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The following is a guest post by Megan Lulofs, who works as a contractor from CGI in our Collection Services Division, and as an independent consultant in our Public Services Division of the Law Library of Congress.

Just last week I started answering questions from our Ask A Librarian service–and I love it. I’ve been looking forward to breaking into reference, and I must say, it’s everything I had hoped it would be, and more. So enthusiastic am I, that I want to answer all of the questions, every last one! But alas, I cannot. Let me explain.

QuestionPoint, the behind the scenes platform for Ask A Librarian, is a mighty tool. I can see every question that is asked of the Law Library, every answer given, and every day I am amazed by both the depth of the questions and the answers. In my ideal library paradise, every question is articulate, and every answer elegant–but all in an instant. No lines, no waiting. Alas, questions pile up, brilliant answers take time, and while we’ll always get back to you within five business days, what happens if you needed an answer yesterday?

Until QuestionPoint introduces hold music, here’s my advice to anyone writing in to our Ask A Librarian service:

  1. If you’re asking a question that needs an answer sooner rather than later, let us know. Leave us a note in the body of the question on our Ask A Librarian form. We may be able to accommodate. Of course, we may not be able to, and our standard response time will always be within five business days, but it’s worth a try.
  2. You may want to ask more than one library. Try your local or state public law library, and they may be able to help you as well. Here is a short list of state law libraries, or you can try searching “[name of your state] state law library.” I tried it with my home Commonwealth of Virginia and found just what I was looking for.
  3. For federal questions, try browsing the GPO’s online collections or the Guide to Law Online. They’re a wealth of information, and pretty easy to use. Need state material instead? Check out the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University’s state collection or also the Guide to Law Online. You might surprise yourself with how much you already know, or at least find enough information to tide yourself over until we get back to you.

Keep the questions coming! I’m learning about new sources every day, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Go ahead, ask me something.

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