TITLE: My Virtual Reference Desk

ACCESS: http://www.refdesk.com

Winner of over three dozen World-Wide Web-based awards, this one-man-show and labor of love from social worker and son of a librarian Robert Drudge provides a tremendous service to the academic community. Librarians can safely send nearly any patron to these pages, from freshman Net neophytes to scholars and subject specialists. Drudge's mission statement for My Virtual Reference Desk (MVRD) defines three goals for the site - quick access, intuitive and easy navigation, and comprehensive and logically indexed content. MVRD succeeds at each turn.

The text-based default opening page loads quickly, while offering the choice of a somewhat more graphics-rich home page. The remaining pages are simply designed and bare of cumbersome graphics, well organized and executed, and easy to navigate. A thorough table of contents page maps the site nicely and links to a treasure trove of Net resources on the primary pages. For quick information, the "First Things First" page includes links to wire and news services and to current stock quotes, and includes a "Features" section devoted to everything from NASA's astronomy photograph of the day to the "USA Today" crossword puzzle of the day. "Virtual Facts on File" functions as an almanac of the Web, with links to everything from mapping sites to dictionaries of scientific quotations, and includes dozens of links targetted for librarians - from indexes of library Web pages and online catalogs to lists of library vendors.

"My Daily Almanac" also provides valuable links and more quick answers to reference questions, and leads patrons to a number of excellent sites devoted to "this day in history" topics. The "My Virtual Newspaper" page opens with a variety of links to weather sites around the world, follows with links to AP, UPI, and Reuters wire services, then points up newspaper sites by regions world-wide. In the Latin & South American Newspapers section, for instance, there are links to 14 Mexican newspapers alone.

From the "My Virtual Encyclopedia" page one may discover, via three dozen topical headings, a wealth of content-based Internet sites. "Books and Literature," for example, links to nearly 200 sites ranging from the full text of Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" to Columbia University's "Complete Poetical Works of William Wordsworth." The history links range from the general, including a succint essay from Indiana University's Department of Classical Studies entitled "The Ancient City of Athen," to sites for the scholar or specialist, including an excellent directory of Web-based sites for historians.

Comprehensive enough to link undergraduates to a universe of information, yet not nearly as overwhelming as Yahoo or Internet search engine retrieval sets, MVRD could well prove valuable in introductory library instruction classes. Reference librarians, too, should spend the time to familiarize themselves with these rich pages. If you do not have a bookmark for MVRD, make one immediately.

John Creech, Reference Librarian
California State University, Monterey Bay

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