The library literature abounds with articles, presentations, and books on using various sorts of distance learning tools and techniques for library services. (I direct you to the excellent 5th Bibliography of Library Services for Distance Learning Resources from the Distance Learning Section of ACRL or practically any library conference proceedings for numerous examples.) Many of those resources will discuss how a particular type of tool, say, webchat, can be used for library services, with examples of successful, and sometimes unsuccessful, use in various types of libraries. I have, however, very rarely seen any discussion of when to use such tools, or any theoretical discussion of why some tools work better than others in different situations. This article lays out the conclusions and suppositions I have come to in 7 years of being a distance librarian (plus several extra years working intensively with commuter students and with the benefit of a Master’s degree in Adult Education and Distance Learning), in the hopes of spurring a new discussion and new research into both how and when to use different types of tools and techniques.



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