The Shifted Librarian just posted her experience with a Virtual Reference service:
What Is a Virtual Librarian?
She links to another librarian's similar experience:
MassAnswers, a 24/7 ref project, answers my question sort of
Having worked for five years as a Virtual Librarian, it made me think back to how I answered questions. What did I do when I was certain that the best answer was in an off-line resource? Because I worked for a statewide consortia, I had access to almost all the databases that each member had in their collections.
I worked from home, so I was far removed from their print resources, but they all had online catalogs from the same ILS. If a question required the use of a print resource, the plan was for a staff member at the library to scan the page(s) required and email them to the student/faculty/staff. I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times this happened.
Most of the questions were answered with online resources. Either the student had difficulties naviagating their library's Web pages or they needed help searching online databases. Only rarely was a print resource required.
This brings to mind the questions: Are students now more proficient at searching online resources? Can we "out Google" Google by using the print resources available to us? Google Scholar is limited by the copyright act...if we make print resources available on demand, are we in violation of the copyright act?