and get help using library resources, finding research materials and more.

We accept questions in person, via email, IM (screen name: AskBobst), and text/SMS (646-265-1342) from your phone. 

What does "use your outgoing email address or alias" mean?

The system we use to track email must be able to recognize your email if you respond back to us. Because many emails at NYU use aliases - easier to remember names instead of netID - the system works best if you use that alias. So for example, if your NYU NetID is abc789, but the email that you use is, use that alias when submitting to the system.

Who answers my question?

Questions are answered by members of the NYU Libraries Reference and Research Services Group. The Reference and Research Services Group is comprised of well-qualified staff across the spectrum of subjects, with in-depth knowledge of the contents and functionality of  the range of print and electronic resources available at NYU Libraries. Staff can facilitate use of databases and the libraries' catalog, Bobcat; help you find and evaluate information on your topics; help you plan your research strategy; work with you to locate facts and statistical data; and instruct you in best practices in information seeking. You can find out more about Reference and Research Services by visiting this page.

When is the service available?

The service is generally available seven days a week, and with hours throughout the day and evening. For our current detailed hours check here. If you can see the chat box on this page, Ask a Librarian is open for business.

What do I do if I don't see the widget during open hours?

The service should be available during our open hours, but sometimes the systems we use to answer questions might experience outages. In these cases, you can use the email option, or wait for the service to come back online. You can also always contact the librarian in your subject area for help.

How fast will I receive an answer?

We make every effort to answer questions as quickly as possible, within the confines of the particulars of the technologies in question. Email questions are generally answered within 4 hours, depending upon the time of day they are sent. IM questions received during open hours will be answered immediately. Text (SMS) questions will be answered upon receipt or as soon thereafter as possible; keep in mind that there is sometimes a lag related to the transmission of text messages.

Who will receive my question?

A team of expert librarians answers all the questions via any of the asking methods above.

What types of questions may I ask?

You may ask questions about getting help with your research, using library resources, and more.

Will a record of my question be kept?

NYU's Division of Libraries is committed to protecting the privacy of our users. Information collected through our virtual reference services will not be shared with any third parties. Any personal information collected through this service will be periodically purged.

How do I know the status of my email question?

Email is staffed everyday M-F and throughout most weekends, so your question will arrive directly in your inbox, usually within 4 hours.

Who can use Ask a Librarian Reference?

We can reply to questions from outside NYU only if the question pertains to NYU itself, or to a resource unique to NYU. Otherwise, you may wish to try the Internet Public Library or New York Public Library's Ask Librarians Online (you will need a valid NYPL card).

Is Ask a Librarian free?

The Ask a Librarian service is free. Please remember that wireless service providers may charge for messages sent or received via text (SMS) or IM, according to the terms of your individual plan.

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