by Barbara Quint
A formal agreement between the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO; www.gpo.gov) and a network of 20 depository libraries has relaunched and expanded the scope of a virtual reference service called Government Information Online: Ask a Librarian (GIO; http://govtinfo.org). Be careful about using the dot-org. Typing "govtinfo.gov" will switch you to the USA.gov site. That may not be too much of a mistake in time. One of the primary strategies of the GIO service is to promote its existence through links from other leading dot-gov sites, such as USA.gov and Thomas. The engineering of such linkages falls mainly to GPO. The depository library participants, led by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and managed by the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC; www.cic.net), will handle providing the free chat- and email-based virtual reference service.
Reference librarians from 20 academic, state, and public depository libraries will be available to direct users to information from government agencies, in particular federal, but state, regional, and local agencies as well. The federal government coverage should be consistently strong, as all the libraries involved are federal depositories. Coverage of state and local collections will vary, along with other expertise. John Shuler, project manager and bibliographer for urban planning and government information at UIC, describes the expertise of participant library collections and staff as stretching outside the GPO collection. "We draw on multiple sources and all levels, including specific local expertise. While all have generalized expertise for the federal