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QuestionPoint - Best Practices in Cooperative Virtual Reference

ok, now i'm back at the convention center after my day of sessions because it's the only place i can get reliable internet connection. i'm sitting at an empty desk on the 2nd floor blogging away and so far in the span of 45 mins. i've had 4 people come up and ask me directional and event questions. i must look like a reference librarian!

OCLC sponsored event
3 different groups talking

Lynn Silipigni Connaway - OCLC & Marie Radford - Rutgers
Shared Expectations: Getting Comfortable and Providing Quality Service in Cooperative VR
url: www.oclc.org/research/projects/synchronicity

Their joint project: Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating VR Services from User, Non-User & Librarian Perspectives
-proj. duration 10/1/05 - 9/30/07
4 phases:
-focus group interview
-analysis of 850 qp transcripts
-600 online surveys
-300 telephone surveys (i was one of them, btw)

Recommecations for Cooperative Reference Services
Dazzle them (from a distance)
-advertise cooperation - of the various libraries involved in your service
-promote global/local presence
-seize opportunities to build rapport - personalize the session to an extent (when possible)
Overcome bounbaries & heighten awareness of remote access issues
-don't tease or bait 'n switch - offer only the resources they have access to
-guide users beyond consortial limits - suggest in person visit to library or make other referral to resources they may have available
-don't force instruction
Develop & share expectations
Exceed expectations - aim for excellent service & cultivate repeat users

Recommendations for individual vrs librarians/staff
Start off on the right foot
-minimize number of scripts you send before greeting user personally
Accentuate the positive - always put the cooperative service in the best light
-maintain a professional tone
-be yourself
Do not dismiss questions out of hand
-questions that seem rude or inappropriate may be genuine
Clarify the question
-even if you think you understand, your interpretation may be incorrect - i know this has happened to me!
Increase accuracy - answer the specific question
-check to make sure pages you are pushing has the specific info they are requesting
Provide a variety of resources, citations & referrals
-give user the option to go beyond initial resources
Manage complex or multiple queries
-refer complex questions to the cooperative specialist service or to another mode
-use traditional approaches to multiple queries, answer easy ones first, make sure you have answered all parts
They disappeared? Complete the inquiry anyway
-they will get the transcript and be grateful for that extra step

Heather Muller - Washington State Library, statewide vr coordinator (taking over for Buff Hirko, she retired)
Eliminating Barriers to Service
-Washington State School for the Blind - www.wssb.org
-Washington Talking Book & Braille Lib. - www.wtbbl.org
-Info Eyes - www.infoeyes.org
-more info - Wikipedia: List of screen readers

-working w folks using assisted technology & how vr services work for them
-used QP Chat2 (interface developed to work with assisted technologies)
-behaves differently w different software versions
-sometimes links worked, sometimes not
-self-selecting users - software knowledge - type of search - internet comfort level
-users at all levels w various disabilities & software applications

Negatives from users - really only one:
-notification sound was too soft
Positives from users:
-interface is very simple
-better w screen readers than other commercial IM
-coding makes it easy to navigate
-response time "seems" faster (not really tested or proved)

Implementations (suggestions):
-note for users that this version (QP Chat2 - couldn't find a url giving more info about this product, sorry) has been tested w various accessibility products
-publicize to the community to attract users
-staff awareness

Bill Pardue - Arlington Heights Public Library (IL) - AskAway statewide coop vr service
Promotion of Service
-placement of link - placement, placement, placement!!!
-press releases, handouts, ads... - tend to create brief "spikes" in usage
-proper placement assures that people will find the servicce

-looked at referrer page info from QP
-3 months - 458 sessions
-139 sessions from home page & catalog
-319 came from everywhere else
-70% of sessions originated from other places

placement tips:
get your link:
-as part of the basic website template
-"above the fold"
-use graphic & brief text
-AskAway branding essential, but makes sure patron understands what it is, i.e. "Ask a Question Live Online" or "Get Live Online Help"

Current practices:
-looked at 20 libs.
-home page link: 19 out of 20 (what's w that one??)
-part of site template: 8
-link via catalog: 0 (i say a must!)
-placement (homepage): 8 - low; 11 - upper; 1 dead center

Think about your vendors
-your catalog
-your subscription databases - branded links
-we've had relatively few sessions from these but why not catch what you can?

Market it as local info
Community partners?
-town/village site
-chamber of commerce
-social service agencies
be ready to answer questions from these sites
-social sites/blogs
-anywhere else?
-most of these won't contribute to large numbers
-you're doing this to increase referrals incrementally

Resource: Sara Houghton's presentation: Reaching Patrons: Online Outreach for Public Libraries - www.librarianinblack.typepad.com/onlineoutreach/index.html

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