Is something up with the Library of Congress’ QuestionPoint service?

I’ve recieved a few emails from the Library of Congress’ “Ask a Librarian…” service that I wasn’t supposed to get. Either patrons have started entering in my email address as their own for the past two weeks or there’s, well, something wrong with the service. I don’t know which is more likely.

One reason why I don’t think that the error is coming from a faulty patron side input comes from a small bit of detective work. The help link at the end of the email leads to a password recovery box. I entered in my email address and never received and email. I *think* the form works because the URL for the page changes, but nothing changes on the page. Not a good user experience, eh David King?

questionpoint is faulty

Here’s the latest email directly from my account, spacing and odd left/right carats around URLs intact. Dont read it all because it is long and a bit unwieldy, which I wouldn’t expect from a mostly boilerplate, “We can’t/don’t want to answer your question” document. I want to include it all here to show just how big and hard to read it is. Another reason why I think something is up with their software is because the email answer is also found in the “question history” portion of the email. How does that work?

Yeah, I’m a bit cranky because of my previous bad feelings about QP, but I think the whole thing is odd!

Hello [patron’s name]

We suggest that you spend some time searching the Library of Congress online public access catalog (OPAC) to find titles of books that are relevant to your topic. Then you can see if your local library has copies of these books, or can arrange to borrow them through interlibrary loan.

To search the OPAC, go to the Library of Congress home page at: < > Click on “Search our Catalogs” or go directly to < >. Click on either “Basic Search” or “Guided Search.” A “Basic Search” will allow you to search by author, title, subject, call number, keyword, guided keyword, or International Standard Bibliographic Number (ISBN), International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), or Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN). For a “Basic Search,” first you must choose your “Search Type,” and then enter the appropriate information in the search box. A “Guided Search” will allow you to perform a keyword search in specific fields of information, such as title, subject, author, publisher, series, or notes or a wide search in all fields. Boolean searching can be performed using a “Guided Search.”

Before performing your search, please take time to look over either the “Basic Search Tips” or “Guided Search Tips” which provide detailed and specific examples of search strategies. A detailed help guide is also available for all types of searches. The Help link is found at the bottom of each search page.

We also suggest that you discuss your needs with a reference librarian in a nearby library. For help in locating a library in your area, please look at the suggestions on our website at < >.

You might also wish to search for appropriate websites at The Librarians’ Index to the Internet at < >.

The Library of Congress online catalog is a catalog of bibliographic records. Unfortunately, except for very rare instances, full-text books cannot be found online at our website. It is likely that you will need to go to your local library to find the book itself or ask them about interlibrary loan if they do not own the book.

The Library of Congress has digitized a small portion of its collections focusing on graphic materials such as maps, photographs and manuscript materials and which are primarily historical Americana. If you are interested in seeing these materials, please look at our American Memory collections at < >.

There are numerous organizations that offer digitized books, though at present most free online books tend to be “classics,” i.e. older materials no longer covered by copyright. Some publishers also provide electronic versions of contemporary books but there is usually a fee involved (or you may be able to access them through a public or university library which subscribes to them.) You can find links to a number of organizations which offer free access to online books by using the search engine and typing “full text online books”. Specific sites which you may find helpful are:

Digital Book Index
< >

Online Books Page, University of Pennsylvania < >

Full Text Books Online, College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University (see the “Free of Charge” section) < >

Internet Public Library Online Book Page < >

Full Text Books and Journals, Australian Catholic Universities Libraries (arranged by subject) < >

A free service from Bowker < > lets you search for e-books (electronic) and on-demand titles from the “Books in Print” database.

Search E-Books < > is a search engine for electronic books.

Reference Specialist
Main Reading Room
Humanities and Social Sciences Division
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20540-4660


Question History:

Patron: hello my name is [patron’s name] i was wourding if you have any books on the coins or any papers on the coins i can do so i wouldn’t bee so board. from [patron’s name]

Librarian 3: We suggest that you spend some time searching the Library of Congress online public access catalog (OPAC) to find titles of books that are relevant to your topic. Then you can see if your local library has copies of these books, or can arrange to borrow them through interlibrary loan. [The email then continues to repeat itself]

3 thoughts on “Is something up with the Library of Congress’ QuestionPoint service?”

  1. Terrible!

    I’ve had the password-reminder form not work for me as well and it’s definitely a UI issue. It turns out that “go” button just beneath the text entry box applies only to that “select language” field. You have to hit the ‘submit’ icon on the far right to get the form to submit.

    Some video of today’s talk is supposed to be online for us soon, I’m looking forward to it.

  2. Aaargh, I missed that! I guess I can’t be blamed *too* much for missing the grey on grey button…and why does the drop down menu need a “go” button?

    Upon further investigation, I think that the patron has perhaps entered my email address in the system. But since I’ve received multiple emails from different questions, they’ve maybe created more than one account. Or a few people have used my email address, all within the span of a week or two.

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