I drive an old van, my socks have holes, and I cut my own hair — but I employ a personal full-time research librarian as the only employee in my home office. I can’t tell you how fantastic this luxury is. When I have questions, Michele McGinnis has answers. I rarely stump her. Within minutes or at best hours, anything I want to know (that is known) is handed to me. How many songs are written each year? What’s the best place to rent an inflatable jumper? The price of eggs in 1000 AD? Best introduction to process theology? Source of an Einstein quote? The phone number for this cartoonist? Where to see a digital projection of the Matrix? As I confess, having a researcher an elbow away is an outright luxury, one I realize not everyone needs.
What *you* might need are a few deeply researched answers every now and then, of the same quality as Michele, a degreed research librarian, might provide. I have a solution for you: Google Answers.
You post your question on Google Answers and (this is key) the amount of money you are willing to pay someone to answer it. One of 500 Google-approved researchers will then claim it and answer it within four to eight hours, depending on how much you have offered. Generally they won’t touch a hard question for less than $10, but many questions are answered very thoroughly for only $10. A higher bid will usually ensure your query is tackled immediately and completely.
Past questions and their answers are archived on the site so you have a clear idea of the quality of the research and some idea of how best to cast your question. Reading the postings reveals how amazingly complete an answer one can get for only a few dollars. A study by Cornell librarians determined that the answers from Google Answers were about as good on average as they would have provided. They note however, as you might expect, that Google Reasearchers primarily work from the web, and so questions that require fee-based searches, or any legwork in a library suffer from lower quality than a librarian would give you.
But this is a buyers market. There are more great Researchers than there are good questions, so even $4 Google questions get snapped up. (Sadly, researchers do not get paid if the questioner is unhappy with their answer for any reason.) I can assure you, a few questions a day at that rate will be a bargain compared to hiring a full-time researcher.
For most people, Google Answers is all you need.
[Recommended by Tom Ferguson]
[Google Answers is now closed. Try Uclue instead.]