Date of this Version



crowdsourcing, library help, CrowdAsk


Help information regarding library resources and tools is a critical part of library services, but existing help channels are often fragmented and under-maintained. Library help needs to have a centralized and engaging platform for users to receive assistance and experts including librarians, faculty, and students to share knowledge and experience. To meet this critical need, we have developed CrowdAsk, an open-source help system for academic libraries based on the concept of crowdsourcing. CrowdAsk supports voting of questions and answers by users as well as scores and badges for user motivation. Our implementation and evaluation with undergraduate classes at Purdue University showed that CrowdAsk is effective in meeting users’ information needs beyond traditional library reference help. Users have asked various types of questions and reached high levels of scores and badges in one semester’s time. We have integrated CrowdAsk with existing reference service and websites in Purdue University Libraries to continue developing the crowdsourcing community after the grant.


This is the final report for a 2013 IMLS Sparks! Ignition Grant (LG-46-13-0239-13), A Crowdsourced Library Help System. The project PIs were Tao Zhang and Ilana Stonebraker.