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Last modified: Thursday, August 2, 2007

IU-ChaCha partnership FAQ

August 2, 2007

What is the strategic alliance between Indiana University and ChaCha?
IU and ChaCha offer complementary strengths in the development of technologies designed to meet the evolving needs of scholarly search. The strategic alliance provides a framework for cultivating and promoting joint exploration and innovation.

Why is IU doing this now?
The volume of information available on the Internet is escalating rapidly. In parallel, the expectation of access to real-time information continues to grow. ChaCha's search client presents an immediate opportunity to leverage a human-powered search for an integrated IU search platform.

Why is the alliance important/beneficial to IU?
Using the ChaCha infrastructure to support online searches at IU will create better access to the best answers in real time for scholarly search, supporting IU's academic mission.

IU currently manages a complex blend of information accessible through the Internet. This includes data about the university, research findings, library resources, and instructional guides for the university community. While comprehensive, the sheer volume of information on IU web sites can make it challenging for individuals to find pertinent information. ChaCha improves upon Internet search engines with dedicated human intelligence to deliver the best search results.

A primary benefit will be to improve scholarly research. Secondary benefits may include revenue sharing, opportunities for employment and internship for IU students, and cooperative research and development that will help enable Internet search to meet the evolving challenges of the university community.

How are the Libraries involved in the alliance?
The Libraries provide a critical service to the IU community by curating IU's research collections and guiding information seekers through it. The ChaCha search engine will leverage the expertise of the librarians to provide "librarian-powered" research to ensure accurate, reliable and current results.

What's the value-added benefit of using a guide for Library searches?
Unlike search engines that provide unfiltered results, the ChaCha platform offers guided searches. In the ChaCha-IU alliance, users will benefit from the expertise of librarians who are subject specialists trained to find information quickly and accurately. They have ready access to the state's largest academic research collection.

Upon what resources do these Library experts draw?
Indiana University owns and manages the largest research collection in the state. More than 130 years in creation, this collection --print and electronic -- is among the university's greatest assets. The IU Bloomington Libraries alone have more than 7.2 million books (the 13th largest collection in the nation among academic research libraries), including many unique to IU.

What about online information for Library searches?
Just as consumers subscribe to news magazines, libraries subscribe to electronic scholarly journals, indices and databases. (The IUB Libraries, for example, provide access to more than 43,000 electronic journals.) These online resources contain information essential to scholarship but often invisible to search engines.

Librarians call this trove of knowledge the "invisible" or "deep" Web. Some studies suggest as much as 80 percent of the information sources available on the Web are part of this hidden resource. Acting as guides within the ChaCha platform, librarians will point researchers to this information.

For Library searches, is information-finding a one-way exchange?
Librarians have always valued the back-and-forth exchange that ChaCha emphasizes. A librarian's first interaction with a patron is the start of a dialogue. Librarians answer questions. They also ask questions to refine a query, narrow a topic, and often help the questioner clarify research needs.

How will this partnership benefit the IU academic community?
Every time a guide answers a question, the answer will be added to the search system, building a base of knowledge from which others can draw. The ability to repurpose this accumulated knowledge extends what is currently available at Indiana University and offers a valuable new service to the academic community.

Who else at IU benefits from the alliance?
Many in the IU community can benefit from this alliance — as researchers, as information seekers and as expert guides.

Does the alliance involve IUB and IUPUI only?
The strategic alliance provides benefit for IU overall. The pilot project focuses on services at IUB and IUPUI. Experience from the pilot will help guide future development in collaboration with all IU campuses.

What is the nature of the pilot project?
Deliverables for the pilot project (in development) will focus on:

  • Implementation of an IU-specific search site using ChaCha's search engine and hosted by ChaCha
  • ChaCha-enhanced search capabilities of the University Information Technology Services (UITS) Knowledge Base and "Ask A Librarian" services, including the option for live, expert-guided searches

As these new tools and procedures are implemented, the knowledge gained will help guide future endeavors.

When will services from the alliance become available?
The pilot search project is scheduled to go live in fall 2007. Searches provided through, through UITS, and through the Library will be facilitated by ChaCha's search platform.

What activities are envisioned for the future?
More will be known after the pilot, but the hope is to provide ChaCha's human-powered search platform to benefit a broad range of search capabilities, including access to many IU experts.

Who can access these services?
During the pilot, IU ChaCha search will be available to everyone with an IU Network ID. The pilot will give us an opportunity to determine volume and scoping requirements for future implementation, while ensuring that copyright and contractual obligations are met. With this information, we'll be able to review access needs and restrictions and make adjustments.

What will the agreement cost IU?
For the pilot, costs will be limited to the development and deployment of the IU ChaCha search deliverables. Future costs and compensation are still to be determined.

How can faculty and staff get involved?
Initially, faculty and staff can use the ChaCha search engine to find information. The more inquiries processed, the more the human-powered search capabilities are strengthened. Eventually, many faculty and staff may want to serve as ChaCha guides in their areas of expertise.

Will IU staff be paid to serve as guides?
The IU ChaCha Search platform provides a new method for linking information seekers to experts. As this is simply another way of reaching scholars and researchers, additional compensation is unlikely.

How do students sign up to be guides?
This is an area that needs additional research and may provide future opportunity.

How will Indiana citizens benefit from the alliance?
Indiana residents will benefit from access to better search capabilities for scholarly research, increased opportunities for student employment, potential revenue sharing and economic growth in the State.

What is the volume of online searches at Indiana University?
Last year, there were nearly 13 million legitimate search requests of the UITS Knowledge Base, over 580,000 searches on the Libraries' online resources. In the spring of 2007, 843,000 distinct searches of IU's web sites were originated from the page.

Click this link,, to read the news release about the IU-ChaCha partnership.