Providing Referrals on Chat (Updated)

Providing referrals on chat is of the utmost importance to:

1) promote or add value to the customer's chat question and information needs

2) ensure that the customer's question will be completely answered after chat

3)  both 1 and 2.  


Talking about Information Literacy

Not too long ago, in the dark pre-Web and html days, libraries had a somewhat contained grasp of carefully selected sources around their desks.  These tools provided the reference librarians and staff with information from well-worn materials at their fingertips.  Finding "the answer" to questions, such as who won the World Series in 1978, the highest peak in the U.S., which refrigerator is the best on the market, or what Nikola Tesla invented were often organized in a Ready Reference collection, as well as available to check out through almanacs and encyclopedias.  Some materials floated over to the large Xerox machines as dimes were fed in and pages were copied.  Earnest librarians amazed patrons when they found reputable articles through the library's in-print journals and databases.

Overcoming Uncertainty: "Can I answer THIS?"

Our ultimate goal is to pick up our patrons as quickly as possible while providing excellent assistance.  A genuinely welcoming greeting, given in a matter of just a few seconds, sets the tone for what can be a small but significant adventure together into the world of information. Through our need to find excellent information and solutions, we creatively tax our brains and benefit from these active, intellectual pursuits.

Privacy and Librarians: What can we share with online customers about AskUsNow! Librarians?

Occasionally I come across chat transcripts where customers ask the following types of questions:


  1. Is MD Librarian John Smith available?  I lost my connection with him.
  2. Is MD Librarian John Smith available?  He helped me out the last time I was on chat.
  3. When are UMES librarians online?  Charles County librarians?  BCPL librarians?....


Exceptional AskUsNow! Transcripts

As of January 2019, due to discontinuing transcript review as a major step forward in the streamlining of AskUsNow!, no more transcripts will be posted.  At this time, the transcripts will continue to be available for new and refresher training purposes.

Chat Behavior Tips


Please note that the virtual reference software will be changing from OCLC's QuestionPoint to Springshare's LibAnswers.  

Fake News v. Real News Resources

Nationwide, libraries are taking "Fake News v. Real News" headlines seriously to the point that libraries and information literacy advocates have written articles and created research tools to help researchers determine how authoritative the news they found online is.  

Some points to consider when giving customers real news, or helping customers determine fake news versus real news include:

Best Practices for E-Resource Questions

In this guide, I will be using "e-resources" to refer to eBooks, eMagazines, eAudiobooks, and other e-materials.  An "eBook" will represent any type of e-material.

Around 2010, virtual reference services suddenly began to receive question about e-resources (eBooks, eBook readers, PDF books...).  The questions were primarily about "How do I get an eBook?" or "What eBook reader do you think I should purchase?"

As e-resources have evolved, so have the questions (which are not limited to):

AskUsNow!: Persistent and "Interpretation" Online Customers

Dear Liaisons:

Yesterday I had multiple chat librarians make the right judgment calls in addressing concerns about a customer who was asking them to interpret passages/ask what the passages mean. 

The chat librarians were suspicious of the customer's online behavior because of these "red flags:"

  • The initial chat question made no sense.  Here are examples from yesterday:
    • a
    • dd
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