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UC Shared Service Expectations

Page history last edited by kfuruta@... 3 years, 3 months ago




UC Ask a Librarian Shared Service Expectations


The UC Ask a Librarian Shared Chat service provides quick, professional research assistance to UC students, staff, faculty, and members of the community, in addition to assisting the patrons of other academic library systems. The service expectations below provide guidelines for best practices to use during sessions with all patrons.


Logging in


  •  Log in to the QuestionPoint system prior to your shift. If possible, try to log in 5 minutes before the scheduled start of your shift


  •  Always select the UC queue and the 24/7 queue when logging into QuestionPoint chat.


Picking up the patron


  •  Patrons should be picked up as quickly as possible. 


  • UC questions are visible to UC staffers 40 seconds before they are visible to the 24/7 Academic Queue.  If a UC and non-UC question come in at the same time, pick up the UC question first.


  • Focus on assisting as many patrons as you can rather than waiting for UC patrons to arrive.


Greeting the patron


  •  As soon as you are in session with the patron, send a personal greeting, identifying yourself and indicating your willingness to help.


    • The greeting is your first interaction with the patron, so be sure it establishes a welcoming atmosphere. If you use a script, be sure it is short and friendly. Welcome the patron by name, if you have his or her name.


    • Identify the name of the library or group you are affiliated with, in order to set expectations with the patron.


    • If the patron didn’t input their email address, request it up front. A script can be helpful: “Do you mind typing in your email address so a librarian can follow up if we get disconnected?”


    • Conduct a reference interview to understand the patron’s information need.



 “Hi, I'm Rob, and I'll be helping you today. I'm reading your question now..."

If busy with other patrons:

“Hi, this is Amy at UC Davis. I’m just finishing up with another patron, but I’ll be with you in just a moment.  :)”

"Hi, [patron name], I'm Lee, a librarian at the University of California. I am helping out your librarians by answering questions for them

right now. I'm reading what you wrote so I can help you....

Consider combining your greeting with the initial reference interview question. 

Example: Patron Jane asks about locating a book. Staffer combines the greeting with a reference interview question:

"Hi Jane, my name is Erin. Are you looking for a particular title?"

By asking for more information about the patron's request, the staffer is showing a willingness to help. 


Juggling multiple patrons


  •  If you are already helping a patron and another patron comes into the queue, pick up the second patron if you feel comfortable doing so. Examples of times when you may feel comfortable doing this include:


    • You are almost at the end of the session with the first patron and can handle a second patron.


    • The first patron is reviewing information you have sent and does not need your immediate attention.


  • If you decide to pick up another patron:


    • Acknowledge all patrons that you pick up as soon as possible by sending a greeting. Thank them for waiting, if applicable.


    • If you are too busy to help a patron you pick up, you have the following options:


  •  Let the patron know you are busy helping multiple patrons; they may choose to wait or come back later. You may want to use a ‘hold on’ script to save time.


  • Transfer the question to another staffer in the 24/7 Academic Queue.


  • Use ‘follow-up by me’ (if one of your campus’ patrons) or ‘follow-up by patron’s library’ (if you feel the patron would be better served by their own librarians).


    • After sending a greeting, begin a reference conversation with the new patron (clarify the request, ask about previous searches, etc.). This will give you time to address the initial chat request while the second patron is responding to your questions. The additional information will also help you refine your search and will provide necessary information to any staffers doing follow up (if follow up is needed).


    • Do not give a time estimate of how long it will be before you will be able to work on the question, unless the patron asks. A typical session lasts approximately 15 minutes. If you pick up a question and it seems likely that you will not be able to get to the question for more than 5 minutes, try to transfer the session to another staffer.


    • Try not to spend too long with any one patron. Use options to transfer or refer questions (see above) if you feel you may run out of time.


    • Do not feel pressured to pick up more sessions than you can handle but if you are handling multiple simultaneous sessions, be sure to send messages and URLs to the appropriate patron.


Conducting the reference interview


  • Conduct an adequate reference interview to understand the question and the patron's information need. Be sure to clarify the patron’s question before beginning the search.


  • Show interest in the patron's question through chat tone and choice of words.


  • Use positive phrasing ("We can…" instead of "We don't/can't/won't…").


  • Ask open-ended questions. The goal is for patrons to tell you in their own words what they want. Avoid putting words in their mouths.


  • Type like you talk, in a conversational manner. Clarify confusing terminology and avoid excessive jargon.


  • Use spelling and grammar appropriately. Never type in all capital letters - this has the effect of shouting at the patron.


  •  Find out where and how the patron has already searched. Even if you intend to redo the search (perhaps using different keywords, etc.), the patron’s response can provide additional insight into their topic and level of familiarity with library resources.


  • Show professional courtesy and respect when answering questions. Maintain objectivity and do not interject value judgments about subject matter or the nature of the question into the transaction.


  • Avoid yes/no responses. These can be interpreted as cold and unfriendly, just as in face-to-face reference.


  • Break up long responses into a few blocks. This avoids long pauses and the patron can begin reading your response while you are completing it. Shorter answers are also easier to read for patrons using the service from a mobile phone. However, try not to break your chat into too many discrete units, as this may be confusing or frustrating to the patron. A good rule is to send one or two sentences at a time.


  • If you are going to be taking some time with a question, try to provide the patron with resources to look at while you search.


  • No more than 3 minutes should elapse without sending a message to each patron who is in session, even if it is a simple “Still searching...”


Providing professional level search assistance


  •  Use the library policy page to find links and information about the patron’s library’s services and resources.


  • Choose resources at the appropriate level for the patron's research. In general, databases are preferable to Google or other general web sources when assisting students with research projects.


  • Identify sources appropriate to the patron's need. Evaluate resources for authority, objectivity, and currency, and share with patron. Help patron evaluate the sources for relevancy to topic.


  • Answer questions accurately.


  • Provide context and instruction to the patron, rather than just sharing resources or sending web pages. Provide enough guidance so the patron can recreate the search if needed (include the name of links, which patron should click on, as well as the “click path”). Only providing links often will not suffice – some URLs are dynamic, such as library catalog search results, and the links that appear in session transcripts may become dead links.


  • Recommend appropriate search terms and subject headings in the context of a recommended search statement using Boolean operators. Verify spelling and other possible factual errors.


  • Ask for feedback on resources sent.




Patron: Need help finding books on the history of black businessmen in New York City.
Staffer: You should search in the library catalog by typing in things like this (exactly as I have them)...
Staffer: African Americans and business* and New York
Staffer: or using that last one, replace business* with the word entrepreneur*

Not Recommended:
Patron: Need help finding books on the history of black businessmen in New York City.

Staffer: You should search the catalog with keywords like black, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, New York, African Americans, history


Concluding the session


  • Before closing, ask the patron if the question has been answered (“Does this completely answer your question?”) or if they need help with anything else. If they are expecting a follow-up from a local librarian, verify the patron’s email address and deadline.


  • If the patron indicates that no additional information is needed, send the appropriate goodbye script provided by the patron’s library. If no goodbye script is available, thank the patron for using the service and encourage the patron to return.  Always send a goodbye message, even if the patron has already disconnected.


  • Code the session using the appropriate resolution code:


    • Answered: question answered OR nothing else can be done (e.g. no email address).


    • Follow up by patron library: question could not be adequately answered during the session (e.g., question relates to specific policies or practices at the local library that is not readily available via the Policies page or online).


    • Follow up by me: only use this if you know you have the info at hand; typically only used for your own patrons.


    • Lost call: only use this if patron never responds and there is no email address.



  • Do not set descriptive codes; descriptive codes are a local convention so only use with your own library’s patrons (if your library has made the decision to use descriptive codes).


  • Remember to log out of chat when you are done with your shift. To exit, click Logout at the top right of the chat window.


At the end of your shift


  • If you are still helping a patron and it is the end of your shift, the following options should allow you to exit the session gracefully:


    • If at all possible, stay online with the patron long enough to finish the session.


    • Offer follow up to the patron ("This is taking longer than I expected, may I send this on for additional research and someone will get back to you via email?").


  • Ask any of your colleagues who are arriving for the next shift if they can accept a transfer. Be sure and send an IM to the staffer first, before transferring. If no Cooperative staffers are online, transfer to the After Hours Queue. Be sure and tell the patron you are transferring the session to

                another librarian.


    • You may exit your active queues when your shift ends without dropping your current patrons. To exit a queue, click Queues at the top right of the chat window, then deselect your active queues.  This will allow you to finish with your patrons without being interrupted by the “ping” of new patron questions. 


  •  If patron becomes non-responsive


  • When a patron does not respond to chat messages, the patron could be experiencing technical difficulties, browsing in another window, or away from the computer.


  • To ensure that the patron has sufficient time to return to the session, follow these procedures before ending the call:


    • Ask the patron if they are still there and inform them of your intent to end the call. For example, a script like this can be used when the patron has provided an email address: "Are you still there? Unless I hear from you soon, I will be ending this call and another librarian will follow up with you via email."


    • You may end the call after receiving a system-generated message about the patron's status:


      • The "Patron is no longer connected" message is displayed four minutes after:


      • the patron is accidentally disconnected due to tech problem


      • the patron navigates away from the window


      • the patron clicks the browser X button and closes the window


      • The "Patron ended chat session" note is immediately displayed after the patron ends the call by clicking the "End Call" button.


      • Click “Send Patron Note” if you are unsure a patron will receive a transcript of the chat session.


  • If the patron continues to be non-responsive and a system-generated message does not appear, you may end the call 5 minutes after asking the direct question about the patron's status. The exception to this rule is if you pick up a patron within 10 minutes of your shift ending and you are unable to stay past time; in this situation, you may end the call five minutes after asking the direct question about the patron’s status or transfer the patron to another staffer.


  • If the patron left an email address, the ‘follow-up by patron library’ resolution code should be used so the local librarians can continue helping the patron.


Additional information from QuestionPoint's 24/7 Reference Cooperative Policies and Procedures


  • QP policies and procedures in full





  • Transferring sessions


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