dig ref issues


July 23, 2009

InfoQuest Goes Live

The first collaborative text messaging reference service went live Monday, July 20. There are over 35 libraries of many types participating, each providing about 2 hours per week monitoiring the service. The pilot project runs through December 31, 2009 with no cost to members. The project is still looking for more members to participate. They hope to continue this as a full-fledged program starting January 2010.

If you would like to join, please contact Lori Bell at Alliance Library System at lbell@alliancelibrarysystem.com. You will be sent some informational documents and an agreement form to fill out with library information and your preferred coverage hours. If you
would like to join the project communications group, go to http://groups.google.com/group/InfoQuest. Even if you don't become a member of the project you can still keep up with events, issues, and communications via the google groups by requesting access to the group.

May 12, 2009

Library of Congress' Digital Reference Section (DRS) conducts a free, one-hour orientation - This Wednesday!

Library of Congress has spaces available for tomorrow's session, so if you are interested,
please register. The price is right (free).

The Library of Congress is the nation's oldest federal cultural
institution and the largest library in the world, with more than 134
million books, recordings, photographs and prints, maps, music items,
and manuscripts. Collected in more than 470 languages, the materials
range from rare cuneiform tablets to born digital materials. Through
its Web site (www.loc.gov), the Library makes available its resources,
services, and more than fifteen million of its items in American history
and culture.

How can you access the wealth of information available on the
Library’s Web site? What resources and services can assist you?
The Digital Reference Section (DRS) conducts a free, one-hour
orientation monthly, on the second Wednesday at 11 a.m. - noon, Eastern
time, via Web conference. Throughout the program, DRS staff provide
opportunities to ask questions, learn strategies for online access of
the materials, and sample the collections and resources provided to
facilitate your research.

The next session will be May 13, 11 a.m. - noon, Eastern time. To
register for the Orientation, use the Participant Registration Form,
available from http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/orientation_form.php.
Confirmation, log on instructions, and the handout will be sent via
email. Registration is on a first-come, first-served basis. For more
information or to request the Orientation for a group, contact the
Digital Reference Section via the Ask A Librarian form at

Judith K. Graves
Digital Projects Coordinator
Digital Reference Section
Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20540-4604

Email: jgrav [at] loc [dot] gov
(v)202/707-2562; [f]202/252-3116
Virtual Programs & Services: http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/
Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/

April 7, 2009

Happy Birthday AskMN!

March 24th marked the first anniversary of Minnesota’s Statewide Cooperative Digital Reference Service, AskMN: The Librarian Is In. It has been an energetic year, to say the least. Since launching with eight founding libraries, we have added five more -- and additional libraries are expected to join later this spring.

We set out to create a cooperative network so libraries could contribute and participate more easily in an online reference service for the benefit of their communities. Many libraries cannot support a stand-alone virtual reference service, and we wanted a program that required limited local staff commitment. We also created a flexible training schedule to better integrate libraries into the AskMN schedule with continuous support.

We see AskMN playing a vital role in helping Minnesota residents to meet their information needs wherever they are, whenever they need assistance through a visible, accessible Internet presence. Our intent was to create an online service for information and research help that would be available to Minnesota residents and students 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. When Minnesota librarians are not available to answer patron requests, QuestionPoint’s 24/7 National Reference Cooperative helps fill in the gap to assure continuous, ‘round-the-clock coverage.

Here is what a couple grateful patrons had to say recently after their chat sessions:

* “GREAT service to have ... especially on weekends (Saturday afternoon) when my academic library online chat wasn't available ... and it's a larger institution! THANK YOU Minnesota!!!”

* “Wow! I'm so glad someone was able to help me with my project! Ii love this.”

The service’s reach beyond individual library hours has proven to be a great benefit. We have found that about 55% of the requests to AskMN are coming when their library’s doors are typically closed. In the one year of service, AskMN has taken in over 6100 questions!

For more information about AskMN’s first year, see the March issue of Reference Notes, which will be available at:


February 3, 2009

Let's Fix Virtual Reference

There is a great article in Library Journal from Eric Zino of Palinet, Let's Fix Virtual Reference. Eric talks about the difficulties he has had personally with virtual reference services as a customer, not having the reference interview and receiving google-like answers. Our jobs as reference librarians, as Eric states, is to provide customer service, spend time with the patron. That seems to go against the thought that patrons want immediate results. I think a lot of the time we feel hurried and rushed to provide an answer to a patron that we end up giving a response that may be just adequate or good enough at best. I've seen this, myself (and felt it a lot of times as well), in doing quality control of transcripts. I'll be making note of Eric's article not ony the next time I'm in a chat session but also in training sessions. Finally, I think he brings up a great point to try our own VR services as a customer - not as a librarian testing the water, but as an actually customer in need of information. Putting ourselves in our patrons' feet will help us see a broader picture of our VR service and understand a little better of the needs of our patrons.

October 13, 2008

Texting a librarian just got a little bit easier

As reported in Wallstreet Journal's Market Watch, there is a new mobile reference software from vendor Mosio, Text a Librarian (textalibrarian.com) that looks promising. According to the Market Watch article, for $99/month plus set up fees, Text a Librarian is able to provide a library/branch with their own secure, live mobile Q&A SMS line that "works across all major carriers, mobile phones and devices, and works seamlessly with existing email and IM systems."

From the Text a Librarian website, it claims to be easy to set up and easy to use allowing libraries to be up and running with the service the same day the sign up. Checking out their demo and how-it-works page it doesn't look too difficult to encorporate it into an existing email or IM service. Plus Q&A pieces are retained in a web-based format that you can share with your patrons as an FAQ resource.

With more and more people using text messaging as an everyday way of communicating this is definitely an option libraries should consider. Another access point for you patrons!

September 24, 2008

Print v Online: The Home Knockdown Edition

Yes, the great debate. Fred Shapiro in NYTimes Freakonomics blog has an interesting post from last Thursday (sorry so late - I'm still on partial leave) about print v online reference sources for the library - the home library. Three of the five on his list I have at home: 1. World Almanac; 4. Merck Manual of Medical Information; 5. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

The first, I received as a "gift" for attending a workshop on interactive tools for instruction (with a concentration on reference). The second I bought about ten years ago because I felt guilty for not having it in the house. The third was my going away gift to college (twenty years ago) coupled with the American Heritage Thesaurus. I keep it because it has all my markings and notations from those great years of intellectual expansion. The last time I looked in my print dictionary was when I was searching for a 10+ word that started with 'E' in my daily cryptogram puzzle about three years ago. I can't remember the word right now but it's marked on the page I where I found it!

Even though the medical reference book is about 10 years old, I use it quite regularly, meaning about once a quarter. Every time I look something up in that book I thank myself for subsiding to my guilt on that purchase. I have no plans to replace it with a newer version at the moment.

The World Almanac - I think my husband looked in it once since we've had it to look up a bit of fleeting trivia.

I should also mention that while I don't have # 3. Oxford Atlas of the World specifically, I do keep a "Map Drawer" in my built-in buffet of all maps and various atlases I have picked up through the years. I love maps. I'm fascinated with them. I could go on, but that's about all you need to know in this posting.

So, reading through the comments section of Shapiro's post (92 at the time of this post). I found it interesting the range of resources listed, but more interestingly by the librarians promoting reference sources (yea "New York Public Library Desk Reference", fun read and a good research project for those that want to see what types of questions are being asked in a library, but it's not part of my personal financial budget).

Most interestly, are the posts of the lovers and haters of print and online reading. I liked the one comment saying "Does a desktop with an internet connection count?" as a reference source. I think that's how most people view their computers these days. Then there are the ones that are adamant that online never ever replace print sources because reading online text for any length of time gives them headaches. But the lovers and the haters never really answered the question of if they even have any reference books in their home library. And here are the haters reading the blog and posting about how they can't stand the small font. It makes me wonder if they actually have any reference books in their home library at all or where they actually go to find resources/sources of information. It's a tangent off the initial argument but that's where the comments were taking my thoughts.

So regarding my own home library reference collection - I don't have any plans for purchasing or replacing the ones I currently have. I will, and have been for a while now, default to online sources - especially those accessible via my online public/academic library. Sorry publishers.

April 21, 2008

Follow Up to Smiling Online Webinar

OCLC has posted the presentation slides and audio for the Smiling Online: Applying face-to-face reference skills in a virtual environment webinar from last Wednesday, April 16.

Presentation slides: http://www5.oclc.org/downloads/research/webinars/smilingonline.pdf

MP3 audio of the presentation: http://www5.oclc.org/downloads/research/webinars/smilingonline.mp3

Additional resources

Learn more about the Seeking Synchronicity project:

Visit OCLC Research to learn more about current projects:

April 16, 2008

Smiling Online :)

I attended a webinar this afternoon presented by Lynn Sillipigni Connaway (OCLC) and Marie Radford (Rutgers) titled Smiling Online: Applying face-to-face reference skills in a virtual environment. The information they presented in this webinar came from the research project they have been working of the past 2 years, Seeking Synchronicity where they have been conducting extensive research interviewing librarians, patrons, and non-users of virtual reference services (vrs) as well as mining the data from hundreds of transcripts.

Here are some of my notes from today's session:
Age groups identified:
Boomers - born between 1945 - 1964
Gen X - born between 1964 - 1979
Millennials - born between 1979 - 1994
(subgroup of Millennials - Screenagers - born between 1988 - 1994)

Contrasting the differences between Adults and Millennials in reference to chat:
Millennials approach chat (vrs) as a social engagement
Adults approach chat (vrs) as a more formal, goal oriented process

Millennials more open to trying new things.
Adults more apprehensive, want to know what they're getting into
On average, Millennial tendencies in vrs:
-abrupt endings (no good-byes)
-impatience - want something instantly
-rude or insulting - but seeing this decline
Can't determine from research if these tendencies are just because of age or a characteristic of generation as a whole.

Reasons for choosing VRS:
1. convenience, convenience, convenience
-immediate answers
-lack of cost
-available 24/7
2. enjoy medium
-millennials find much more enjoyment
-lack of intimidation (of face-to-face interaction)
Millennials want quick answers
-greater connection to the librarian
-opportunity for dialogue
-elimination of geographic boundaries
-less intimidating than the ref desk
-librarians reactions more clear
-easier to express thanks to a librarian

Non-Users: Reasons for not using VRS
-may use libraries not necessarily vrs
-qualities of the individual librarian - appeared knowledgable/trustworthy
-(FtF) perception that librarian is too busy
Boomers and Millennials - Reasons for not using vrs:
1. Didn't know it was available
-service availability
-librarian can help
-24/7 availability
2. Satisfied with other information sources
Boomer concerns:
-computer literacy - not good enough
-complexity of chat environment

Important to both VRS Users and Non-Users
1. Librarian Qualities
-knowledge of sources and systems
-positive attitude
-good communication skills
2. Accuracy of answers/information
*they found that is boost accuracy if the librarian clarified the question
-answer specific question asked
-clarify question before you push general info
-make sure it has specific and exact answer to user's question

For all types of queries:
-clarify the question
-use a follow-up question (does this answer..., do you have another question...)
-finalize interaction with the user

Implications for Practice
1. Communication critically important!
-difficult process
-generational differences
-user education
2. Greetings - crucial moment, capture it!
-chance to establish personal relationship
-use self-disclosure to build rapport
3. Recognize that any user may be impatient at times
-question complex?
-context - what do they need this info for? assignment, research, son's homework?
4. Encountering Rude or Impatient Behavior
DO use common sense and intuition
DO remain polite, use humor, if ok
DO apologize as appropriate
DON'T take it personally
DON'T mirror rudeness
DON'T reprimand user
5. Encourage Non-User to try VRS
-creative marketing
-promote full range of reference options
-reassure young people chat is safe

In Conclusion:
-use basic interpersonal skills
-chat and FtF are very similar interactions
-relax about time pressure
-be yourself and show your smile

March 4, 2008

Training Complete

We've finished with the training for all the participating libraries for the statewide digital reference service and are now moving into the test run phase of the project. This is a very exciting part of the project where we'll test out links, websites, chat sessions, cobrowing, working with transcripts in the database and finalize work flows and procedures. We will also address any technical or non-technical issues that arise and make sure that everything is running smoothly for our launch! It will be a soft roll out sometime before the end of March if all goes well. We'll send out an official announcement when we know our roll out date.

February 4, 2008

New ACRL e-Learning Course, Registration Open

Register now for the new Association of College and Research Libraries
(ACRL) e-learning course, " Virtual Reference Competencies III: Maintain
and Build Reference Skills and Knowledge," to be offered February 18 -
March 7, 2008.

Without good communications skills a librarian will have a difficult
time being a good reference librarian. However, without solid competence
in reference skills and knowledge, a librarian is not a librarian. This
reference expertise is why information seekers-all potential and current
library users-will choose to use virtual reference services instead of
just Googling on their own. Reference competencies involve searching,
critical thinking, and information organization skills, as well as
knowledge of specific reference sources and information-finding tools.
Competent reference librarians are aware of the publication processes,
both print and electronic, and the policies, procedures, organization,
and legal environment of their specific library or library organization.

In this workshop participants will engage in learning activities,
supported by readings as well as lecture and discussion to maintain and
build on the reference competencies required by effective virtual
reference librarians.

Registration for this seminar is now open. For additional information
and a link to the online registration form, visit:

December 7, 2007

Online Reference of the Future?

Hi, this was passed around on the DigRef listserv and I have to share it. I saw this and was floored. It's a great eye opener of how things could look like in the future (a little too invasive).

December 5, 2007

Meebo Training Video

Nebraska Library Commission has posted a neat video showing one of their training sessions on Meebo for their staff. You can access it on blip.tv at: blip.tv/file/520398. It's about 18 minutes long but interesting if you are concidering or want to look into Meebo a little closer for your library this gives you some good information about working with the program and how to set up a MeeboMe widget (like the one on the right side of this page ->).

On a side note, there is a discussion going on on the DigRef listserv about Meebo's sound option for notifying when a patron is asking a question. I too have found this to be problematic. I have missed or responded late to a lot of mesages simply because I didn't hear the little "thunk" noise. A couple of solutions people have brought up is loading the meebo account on a Pidgin account (Pidgin replaces GAIM) and using Pidgin's sound options. Another neat option someone replied with was to embed the Meebo screen in the left sidebar of your Firefox browser. All you need to do is bookmark the meebo page then right click in your bookmark and click on properties. Check the box that says to load it in the sidebar. Then left click on the meebo bookmark and it loads in the sidebar. I just tried that and will test it out for a while to see how it works. I'm not sure what will happen when I'm not in the Firefox browser and have it minimized or in the background working on other stuff and someone comes through. But it seems pretty handy.

October 30, 2007

New Text Message Option

You may notice to the right of this message a new box called txt me!. Now, on top of a MeeboMe chat window for communicating, you can now txt me on your cell phone to my AIM IM account. Pretty neat, AND it was FREE!! (she said the magic word!). If you would like to explore this neat little feature for yourself, your library go here: http://buddyinfo.aim.com/. I think this would make a great addition to libraries' IM reference services. Check it out!

Oregon Virtual Reference Summit Podcasts

While we're on the subject of podcasts... From Caleb Tucker-Raymond:

Two podcasts are online from presentations at the 2007 Oregon Virtual
Reference Summit, June 1 2007 in Bend, Oregon.

Marie Radford gave the plenary session, "I Was Kind of Confused b4".


In Mrs. Radford's words, "The talk focuses on the information-seeking
and communication behaviors of the youngest Millennials - the
Screenagers. I discuss their predilections and characteristics
(multi-tasking, impatience, practicality, convenience, etc.) as well as
their perceptions of librarians ('I don't trust librarians, I trust
Google') and fear of cyber-predators in chat rooms that extends to chat
librarians ('I don't like to chat with strangers.')" (see her blog post,

The second podcast, "What students need, what schools need", a panel of
teens, teen librarians and school librarians discussing how Oregon's
virtual reference service can appropriately respond to students'
requests for help.

Between 60 and 80% of our virtual reference users are K-12 students.
Often, there is tension between the student's desire to take the
shortest route possible to complete an assignment and the
school/teacher's desire that visiting the library be a learning
experience for the student.


Featuring JoAnn Grant and Victoria, High Desert Middle School, Jessica
Lorentz-Smith, Bend High School, Patty Sorensen, Oregon State Library,
and April Witteveen, Deschutes County Library System.

See more details, notes, slides, etc at www.oregonlibraries.net/summit.

OCLC Webinar: Promoting Virtual Reference Services: Beyond Bookmarks

Looking for ways to increase usage and capture the attention of your current and potential users? Register today for a free, live Web information session and find out.

The information session will be held Thursday, November 15, 2007, 11 am - noon. This webinar highlights two innovative promotions, one on MTV (by New Jersey's QandANJ), and the other on YouTube (by Florida's Ask a Librarian service). The speakers, Beth Cackowski, project coordinator of QandANJ, and Diana Sachs-Silveira (of Florida's Ask a Librarian service) will discuss these and other promotional activities, as well as answer your questions on what works, what doesn't work, and what they are doing to entice new users to library reference services.

Visit the OCLC website for details.

September 17, 2007

Online Virtual Reference Seminar Opportunity

From ACRL's E-Learning center: Virtual Reference Competencies: Acquire and Improve Technical Skills and Knowledge, Oct. 1-20, 2007. This online seminar is a primarily asynchronous seminar, allowing you to work through course material at times convenient throughout the three weeks of scheduled course time. You may also choose to schedule online chat time with the teacher, as you feel necessary. Specific material and learning activities will be covered during each week of the course.

The seminar will be led by Diane Kovacs of Kovacs Consulting. Diane has been teaching virtual reference related concepts and skills online and in-person for more than 14 years. She is the author of The Virtual Reference Handbook: Interview and Information Delivery Techniques for the Chat and E-Mail Environments, Neal-Schuman Publishers (2007) published concurrently in the United Kingdom by Facet Publishers (2007).

Check out the ACRL E-Learning website: http://www.acrl.org/ala/acrl/acrlproftools/ALA_print_layout_1_411240_411240.cfm for more information including course learning outcomes and fees.

September 5, 2007

Slam the Boards Update

From the DigRef listserv via Bill Pardue:

Caleb-Tucker Raymond and I have been contacted by John Klem of Yahoo's Social Search team (the folks behind Yahoo Answers). They're quite intrigued and excited about the prospect of so many librarians getting involved for Slam the Boards. John wanted to extend a special invitation to try and fast-track "Slam" librarians into Yahoo's special Knowledge Partner status (see http://answers.yahoo.com/info/knowledge_partners) for details. You'll be asked to select an area of expertise (are you seeing this business librarians, health librarians, lit specialists, etc.?!). In addition to having a "Knowledge Partner" designation on your answers, they will be looked at a bit more closely by the Yahoo editorial staff and may be highlighted on the Yahoo Answers home page. Some best answers from Knowledge Partners may also eventually be given prioritized rankings in the Yahoo search engine.

Interested? Act now!

There's not a lot of time to try to add a huge list of librarians before Monday, but John will do his best. Send ME (bpardue@ahml.info) your name, e-mail and Yahoo screen name by Friday, 9/7, 11 a.m. Chicago time (CDT). I will forward the names collectivly to John and he will send follow-ups to you. If you can't contact me by then, you'll probably still be able to do this in the future, it just won't be in time for Slam the Boards.

What's my commitment?

Naturally, Yahoo wants participants who will stay involved (isn't that the ultimate goal of Slam the Boards, too?). They currently ask Knowledge Partners to pick up 10 questions per week, but are willing to be more flexible for us. John will detail that a bit more in his replies.

One of the things I've mentioned to John is that many librarians are "generalists" who look up answers on topics that we aren't specifically experts on, rather than experts who can write authoritatively on a given subject. John said that Yahoo is working on refining the designations over time, but that we should still take the opportunity now to submit our names.

Anyway, I'm going to do it, and I'm hoping many more of us will, too!


August 30, 2007

Slam the Boards!

Slam the Boards! invites all librarians for a day of answers. That's right. Mark your calendar for Monday, Sept. 10. Log on to an "Answer" site such as Yahoo Answers, Amazon's Askville, The WikiPedia Reference Desk - see a list of others at http://answerboards.wetpaint.com/page/Registry+of+Answer+Boards?mail=1127.

The point of this day-long deluge of helpful and accurate answers to people's questions on these sites is to, first and foremost, answer people's questions but also to market ourselves as librarians. Let them know that their question was answered by a librarian and that's what we do, that's one of the services their local public library provides.

Like MySpace and Facebook, it's another way of extending ourselves outside the walls of our own libraries and reaching out to where the people are. You may want to prepare by visiting any of the answer sites in advance and see if you need to set up an account to answer questions and you may even want to dip your toe in the water and try answering a question in advance as well just to get the feel for how the site works. It's not much different than a digital reference service.

This great idea was started by Caleb Tucker-Raymond.

August 1, 2007

Collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session VI

What’s Next in the Adventure: The Future of Collaborative Virtual Reference Services

Facilitators: Joe Janes & Susan McGlamery

Joe: one phrase stuck out to me: “next generation user experience” from jeff penka (qp)
We need to think about broadly about what that next generation experience ought to be. – thinking about the user
-divide into working groups and brainstorm/create talk about this

-the thing they’re interacting w as well as the community they’re interacting w – having that relationship
-the concept of how the ref lib. That provides the consultation is compensated – show we’re experts in the field of searching, retrieving the right information
-using my pda, one place to go/click “give me this” and don’t care about who I’m interacting w
-when we have given them the tool/answer – when they have used us it was such a good service it should say for itself – we were the ones that helped them over that wall – we lose that writer’s block
-interface – it’s streamlined, everyone is connected to it, we’re all connected across the planet as librarians
-whatever the patron uses we should be able to connect to them – they have so many choices and we are at all those choices
-the user is choicing to put the personal lib in whatever network they have
--connecting users to knowledge communities – have the library as a hub for that – have community services at the library/lib website
-interface – what to interact w: it should be automatic, our userface should transform to what they’re use to
-users don’t care, they use google because it’s easy – just have something to click to – have a clickable map and be connected to whomever
-none of the libs. Issues impede the users need/experience
-if they have a bad experience they don’t see it as that one lib. It’s the whole thing
-libs. Need to set up a customer service orientation policy/program – not after thoughts
-track customer interactions so we know what they’re interested in/working on – like amazon
-full capacity of a library – shows things up as I’m working through it

participatory, on their terms, full capacity, our problems don’t affect them

back to main group:
what are you struck by?
Technology: no barrier – seemless – doesn’t matter how I connect w the librarian and how I get information – the quest. And answer are what matter not the delivery!!!
-ease of use for user and staff
-no barriers, reducing barriers…
-level of automation/psychic machine – system is smart – automating the users entry into the interface/session – mind meld

half the group had some pop fiction/scifi reference – we’re trying to create the experience from the user point of view – interesting adoption of those medifores that our users will also have in their heads
-but, are these references our gen uses or the next gen’s references
-let’s find out what theirs’ are
-they don’t need pop cult references – im’ing 3 friends at once is just the way they do things

mind meld:
-to some extent this is already happening, amazon

-we’re not seeing much of privacy – users choosing how much they want to give up – we nned to give our patrons the right to say I’m willing to give up this much – let them reveal what they want to reveal

-don’t let the thing you build be the barrier to the user experience

themes so far: seamlessness and transparency

is staff represented here:
-how about community & collaboration – how does community react to a potential user community
-they want someone to help them define what they want, they may not really know
-technology is a way of getting around the relationship to build the query
-it’s not just over that one interaction – it’s treating the library as a customer focused org. –to build a customer relationship w them – if they come in the 2nd time we can say “how did that paper on monkeys go?” – retaining individual info
-when you have that relationship and you know each other the reference interview is cut short because you already know their likes/don’t likes
-the relational aspect of reference – having the best transaction you’ve ever had even if you don’t get the info you need – what the lib values as successful and what the patron values as successful – referencing Marie Radford’s research
-user experience – if/when patron’s ask for a specific lib do we/should we allow that?
-Joe Thompson – from his research showed that their teens in MD not only wanted to build relationships by knowing the names of libs. They work with so they can ask for them/not ask for them again – but also asked if they could rate libs.
-Buff Hirko – libs. Should be willing to be accountable for the service they provide – let the patron know your name
-Joe Janes – from his doctorial student’s research who is now at florida state (forgot her name), best predictor of success was that lib provided name – personal touch
-people providing the service should want to provide the service and are pleased to provide the service

sarah from george wash u – pairing the new (young) libs w the tech skills and the older more experienced libs w the ref skills – finding those with the skills and pairing them up just worked out that way and sharing the info

why would people be reluctant to serve? – tech may play a part of that
-it has to be recognizably reference to them – has this faded? Hopefully

-kids may type stuff in that they’re not going to go to the ref desk and say in person – good or bad stuff – kids are testing – kids may ask the quests. To make sure they’re talking to a real person – they want to know who they’re talking to

-we want people use the tech they are use to/like to ask their quests.

-Buff Hirko – when I was at the state library of Victoria in aus. They asked “how do you handle kids?” – it’s universal – it’s a way to broaden our perspective – we need to learn how to deal with people in other groups

-if you’re still trying to deal w kids in vr there is a great presentation by Joe Thompson from vrd 2005 on webjunction on dealing w teens

-at the same time you have teens that want anonymity and libs. Want anonymity – how do you build a relationship w that?
-every choice brings a downside
-they choose anonymity that’s their choice – we can’t do anything about it
-our choice is to choose personalization

-use “haha f&g, come back when you have a real question” and they do
-privacy is wrapped up with identity and trust – you can still be anonymous – seams give shape and show us where the edges are – that was Caleb’s quote

-the word I (Joe Janes) keep coming back to is “experience” – for us and the user
-the desire to participate, share, build – that’s how this conversation has flowed – building services we would want to use is one thing, as we think about where this wants to go, if you build in interoperability/operability that opens the door to serve anyone

closing: Kris Johnson
-thanks to Joe Janes for keynote and helping w facilitating last session, thanks to panelists and all participants

Collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session V

Instant Messaging: Considerations, and Compatibility with collaborative vr

Facilitator: Caleb Tucker-Raymond

Presenters: Alex Hodges (American U) & Sarah Palacios-Wilhelm (George Wash. U) – Reclaiming our Collaborative Past: How Instant Messaging has Brought us Back Together
-Evolution of Collaboration @ WRLC Wash. Research Lib. Consortium
-8 academic libraries part of the consortium in Wash. DC
-consortium works together in many areas of library services and resources, online catalog – added link for ask a librarian on many of these wrlc pages
-shows their students the different resources, services they provide through the consortium

American U
-11000 student pop
-vr stats 04-05: 236
-hours m-f 11am-6pm
IM stats: 06-07: 708
Hours: m-f 1pm-9pm

George Wash U
24000 student pop
-vr stats 04-05: 392
-im stats 06-07: 1333
-hours: m-f 2pm-9pm

-collab. Vr failed for them, moved to IM
-lasted from 02-06
tutor: 02-05
-didn’t have a coord. w/in consortium
-time and pressure affect service provision, working out kinks plus other duties and instability of software made for collab. Serv to fail

IM pilot services paralleled qp private collab. 05-06

Consortial Concerns
-lack of strong coord. Role
-lack of personalized service
-tech hiccups
-barriers to service
-quality control issues

-integrated stats – collections w/in software
-integrated logging
-co-browsing – when it worked it was great

w IM stats are not integrated but they do have an outside stats collection but it is problematic
-can’t do quality control and follow up like you could do with chat software

end of collab. Vr service didn’t end collab. In consortium
Cross-institutional assistance
-AU->MU (marymount)
-GW->GT (Georgetown) – helping gt get im service up and running

Best practices, assessment, training
-IM forum, all 8 schools
-IM Reference Google Group – post all info, docs. Share info

Institutional Collab
-working groups
-service models – creates consistancy
-integration of multiple service desks
-incorporating non-librarian staff – collab. On training, policies – students understood the IM software aspects they trained the libs. On that – libs. Trained them in on ref skills
-working w faculty & instruction – spreading IM handles to all
-students: social networking & webpages – speaking the students language, advertising their IM handles, group handle
-outreach & marketing – telling students “just AIM us” – speaking their language

Marketing – progressive marketing campaign
-“IM too sexy” – everyone, not just students, is seeing this, provost, parents.. – they say “get use to it”
-they want to make sure the library is putting their mark on the materials
-stress – hire graphic designers! – they help
-“IM reference, no shirt, no shoes, no problem” – guy lying in bed w laptop no shoes or shirt – AIM logon: AskAULibrary
-“Research Saves Lives!” – transition of someone going through cancer and their recovery – “Patricia Kinney’s Path to Survival”
-AIM logon: GalmanInfo – not using library or librarian in handle

-improving assessment
-web-based chat
-IM widgets
-IM google group
-further integration w web 2.0


Presenter: Valery King (Oregon State U-Corvallis)– Acting Globally, Acting Locally: Local Instant Messaging and Collaborative VR
-participate in statewide plus own service at osu

-at osu, using aim yahoo…. Plus widget
-osu is a land-grant institution, must provide services/connection to greater state
-“Think Link” was a first connection to state residents for answering quest. – 1st by mail, then phone, email, fax…
-dropped this when L-Net (statewide vr service) came about
-@30% of quest. Thru L-Net were osu based quest.
-wanted to encourage their own students to come to libs. Directly
-so decided to create own queue w/in l-net – reasonably successful
-w staff #s decreasing, more of a problem to schdule
-decided to drop the queue and went to IM – did it simultaneously so there was no gap
-used trillion, multiplatform

barriers w IM
-students weren’t using it, had @ 20/mo quest.
-l-net: a lot of people were coming in annonomously
-ah-ha moment – added widget, chatango widget – can remain annonomous
-redesigned website – kept live help options: l-net, other im options
-usage soared: jan – 110; may – 580, shot up 400% in 1st 2 months
-having that widget on every page helped a lot
-simple to use, easy to find
-other ref stats did not go down at all – realized it was a need

-doesn’t keep logs, keep tick marks
-if you click away from the page it drops the chat – have to warn them right off the bat
-leave message function on chatango is wimpy – next lib that logs in has to capture it and save
-alert sound is wimpy – can’t change it

-training is minimal
-embedded widget can be monitored from any computer
-easier for patrons
-catches quest. Not otherwise asked

still use trillion, not hard to manage both at the same time
buy-in from staff was immediate, not that way with l-net queue – had to work hard on that

why do both?
-university land-grant mission
-collaboration w statewide colleagues
-patron choice
-affordable after-hours coverage

chat is better for:
-in-depth quest.
-co-browseing, form filing

IM is better for:
-quick quest.
-local quest

how we manage both:
-l-net: reduce staff to 4 per term, 1 shift/week – l-net is big enough now
-im an easy add-on, easy to handle
-backup librarians can cover it from their own desks or at the ref desk

-complimentary, not mutually exclusive
-chat not dead, but im preferred by many and met a previously unknown need
-both have their uses, and their fans
-really not difficult to do both
-switching from chatango to meebo, moving the widget down a little on the page
-specialists can put their own meebo widget on their web page (not ref unit’s meebo widget) – get’s specialized service


Presenter: Kenneth Furuta (UC-Riverside) – Instant Messaging and Collaborative Virtual Reference

-started im service in nov 2006, AskaUCLibrarian

instant messaging:
-uc digital refernce common interest group should explore im software in a collab. Environment
-action item: 3 libs. Dedicated to researching this

environmental scan – feb-april 07
-there is no single source solution for IM reference for a collab. However, there is interest and development on a number of fronts
-individual libraries have implemented im ref – monitored from a single physical location – none over geographic distances
-but is it scalable? – expand in size to accommodate a wide variety of users

vr schematic (figure)
users connect w librarian thru vr server
IM schematic
One or many users connect directly to librarian, no vr server in the way

A day in the life of ask a uc librarian
San Diego covers 11am-1pm
Irvine 1-3pm
Santa barara 3-5pm
Merced 5-9pm
-shift changes, don’t necessarily need multiple logins for a shift change
-in looking at stats it seems that all uses login at the same time, human nature?
-clustering of patrons – not sure why that happens
-3 patrons or more at one time was @27% of the day
-27% of time the librarian is really busy

-if we want to support im ref in the collab. Then we will have to build it
-near term: do not support im ref at this time. Monitor the environment for an effective, scalable solution

project updates
-my idea: multiple patron IM accts – multiple users at one time, maybe have a back-end server to manage use – couldn’t talk anyone else into it
-UNC-chapel hill – modifying pigeon (use to be gaim) – looking to do small scale pilot project with multiple libs. Logged on but look like one lib. To the patron – multiple handles, queues – patron will be told where they are in line – looking at open source to do this
-natl library of Australia – creating system w nultiple lib logons, overflow patron queue, archiving transcripts, stats reports, want to work w meebo, jabber as back en piece
-l-net (Oregon libraries network) – using enterprise im – partner w public library, who owns it, what server, pilot project in the fall maybe
-vendors: qp and tutor: - w qp working to figure out the problem statement about im – next gen platform is something else they’re working on

Questions from Audience:
Q: for sarah & alex: where do you cover im? Desk or office
A: alex, we cover at office, libs. Don’t like desk, s: we cover at desk

Q: for ken: it sounds like a vr package using a backend server, what do you plan to do?
A; it does sound like a vr package, we are staying open, maybe commercial, maybe open source, our patrons are there how do we get to them?

Q: for Valery: where is your link to l-net
A: just on ask us page, widget wrote into template, l-net link not useful on every page like research tutorial, redesign looking at specific pages it needs to be

Q: for valery: no transcripts what about follow ups?
A: if we do have to follow up we ask for email

Q: for valery: meebo doesn’t save anything either
A: western Oregon has added something to widget to save the logs, still can come in anonomously

Caleb: our pilot project is so its easy for libs, to jump on and use it. Is it easier for libs. To use than vr? What do we want to keep from im? Make it easy fro libs. To use.

Sarah: we don’t have the widget yet, adding in fall, students add us as a buddy, they don’t need to go back to gelman website to ask us a quest.

Q: for sara: do they request a particular buddy?
A: we’ve had have people ask for specific, we use both lib im and personal ims, if we’re logged on personal we may get quest. From students

Collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session IV

Day 2:
Collaborative Virtual Reference Services from around the world: Marketing Virtual Reference Buy-in, Recruiting and Collaboration

Facilitator: Diana Sachs-Silveira

Presenter: Dyan Perley – We built it! And they came…Strategies for maintaining staff
sanity in times of rapid growth

-from Alberta, Canada
-Ask A Question – collaborative program
-area has seen significant pop. Growth over last 5 yrs – very stron economy
-40% of pop. Still using dial-up connection
--use open source
-developed by 3 alberta colleges (1999)
-post secondary expansion
-2001 – management of the service shifted to the Alberta Library
--AAQ was developed in the spirit of collaboration and consultation
-service pt – responsible for staffing AAQ for ques. About their library or community/inst.
-pl are responsible for ques. From outside Alberta

-website redesign – original very clunky, took many steps before even able to ask
-new site went live in oct 2006
-simplified design
-easier url
marketing campaign
-led to an overall increase of 96%
-60% of quest. Coming from non-target aud.

Maintaining buy-in
-responsive to staff needs
–developed new staff website – software modifications – added referring url – asked where they were coming from
-develop templates
-anticipate the unexpected
-try new things
-student & volunteer pilot projects – had 51 participants, answered @400 quest. In one term, students said the project was very valuable to them – then added the volunteer program, opened it up to other students outside of the class piloting the project
-created a http://del.icio.us/aaq acct
-referrals – based on asking them where they are coming from – people aren’t looking for libraries they are looking for “I want to ask” – they decided to refer back to the libraries they were associated w (ex. US libs)
-build community & Communicate
-listserv & blog
-site visits
-annual meeting – one person from each inst. Attends, good for seeing fact to name – get’s little free stuff
- express your appreciation
-regular service updates
-be open to new suggestions
-maintain communication – regular lines of communication, building of ref community

Next steps
-investigating further methods to:
-encourage Alberta-based growth
-direct out –of-province patrons to more appropriate resources
-thinking about doing a mash-up for patrons showing world map, click on where they live and see services in their area
-scheduled a rewrite of their scripts for 2008

Presenters: Ulf-G Nilsson & Magnus Illvered – Competence Clusters for virtual reference services: A new model for collaboration

-from Sweden – Jonkoping University Library
-serving @ 9mil. Pop. – around size of CA

background info:
-Ask the Library (pl) & Librarian on Duty (aca) – 2 consortia vr services
-bridge the 2 systems – not using external funding, housed at their U
-staffed during library hrs – also evenings and weekends
-using Docutek

2 constorias
Librarian on Duty – Chalmers, lunds UB
Ask the Library – Malmo SB, Orebro SB
-these are connected through the “Systems Bridge”

through the sustems bride the have their virtual desks for the main services and the individual libraries (like Chalmers, malmo sb…)
-kind of like different pods or queues for the services

The Model
Competence Clusters for vr services
-based on org. or individuals
-to create services dynamically

more and more demands for specialist services
-easy to do in the system to have the same person staff both services

in future… Locate Expert Competence
-pick out specialties in different libraries from around the world and connect to them

Based on org. or individuals – trying to put together a 24/7 staffing structure on their own

-could increase efficiency

Next step
-create a pilot project with European countries
-waiting on funding

for the user
-an easy way to make use of the competence in a collaborative network – they can access one or several parts of the org
for the org.
-use and reuse of competence in a network – increase the possibilities to enlarge – cut costs

$12.06 average cost in answering a quest. Individually
$6.00 in their project

had a decrease in numbers of ref questions overall, not online, looking to transfer the $$ to new services such as the project and expand

-showed commercial they did in SWe about a guy trying to answer/win radio contest of trivia questions while using the service and getting the right answers – very cute!

Presenter: Kini Piper – Fire in the belly: Developing a dynamic and dedicated team

-from New Zealand

-refer to vr librarians as operators

ideas for recruiting and rewarding – there’s a handout about the service
3 vr services in nz

-she is part of the only large collab. Vr service in nz

-patrons are mostly children and teens
-they need help with searching and identifying good resources

-they try to put people thru a pre-selection process – they show libs. What the service is like and how it works
-they advertise vacancies
-demo software – ask them if they want to continue to the next step – some stepped out
-the libs. Go thru a 1 hr test – simulate vr sessions
-how do they respond to a child or teen
-have core competencies they are measured against – ref skills can be taught but look for someone who has good multitask skills

-new recruits “buddy up” with experienced libs. Until they feel comfortable working on their own

-need coordinator at each site – need consistency – service coach does training
-service coach and coord are online as well to keep up skills
-nat’l library of nz provides resources for the service
-6 mos into new training model

training program
-theory, software, functionality
-go live, real-time work w software
-demo of websites, resources, and tools used for ref
-copy of eresources directory to take away

-they get training w/in 3 mos on the job
-training coach available for consult after training at any time
-go to onsite meetings, important to know face w name

-try to mix people with different experiences up so they get to meet people at different levels to learn new things

level 1 – new recruits up to 3 mos.
Level 2 – in the job for 6 mos.
Level 3 – most experienced, capable of mentoring the other levels

Once they had identified people at different levels, they wanted to look at recognition, boast enthusiasm
-acheivement certs. – operators license
-super users – get certs. To demonstrate different levels of experience and knowledge
-site coord chooses different gifts for their libs. – showing appreciation for contribution on team
-opportunity to speak at nat’l conferences
-scholarship to conferences (don’t have to speak) – free trip – demonstrate knowledge

see their libs. Skills gained here are very valuable in other parts of lib. Orgs. – gives transferable skills

-like to find ways libs. Can communicate with each other across the service
-want the libs. To drive this rather than the management

-rumor that those work on this service get promoted – just a rumor, but a good one

-libs. At all levels are encouraged to be part of project teams

Questions from Audience:
Q: What is the email service like – acceptable turn around time – for Alberta
A: generall, @ 24 hrs

Q: to Alberta – how long do you keep questions from the service?
A: indefinitely
Q: if a quest. Is being asked over and over is there a way to access that?
A: on the staff side, yes – archive, not on the public side

Q: for Sweden; how does the funding model work?
A: on academic side, all libs. Participating pay for software and resources, pl side it can be by lib or by county depending on participation, they (U) maintain the main server

Q: Sweden: how is the cost allocated, based by size, or per library
A: flat fee per library, each lib. Gets 5 seats, never a problem

Q: Sweden: how do you account for the $12 vs. $6
A: complicated, we check many variables, staffing, quests. Resources used…

Q: Sweden: what was the base salary?
A: differs a lot between academic and public

Q: for Alberta: do you own Ask a Question.com?
A: no, we own the aska question.ca url - I do have a list of resources, lib services for other areas for people not in their area, could work with others to make this a wider project for all libs.

Q: if we could work together, if we all pointed to a particular site we could direct people better

Q: for Alberta: do you have a sense of your volume?
A: @ 1300/mo, not all that we provided answers for

Q: for nz: about collab. With academic libs. If you get quest. From college students what do you do?
A: Any school student can ask us a quest. We occasionally get college students we redirect them to a different service for them. Don’t ave academics – they’re not interested in answering quest. From 7 yr olds. But open to new partnerships

Q: for nz: are your libs. Paid beside their own jobs?
A: no, they’re not paid any extra, just their reg. salary from their org.

Q: how do you handle your target market isn’t using the service until after school?
A: we find that a lot of students only have access to computers during school so we do get students during the day as well as after school. Looking at extending hours into evening but not there yet

Q: we have problems with students going outside firewall on schools. How do you handle that:?
A: there are some sites they can’t go to, we ask before we go there.

Q: for nz: your paper?
A: I do have a paper presentation, I’ll email it to the symposium and hopefully they can put it up

Kris: we’ll have all presentations up on the home site at the end of the month

Q: for nz: promotions?
A: we have @ 5000-6000 homeschoolers, they got our promo material during initial marketing, don’t have a main target group, main focus on maori (native) students

Q: do you have libs. That speak maori?
A: yes, it was being underused, separate queue

Q: for Sweden: you mentioned 7th frame, a collab. Program?
A: it is the biggest research group in Europe, we work through this, you have to have at least members from 3 different countries to use this (like lsta)

July 31, 2007

collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session II

Funding and Sustainability: Managing Growth and Building Collaborations that Last

James Duncan, Peter Bromberg & Beth Cackowski, Michele Pye

Session Facilitator: Vince Mariner

James Duncan – Money is Only Part of the Answer: Virtual Reference at the Crossroads

VR Growth & Sustainability
3 factors
-warm bodies
-belief in vr

Factor 1 – accepting vr as part of our future
What is working/not working with vr – should we even be doing vr?
-that’s what’s being asked – we’re a small portion of the library world
-we don’t have critical mass – we’re seen as offering fringe services – ex. ILL is considered a core service it would not be thought of to talk about dropping it
Environments & Tools
E: desk, reference area, stacks, classrooms
T: databases, print sources, subject specialists
-with vr it’s muddy and meshed
E & T: IM, search engines, hidden/deeper web, vendor products, databases, google answers, subject knowledge,referrals, second life, yahoo answers
-this is a new arena and new way of communicating – we should be seizing on this opportunity

Factor 2 - creating demand, then finding enough librarians to serve
-try to provide the best service possible
-getting librarian directors/managers to see this a viable service point
-this is our future

Factor 3 – money this year, but what about next year?
-look at 3 yrs out, 5 yrs out – federal $ won’t cut it
-soft $ won’t do it
-need to identify other sources

AskColorado – how they are dealing with these 3 factors
where does askcolorado fit in – “live help” link on site
-80% of traffic coming through the site is handled by Colorado libs.
-use of that “live help” link has been skyrocketing – more agencies are using the site, more eyeballs seeing the link
-18% of overall usage is from Colorado.gov
-askcolorado is showing the usage, they are in a position of leverage and power, need to start paying their fair share

Potential strategies for sustainability
-identifying alternative funding sources and partnerships
-the only way to get alternative funding is by proving value – we’ve got to get into whole coop mindset that they are all of our patrons – anyone coming in to askcolorado is their patron – no distinctions

-understanding our target markets
-who are the audience members – market research – develop strategies to reach into those target markets – then campaign – bookmarks are not a one size fits all for market strategy, bookmarks are pr – find out “are bookmarks really reaching the kinds of people we’re trying to reach?”

-evangelizing for vr
-better exposure, better articulation of potential partners about the value of the service – we need to be getting in the face of our users – place our links everywhere

that’s where we start getting to the goal of making our service ubiquitous
why are we not pushing out our service where our students/patrons live?
Clear that path between the librarian and patron – we make users jump through hoops to get to us – we need to simplify that

Peter Bromberg & Beth Cackowski – What’s keeping us energized for the NEXT five years?
-handouts and presentation at http://www.qandanj.org/colorado

overview of service
sustainability – appreciate/energize
managing growth – innovate
demonstrating value

Overview of QandANJ
-live since 2001
-funded by lsta grant for 6th straight yr
-@300 trained libs. – 203 staff the service
-managers at each site
-fte project coordinator
-part of qp coop
-9am – 11pm staffed by nj libs everyday
-standard is 6 hrs/week commitment
-this is a volunteer service – don’t expect all libs. To show up on time all the time – sustainability of libs. Is hugs – they don’t employ the libs. – need to keep them motivated

3 point approach to motivate: appreciate, energize, innovate

-balloon bouquets – balloons have QandANJ logo on them
-briefcase bags – “I’m a virtual librarian at…. QandANJ” - libs. Love these
-ribbons on their badges
-hats as 5 yr anniversary gift
-tshirts w ad – given to the freelancers, not all libs
-share customer comments – on their listserv “Midweek warm and fuzzies”
-freelancers – 14 paid libs. Throughout NJ
-opportunities to present
-recognition plaques – promoted on staff website
-grant money for reference – get @$1500 per library
-QandA libs. Get free pre-conferences, programs
-QandA libs get access to free databases specifically available to them

-group meetings held quarterly – talk, eat, share
-continually have new libraries coming on – new blood
-oclc sponsored users group meetings
-marketing – new posters/slogans – latest ad campaign borrowed from Oregon
-free marketing materials – pens, posters, bookmarks, balloons, stickers
-myspace page - @ a month old, @ 40 friends, going to do a “friend bomb” ad in august
-commercial to go on mtv in fall – specifically geared to teens – also putting on youtube – 30 sec. commercial cost $3000

-putting up barriers to use QandANJ – need library card/barcode # to use the service – limits to NJ only – had @40% of business out of state – just started this last year – before didn’t care, wanted anyone to use it, growth was happening – had to decrease supply or decrease demand
-link up with online service to get a library card – give out temp 2 week access code until library card showed up
-barrier, but acceptable barrier
-stats went down @ 50% when they put that up
-just launched geolocation authentication – identified via ip authentication so won’t be prompted for barcode if in NJ – 80% accuracy
-goal – manageable usage levels
-now they can start marketing again
-next spring launching a youtube contest – teens you do a youtube commercial, put it up on youtube, we’ll judge and put up on mtv

Demonstrating value – in handout – out of time to talk

Michele Pye – Built to Last from the Start
British Columbia – AskAway – still new

-built on successes of individual services
-strategic planning processes of public library services branch and BC electronic library network
-formed a committee, created the service in parrellel with all participating libraries
-launched w/in one yr of initial planning

-launched in Oct 2006
-Service 2 queues – public lib and post-secondary (academic)
-staffing – 2 types
-funding – 2 ministries
-users – 5 target markets
-open 7 days/week – 70+ hrs

-share funding for resources
-pl side –got funding for $1 mil for 3 yrs
-hired a pro. Marketing consultant
-5 target markets – academic, teens, public, seniors, business
-giveaways – bookmarks, magnets, post-it notes

How do we collaborate?
-software negotiation, licensing, marketing

-academic – 6900 sessions
-pl – 29000 sessions
-reaching 1 in every 25 learners at both pl and academic

-leverage the local relationship
-be strategic – looked at doing both chat and email – too messy, focused on chat and then will look at email in next phase of growth
-build org. continuity
-extend collab. – between public and academic, chose things that were the same, now looking at differences, combining services into one (queue)
-share successes – need to tie leveraging local relationships to leg. “look what I did”
-transform communication –selling the concept to giving people info about continuing the service – show return on investment
-begin a continous improvement process
-start planning for year 4 now
-mash-ups bs build ups – put banner ad on board of trade website, other sites – what can we do on youtube – what can we do on whatevers next

Questions from audience:
Q: Geolocation – how much did it cost, is it like worldcat?
A: we use quova, set up fee @$13,000, different product from worldcat, a little more expensive, unlike worldcat we don’t have to do programming on our part

Q: are any of the services facing end of grant funding and looking at fees?
A: for BC AskAway on the academic side they may need to look at that, pl side is funded

Audience: private enterprises, we in Ontario, may turn to looking at getting funding from private sources, not sure you can do that in the US

Audience: in California – we are losing LSTA funding for the vr service next year, looking at many different options for funding, not just public funding

Audience: in Illinois, there’s a huge gap on service funding – how are we going to distribute costs fairly – looking at fee based for statewide

Collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Session I

Side by Side Comparison of Collaborative VR Services
Presenters: Vince Mariner, Diana Sachs-Silveira, Caleb Tucker-Raymond

Diana Sachs-Silveria - Survey results from State of VR:
Survey posted on VR lists
-35 respondents from 29 services
-large multitypes, then academic, then public

-most are doing chat & email, a lot of doing just chat only and a few are doing collab.
-oclc’s qp = 21
-tutor.com = 3
-other = 4

-22 are not limited in the number of librarians that can staff at anytime
-2 are limited by their contract
-2 are limitied by their software provider
-other collab. Resources w/in collab. Services – most using databases
-most using English for language

Years in service
-4 under 1 yr
-5 1-2 yrs
-2 at 3 yrs
-12 at 4+ yrs

only 10 of the collabs. Covered email

stats – fluctuated because of different variables
stats will be posted online

growth in 2007 – most looking to growing, not go down or die
usage – when busiest – weekdays in the afternoons vs mornings or weekends
demographics – college level highest use in both academic and public arena

Vince Mariner – Soaring to New Heights
Led 2 statewide services under 2 different software types

Participation defined
-participants can be defined differently
-a participant is a library that contributes:
-funds and/or staff time
-just funds and/or staff time
-neither funds nor staff time but are allowed to utilize link/logo on their site for users
-in PA they encourage any library to link to the service

Participation by Library Type
-public – almost 70%
-academic – 35%
-school –almost 10%

Academic Coops
-avg. size 24 libraries per coop
Multitype Coops
A lot more based on different pop served #

PA doesn’t use school libs to promote the service but they get a lot of students

Library Funding Contribution
-48% indicated that participating libs. Contribute funds

-funding models
-varies based on fte or pop
-flat partic. Fee
-no fee (Typ. Lsta funded)
-askcolorado subscription model

Staff Contribution per week
-6.3 hrs per wk avg per lib
-minimum hrs per wk
-most vary based on variety of factors

found the more libs in a coop, the less hrs contrib. – for academic
found the larger pop size served the more hrs contrib.. – for public

Why are we here?
-who or what prompted your org. to host a collab. Vr service?
-state agency or org
-need for online service/outreach
-grassroots movement
-saving money through collab.

what is your mission/goal?
-reference, reach all residents/students, provide chat, share service, advance mission of institution, remote sercie/point of need,

some of the missions are what they’re doing not why – maybe board needs to hear this

who’s running the coop?
-regional cooperative (mostly) – run by institutions that are already use to collaborating
-a lot of don’t knows (whole budget) – a lot of $100,000+

-software makes up the bulk
-coordinating staff and marketing
-24/7 backup

-most often provided by vendor
-multitypes also provide training – coordinated by vr group
-each library responsible
-found best to have centralized

-fliers through local libraries
-web sites
-dozens of ways, but no one way to do it

-ask patrons
-random sampling of questions/transcripts for quality
-lsta outcomes logic model
-peer review of librarians

-23 different themes
-funding, growth, software, usage, instant messaging, staffing, support, teenagers, training, change, collaboration, coordinator, marketing, morale, academic library participation, bureaucracy, user expectations, urban/rural divide

-growth, launch, marketing, participation, usage, support, partnerships, aooperation, electronic resources,

-twice as many challenges as there are successes

IM isn’t as big as he thought it would be as a challenge

Understanding the context of the question (wanting) to be asked
-understand the user’s goals

move the question, not the user(patron)

expand the link to the vr service
-promote service to the ftf patron via service hours listed on the door
-findability, ubiquity
-“think the library is closed? Think again”

even if libs. Can’t devote staff time, still talk to them about the service, let them play with the software and encourage them to put the link on their site

Collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium : Joe Janes, Keynote Speaker

Welcome from:
Kris Johnson – Colorado State VR Service
Eugene Hainer – Director, Colorado State Library

Joe Janes – Keynote speaker (get link)
“Why Collaborate?”
point of branch public libraries is that they’re w/in walking distance of wherever you are, they’re so important they’re everywhere.
The main branch, the new Seattle pl is grandiose, shows it’s importance
Grand reading room at UWash, statement that they’re “holy” places
Reference desk, picture of one in 1905, looks very similar to today

What is reference?
Readers need great deal of assistance
Direct personal aid w/in a library – Margaret Hutchins

Where reference has been
Green(1876) we do reference because there’s too much stuff and it’s hard to find
Help w database searching, be pleasant, don’t talk about legal medical advise

Reference is in transition
As the information environment changes
-continually evolving techologgies, aloowing/fostering increased self-investigation
-constrained $, competitive and volatile information marketplace (publisher and consumer)
-increased focus on privacy and intellectual freedom
-perceptions of libraries and librarians, increasing marginalization
-changes society
-more people doing more searches on their own – huge win for us
-information marketplace is considerably more competitive and volitive
-you have fewer people owning more and more and then there are all this free stuff, have to stay on top of it all
-our biggest enemy is indifference

-you can do better searching today than 10 years ago. Prior to that you had to physically stand up and move to the information. Now it’s at your laptop

-this is the information environment we are living in and reference has to live in this as well

what we are best at
our traditional strengths
-service orientation – we’re really good at helping people understand what they need
-determining needs & understanding context
-multiple modes of searching

-evaluation of resources
-when to stop
-education about the process – even when they don’t care
-tool-making - pathfinders
go with, build on these, in the library that is now

what is reference for?
A better question
The circumstances which gave rise to it (in the old days – 1890’s-ish)
-increased number, variety of information resources
-increase in complexity of those resources – the concept of a library catalog is becoming more complex
-it’s harder to find information w/in those resources – difficult to identify the resources you need and then the info w/in them
-increase in number & diversity of people using libraries – wider range of needs, enquireies, sophistication in searching

what is reference for? (ca 1935)
a new technology that widens access to the library
telephone – raised lots of issues/Qs
-important v less important questions, people
-centralized or dispersed?
-dedicated information resources?
-different levels of service

Collaboration: the old days
“one great library” (ALA: Eliot 1902, Gould 1909) largely around collections, scarce books, regional/national libraries
-why don’t we have one large library that everyone can draw one
-efficient and economic, but also…. – this was their argument
-more stuff to more people
-combination & organization are “watchwords of the day” & we can’t be left behind
-supplement, not replace, local libraries – fear that anything above the local level will overtake us
-open stacks were bad service model – people will browse and might find the wrong info

Wyer (1930) quote –“…it may be better if books traveled less and people traveled more…”
-regarding records & catalogs but also service
-services like this provide training and vision opportunities

1940s Wilson Bulletin had a feature on “Fugitives” – Qs submitted and answered by readers
-expanded into cooperative project by the Peabody Library School (Nashville PL) where students answered Qs to gain experience and to help smaller libraries
-weakness: emphasis on very unusual questions and not enough on questions which….

Margaret Hutchins (1944) “it is frequently the custom” to exchange reference services in larger cities
-asking for help from another library is a delicate matter requiring tact – ask a favor, not a right
- should the inquirer or librarian ask the “new” library for help?
-isolated or ongoing project?
-can inquirer write an intelligible letter?
-does the library budget permit correspondence?
-is therea relationship between the libraries?
-she’s already thinking in a prelim. Way how these services can be developed

Old arguments for collaboration
-efficiency and economy first, last and foremost – we are better off together
-vision– this opens up the notion what library service is, what it’s for
-training & education
-quality (but only obliquely, implicitly) – didn’t really come up
how do these arguments hold up today?
Efficiency, training kind of a given
Vision – you can not do this and not get the vision, we are all better of together, we get this
Speed, clarity, quality
– collaboration has got to make it better – collaborative value
-can speed be part of that equation? – collaboration in any flavor implies time, regardless of mode (email, phone, chat, FTF)
-implies that the pressure of time will always be there
-implies that people have to wait, maybe 5-10 mins. Or maybe several days – people have to be willing to endure it – unless we acknowledge and build on that willingness as a focus
-one way collaboration will buy you time is if you focus on needs and inquirers – possible focal point for collab. Service
can collab. Services help with clarity? – collaborative value
“improving the question” - how can a caollaborative service per se do that, without appearing redundant, feckless or frustrating?
-who does the interview and how does it move forward?
-how do we improve clarity in a collab. Environment w/out looking/sounding like idiots? – don’t know, need to figure this out
Quality – collab. Value
-chance to show off our collective resources, yes, to provide higher quality responses…but also a chance to show off our skills, can only do that with deeper, more meaningful Qs
-show off how good you are – can only do this w deep, meaningful Qs
-deep, meaningful, hard

Collabortive value – today
-contemporary collab. Services also get us ubiquity of time and place
-increased service, yes
-bus also increased vision of what a service is and can be, both for them and for us
-when you provide a 24/7 service, you are explicitly making the argument that your library is a big deal, whenever, wherever you are – powerful statement
-vision argument both for them and us
-everytime someone says “I didn’t know a library could do that” we get bigger, and it grows in their minds, and we will stay in their minds
-ubiquity is a vision argument, and what ubiquity represents and it’s a reflection of the information environment
-that’s the info environment of today
-the more ubiquitous of the service the bigger the argument

any collab. Service has to be better, save time, foster better questions and provide better resonses
-has to provide a better experience for them and for us

we do such a great job in person…
-we have to do a better job online – service we provide online has got to be better than in person
-when someone engages w us digitally it is so much easier for them to leave, so the level of service we provide has to be across the board superior – and collab. Services have to be better

Thus a collab. Service (online) has to be one of the very best services a library offers – if you offer a crappy service they will go away and never come back

Margaret Hutchins – reference saves the money of individuals, save the time of busy people and ensures possession of facts which by themselves they could not obtain – 1944
-we can provide service to people that they can not have any other way

Quality, vision, clarity, ubiquity – this is why we collaborate
Betsy Wilson – “Vision is a rutter for change”

Q: a lot of research shows online questions to be ready reference
A: definition of ready reference, ready ref will always be w us, I can’t imagine that’s the point, if we were going to pick a niche to focus on that wouldn’t be it, let’s pick a niche that we can shine, things that matter to people

Collabortive Virtual Reference Symposium

I'm in Denver for the Collaborative Virtual Reference Library. The link isn't working for us here at the hotel in Denver, but hopefully it's working for you outside the hotel.
There was a full day of discussions, presentations, and panelist groups. I hope in my blogging attempts here that I've been able to capture as much of the activity and focus as possible. The write ups for each session turned out to be fairly long so I'll post them one by one...

July 23, 2007

The Future of the California Statewide Cooperative Digital Reference Service

Librarian in Black blogger, Sarah Houghton-Jan, recently posted an article on the future for California libraries' statewide chat reference. She states that although the state is currently offering this service free to CA residents, it is completely dependent on state and grant funding outside of regular budget lines for it's survival. Each year funding for the service has been less and less. Last year and this coming year there has been enough funding to keep the service up and running but there has not been enough to maintain a coordinator to administer the service.

There has been A LOT of discussion about this on the DigRef listserv. Some of the points highly in the discussion string are how to libraries firm up funding for their newly added services/projects? How do you transition from a grant fund base to having your service incorporated in the permanent budget structure? Also, it's important to set (achievable) goals for your library so that you have something to fall back on when you have to defend your service and also something to tout when you want to promote your successful service. What and who will define these goals?

I think the most important thing when you are trying to transition a project or service from temporary funding to permanent funding is that you have successful measureable goals that prove your service or project have/can make an inpact in your community. Also, it is important that the ones that administer the service or project be actively involved in creating those goals because otherwise, those goals will be created by individuals that are not involved in the project or service and may not know or understand the mission of that service or project. They could create goals that are not in scope with the project/service or its intended outcomes.

It will be interesting to see how California structures their AskNow statewide digital reference service to receive enough funding to keep it going.

July 11, 2007

Mobile Technologies and Reference Services

While at the ALA Annual Conference last month in D.C. I blogged about one of the sessions I attended, Libraries2Go: Library Services for Handhelds (see post below). It was really interesting to hear what the various libraries were up to and how they were adapting their service and website for mobile use for/with patrons. It seemed that U Cal - Merced has a good grasp of mobile technologies, how its being used by their students, and how they fit into this. Seeing that they do not have phones at the reference desk, only cell phones, it was a natural progression for them to adopt SMS text reference. They did give a convincing argument why libraries should seriously consider adding SMS text reference to their list of services. However, I couldn't help but think that this is a rapidly evolving area and what we see today for SMS text reference is going to look vastly different in a year from now. That shouldn't stop a library to persue the idea of adding this or testing it out. I've always been a fan of playing with new technologies. Those that do start working with this technology will be able to adapt the changing environment with ease. Mobile technologies are not going away. On the contrary, this is where the market is heading. It's all about what's in your pocket!

To this end, if you are interested in learning more about SMS text reference and mobile technologies in general, here are some helpful links to get you going in the right direction:
Can you TXT the LBRY? - Michael Stephens blog in ALA Tech Source about the Mississippi Library 2.0 Summit
Make Your Services Smarter: How Smartphones Can Extend Your Service and Let You Work Away From Your Office and the Reference Desk - a PALINET podcast
Ball State University Libraries Mobile Project
Mobile Phones as Mass Media - at bottom of page is a good selection of current books on the topic as well.
Text a Librarian - info page from Sims Library of Southeastern Louisiana University (great example of a SMS text reference service already up and running!)

June 25, 2007

See it, Hear it, Touch it: How do Communication and Learning Styles Affect Virtual Reference?

3 speakers:
Eileen G Abels
Associate Professor
iSchool at Drexel
Drexel University

Marie Radford
Associate Professor & Library Consultant
School of Communication
Information & Library Studies
Rutgers University

Lynn Westbrook
Assistant Professor
School of Information
University of Texas – Austin

Joe Thompson
Project Coordinator: Maryland AskUsNow!
Co-chair, RSS/MARS Virtual Reference Committee

Description: Out increasingly texh savvy virtual reference users have radically different communication and learning preferences. A lively panel of experts will explore new learning options, present recent research findings, and recommend innovative approaches relevant for all types of libraries.

Panel Discussion Sponsored by: RUSA’s MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Committee, RSS Cooperative Reference Committee, and ACRL’s Instruction Section

First, series of 6 prearranged questions – hear responses, then look at audience’s questions.

1. What do we know about users’ communication and learning styles that is important for guiding decisions about library services?

MR: based off her research: Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-User, and Librarian Perspectives
-youngest group, screenages 12-18, millennial group heavy users of chat and im
-most studied generation in history
-like more choice and selectivity
-don’t pay as much attention to grammar and spelling
-grew up in a world that’s customized/customizable – tv, ringtones…
-worship convenience
-want to do it themselves
-very practical, results oriented

-we should offer as broad variety of services as we can
-they want to be assured that our services are secure for them to use – no cyberstalkers
-appeal to their desire to save time
-be positive – tell them what you can do, not what you can’t – they’re very enthusiastic and we want to encourage that
-build personal relationships – we are not robots
-if they like our service they will return and they will tell their friends

EA: very different styles of users, our types and styles are going to have to vary to accommodate

LW: information resolutions – look at what they’re doing in their own environments – social comfort, cyber safety
-many different aspects involved in working on the internet
-need to feel comfortable and safe
-need help w getting to localized info, govt, resources
-we can be that bridge in how they learn and think about getting to info
-talking about people in crisis, social crisis situations

2. How do the communication styles of librarians influence the provision of vr services?

EA: who offers chat reference services? Some libs feel like they’re being forced into this offering this service. Does this differ from those that freely offer it?
-is it different than the different venues of offering the service, phone, email, desk…
-it will be a better service if the libs. Are on the same style
-many of the students going to be libs did change their preferences – communication styles – most preferred at beginning of course ftf, at end of course – digital
-training helps to find what works best for them (libs.)
training tool at Drexel:
-overall they were using google as search tool of choice – not selecting appr. Source/tool
-going straight for an answer not a source – lack of understanding of invisible web
-not determining the authority of the author/publisher of info on the web
-confusing authoritative sites w those supported by ads

MR: -in study next to ftf they found chat to be a great way of building a relationship and get comfortable in using the service (lib side)

EA: -what makes us uncomfortable in doing chat? Letting your hair down
-losing library as place, no physical place
-we’re suppose to step up and have those signs that we will be there as the librarian in the physical space
-we’ve lost that symbolism of what our role is
-looking for the way of saying I’ll help you, this is my job, may feel that we are losing that thru chat
-best communication style is actually getting their need met
-what they’re saying matters, the lib is listening
-need to get that responsiveness across in chat
-we need to let go of the nervousness, they’ll see it

MR: our need is to do the instruction, their need is to get that info
-Only 25% of users use more than one search term

3. What threatens or supports the users’ sense of self-efficacy in an exchange?

LW: what does self-efficacy mean? We take that for granted, we need them to feel better about how they get info, not just getting their need met
-their understanding of what info is and how it’s structured is part of the self-efficacy
-what can we do to help?
-when there is a viable opportunity engage them, make them active in the process
-ask what will make that relevant/useful to them
-give them things that contrast w each other
-“do you need a scholarly article on this or a whole book on it?”
-make them think thru the different parts of the info –make that a teachable moment
-offer differentiated choices
-clarity of purpose, role, relationship
-acknowledgement of domain knowledge, preferences, requirements,
-focus on tool/process, not problem
-rush to closure, no time for scaffolding
-poor reciporcation of self-disclosure, tone
-hiding clay feet – don’t fake it

-understanding library terms – didn’t understand reference – librarians need to think like their users’ do
-barrier of understanding/communication

MR: libs. Are hesitant to do a referral
-a chat question should really be done in email or ftf
-you’re doing them a disservice if you don’t refer
-the average, mean time for chat is 12.5 minutes which is close to the mean of ftf
-apply ftf terms to chat terms

handouts will be provided on the committee’s website

4. What might be problematic or supportive in what librarians are doing?

MR: I’ve been studying this question for 20 yrs.
-what can we do? I can’t overemphasize this
-the way you begin the session is critical, must be positive
-set positive tone from beginning
-develop personal relationship – be personal, personal need, be open
-be prepared

-what to expect from screenagers?
Higher numbers/averages
-polite expressions
-alternate spellings
-educate them that we’re real, not robots

Lower numbers/averages

how do libs. Treat screenagers
-don’t do the correction if they made a mistake…
-seeking reassurance/confirmation self-disclosure
-inviting to return
-informal lang
-abrupt ending
bottom line:
-positive approach will limit problematic behavior
teach users how to use vr
set expectations for vr
ultimately in 1 to 1 interactions we forge the future in vr

EA: what is problematic or supportive
-take a look at the website and make sure that info is easy to get to
-are we meeting the needs of reality in vr
-are services easy to find?
-chat interactions – if we continue to use google, free resources what will happen to our collection budget? May become problematic

LW: we have a lot of barriers to service, various reasons – we know why but the user doesn’t know why
-we need to bring the user w us, explain what we’re doing let them see what we’re doing
-they know their role

audience question: What are your thoughts of users using screen names in chat?
MR: using their first name makes it personal
-younger users like it when you use their first name back
-screen name vs avitar name
-definitely use a personal name
-look like a real person than a robot

LW: -definitely, also let’s them remember you when/if they want to get back to you
-you are somebody, they can send you an email later, follow up
-they can do that if you give them a way to do that

JT: we were asked to add personal names from our cooperative so users know who we are
-use names vs initials – staff we’re afraid – you can use a fake name, that’s ok

aq: what’s the best way of asking a question?

LW: give users viable options
-get them closer to what they want, where they want to go

MR: query clarification – accuracy is boosted a lot by clarifying/paraphrasing
-where have you already looked, good ol’ open questions are good at the beginning
-closed questions are good near end
-boosts accuracy

EA: rather than asking too many questions, make sure you’re getting at the right questions and answers
-it’s frustrating if you’re sending the wrong answer

MR: low percentage of hurry up’s

Aq: ideas for training staff to recognize and ajust to the user

EA: need to practice
-a lot of the schools aren’t providing the hands-on experiences
-training programs should have people working on these
-practice helps with different styles
-providing the opportunity for learning and feedback

MR: we have a lot of these skills developed in other areas, ftf – look at face
-mirror their behavior, look at their behavior and mirror that
-if they say, k – say k instead of ok , little things we can do
-challenge because we can’t see them

LW: I think it’s really useful to get them to be the customer
-libs. Try chatting with other commercial areas, car dealers, cable company
-they will live it and see it from the user’s point of view
-look at some other places that offer chat and try it – it gives you a different perspective

JT: you can try a secret shopper in chat

EA: role reversal
-if you don’t knowwhat they’re searching or doing it may make you impatient

MR: phone conferencing, what are you doing that while your on the phone conference?
-the younger they are the more likelihood they have 10-12 screens open

LW: they’re multitasking…

5. How do user’s and librarian’s expectations influence vr transactions (especially when those expectations may be established thru use of google, wikipedia, im social networks?)

LW: if it doesn’t work for them, then they have failed
-it’s a seemless world that they need to fit into
-mcdonald’s, homogenize look for response
-it gives them an expectation of choice, they feel that they should have options, choice
-natural tension
-choices in process, product, media
net communication pattern influences
-blurring of task and social purposes
-unclear on narrative structure of disclosure
-privacy and control

-we’re use to a narrative approach, beginning, middle, ending
-that’s not the way they function, they come in, im, go out, check back, dip in, dip out
-privacy – they think they have more than they do

MR: the user has a narrative too they just have a different ending
-a lot of the times when they come to us they are frustrated, looking at it from their perspective
-immediacy, instanteousy, instant gratification
-we have to tell them if it’s a quick question or not
-they don’t have that good perspective and we need to share that w them

EA: pew internet researches this a lot and should look at their site
-self-service is a big trend, counter to reference
-develop a well-designed website
-alternatives to meet their expectations

JT: time expecatations during session, tell the user that
-during that keep them in touch of still searching

aq: for EA: is the citation available in your search term
EA: Amanda sfink(?) not sure, email me I’ll get it

MR: end user, 25% were only using one search term – eustof

JT: for EA: how do user expectations effect learning styles

EA: on ala website, listed various partners for learning opportunities
-a partnership approach is the best way to go
-we were successful in the hands-on component but didn’t have specialized training needs for academic or public, best to go thru org and vendor
-in Internet Public Library– got grant to help transform the training materials for lis programs
ipl student assistance, link to training materials
-training opportunities in the classes there were different learning styles
-telephone conference least preferred method
-online tutorial – short – people learned well w those
-using them w end users keeping them under 5 mins. Kept them interest

MR: w vr we have the lone ranger approach
-recommends double teaming
-if there is a team in your lib doing vr ask them to be in the same room w you as you do it to watch what each other does
-they have tricks, learning from each other
-you can learn a lot that way

LW: think of it as a staged effort
-it’s building something, weaving something
-pulling the pieces together gradually
-give yourself permission to do it, growth that is continuous

JT: continuous training is probably the hardest part, refresher training
-instead of vendor training, useful if someone from you own org. does training to provide perspective

Buff Hirko: virtual reference adventure, make sure you visit this site! There’s also a book

MR: moodle and noodle – they are open source blackboard tools

8. How can we best leverage traditional vs virtual including web 2.0 applications and services to attract yound people to physical as well as digital libraries, given their communcication preferendce and learning styles?

MR: how do we attract people to the vr arena
-broad variety of traditional & VRS – ftf, group, phone, chat, im… - promote phone ref now – everyone has a cell phone – tell your students to add lib phone # to their address book – then tell them about lib hours and services
-go where users are – young are online
-more research, pew shown, 90% of younger people go to the internet for info, not turning to the physical for info, also call a friend (someone they know) before a lib
-feeling like they are not welcomed in the lib
-try something different, reinvent –staffing options – software options (free vs fee) – evaluate everything, reassess
-declare all ref alive & well – renew focus on commitment to service excellence(!!!!)
-embrace change & new challenges
-build personal relationships

aq: do you have any ideas of purposing chat to admins that have already decided they don’t want it
EA: conduct user study
-see what peers are doing
-have a plan in mind, design a study – look at software, chat vs im
-not opt for 24/7 initially, have a plan on offering a service

aq: how to encourage reluctant staff to be involved?

EA: you can’t force libs. To offer the service and have a high quality service
-they won’t do it justice
-they should be exposed to it, seen libs. Convert over time
-those that like chat ref are doing that
-go w strengths but expose them

MR: shadow libs. With experienced chat libs and non
-experimental trial to see what users say about it – mostly get positive responses

JT: we make sure to send out positive service comments out monthly

Panelists: if you have questions you want the researchers to address contact them

One last question:
What questions is it perceived ok for libs. To ask about during the vr exchange? What questions is it ok for users to ask?

LW: there’s that face, I’m ok you’re ok
-when asking for clarification, that’s that balancing, it’s helpful
-the way we mess it up is when we assume too much trust, expectations too high
-when we need the facts we need to give them context and recipocate
-when they want to know what they can ask us – we need to tell them that they can ask us anything and pull them thru
-tie them in all the way thru, that partnership

JT: ties in with what were discussing next year in Anaheim
-we would like to hear from you if there is one idea that was useful, helpful – you will take away today
audience: continual training, always getting people back to refresh

-idea of change of state of lib. Stereotype of lib.

-cellphone number

-working on im scripts, can’t have but encourage staff to have a closure statement
EA: let users know you are using a script
JT: scripts were useful to not type so much but also helpful to see tone to use, reminders
MR: using expressions instead of formal lang.

Presentation slides and contact info of this session will be posted at the RUSA website: http://tinyurl.com/2h7d2y

June 23, 2007

Virtual Reference Discussion Group

Round Table discussion
Fixing it Up - If YOU could fix or customize your VR system, what would you change?

-I don't have notes from this sesison because I was a table facilitator and handed in all the notes contributed by the group.

Main points:
-we want to see an integration of IM and vendor-based chat software that allows our users to contact us using any format that they want and have it come to us in one place
-fix co-browse!!!
-statistics, great - we want more controll/customization - integrated in IM
-greater customization of patron subject area filtered to appropriate areas (I'm losing the point on this one)
-Florida State found a way to extract stats from their meebo acct - i asked them to put it up on webjunction.org - i'll keep checking
-how are we going to get vendors to listen to our feedback? - we may just end up developing open source software to do what we want instead of waiting around for vendors to respond

-sorry folks, it's the end of the day and that's about all i'm able to remember

-tomorrow, another full day!

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

June 18, 2007

DigRef Blog goes to ALA

Btw, I will be attending the ALA Annual conference in Washington, D.C. at the end of this week and will be taking the DigRef blog with me and commenting on the various reference sessions I will be attending. To start off, I will be attending the "Reinvented Reference 3: Emerging Technologies for Reference Services" preconference all day workshop. Stay tuned for posts about that as well as other great sessions!

May 1, 2007


Recently, I've been playing around with Yuuguu which is a non-browser based downloaded chat window. Although the current version (in beta) requires each person to download the software to their own computer and register for a free account to communicate with another Yuuguu user, there are some very interesting components to the software. First, it allows you to co-browse with another user independent of OS (PC to Mac, Mac to PC, Mac to Mac, PC to PC) and using any browser (Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox...). Also, Yuuguu let's you share your desktop and files with another Yuuguu user. You can even co-edit documents and complete online forms together in real-time. The co-edit feature is a bit sluggish but it works. When connected to another Yuuguu user I have the opportunity to share my desktop and files and so does the other user.

It's not perfect but it does seem to be getting a step closer to what we librarians are ultimately looking for in a virtual reference environment which is to easily communicate with patrons via chat windows embedded in websites that don't require any downloading or registration on the patrons end and can seamlessly co-browse between different operating systems and browsers. Yuuguu is still in beta so it will be interesting to watch how this software develops and what other similar products are coming up with.

April 2, 2007

New Article Published by MINITEX Staff Member

Carla Steinberg Pfahl, MINITEX reference staff member, along with colleagues from University of Minnesota Libraries - Twin Cities, Van Houlson and Kate McCready, has published an article in the recent issue of Internet Reference Services Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 4. Here is the transcript from that article:

A Window into Out Patron’s Needs: Analyzing Data from Chat Transcripts

Abstract: This article provides an analysis of transcripts of chat reference transactions. The data analyzed for this study were from 631 chat reference transcripts from the University of Minnesota Libraries – Twin Cities Campus collected from January to Mary for both 2003 and 2004. Specifically, the patrons’ statuses, the length of sessions, the type of chat transactions, and the types of questions asked were examined. The findings determined that though a majority of patrons seeking assistance from the chat reference service were undergraduates (41%), graduate students used the service a surprising amount (28%). Overwhelmingly, most students needed assistance finding specific items or wanted to know how to find a resource. However, 17% of the undergraduates using this service were seeking in-depth reference assistance. The analysis has allowed for the transformation of chat reference services (including staffing and training) and also informs decisions about library services, Web sites, and collections.

March 13, 2007

Promoting Your Digital Reference Service

Lately, I've been looking at the sites LibX.org and Conduit.com. They offer FREE! tools that allow you to create an ever-present toolbar for your digital reference service. You can also use it for other services such as your catalog. Patrons can download the toolbar onto their own browser (I've found that it works best with Firefox) and connect to a librarian (when the service is available) at any given whim. Ask a question without even going to the library's website. What a great way to promote your service!

March 6, 2007

In Case You Missed It...

Tech Talk a University of Minnesota television production that airs on TPT2 is a show that talks about the latest technologies being used in various aspects of business, education, and the home. Last night was a rebroadcast of show focusing on libraries. The theme, "The Changing Face of Libraries", brought in 2 guest speakers, Kit Hadley, Director of Minneapolis Public Libraries, and John Butler, Director of the Digital Libraries Development Lab part of the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Libraries. Each discussed new technologies their libraries are using to better serve and engage their patrons and the community.

Kit Hadley talked about the new Minneapolis Public Library building and space. They specifically designed the new building with an open floor plan, no walls, to allow for improvements and changes in technology in the future. Also, staff are equipt with wireless pagers/walkie talkies that allow them to contact another staff member by voice command that saves them time in tracking down people that may be in different rooms or on different levels. It also allows staff to stay mobile and in better contact with their patrons.

John Butler talked about the different technologies being used by University Libraries to connect with patrons outside the libraries with services such as Digital Reference (he highlighted the co-browse feature as a learning moment teaching students how to use the libraries website), Electronic Reserves, which allow students to access selected copyrighted material for their course online, and CourseLib, which is a database driven tool that pulls together the resources used in support specific courses. Each tool is designed with to meet patron's need for easy access online and ease of use. John also highlighted the Assignment Calculator part of the Undergraduate Digital Library as a way for undergrads to gauge the timeframe and steps involved in the research process.

In my next blog entry I will talk more about the Research Project Calculator that was adapted from the U Libraries' Assignment Calculator specifically for the high school student.

December 20, 2006

Web-based Chat

There is a new(er) player in the rhealm of chat software available to libraries, a web-based chat tool called meebo. Just like Gaim or Trillian, meebo is a multiplatform IM tool that allows you to talk to anyone with an AIM, Yahoo, GoogleTalk, or MSN screen name. However, Meebo differs from Gaim or Trillian because nothing needs to be downloaded. You just sign in to your (FREE) meebo account and start IM'ing with anyone and everyone.

Another great feature that Meebo has recently unveiled is meebo me. Which is a small web to IM gateway widget that librarians can put on webpages that allows people without IM accounts to IM the library’s screen name. It is pretty much 90% of the functionality of vendor driven web-based chat products….but it is FREE. And it just works. And doesn’t commandeer their whole browser. Etc, etc.

Here’s the full post on the meebo blog: librarian love. There are a few nice, “Yay libraries!” comments on it.

November 28, 2006

Is Co-Browsing Dead?

Recently there has been a discusion of the value/use of co-browsing in digital reference services on the DigRef listserv. Some of the comments talked about are patrons finding value when co-browsed is used in a session. The answer resoundingly has been "yes... when it works!" This seems to have been the concluding thought for many librarians for years. We want to use co-browse and patrons find it extremely beneficial when it is used to share/edit documents and to guide patrons through searches, resources, and websites.

However, because of the instability of the application and its limited browser function many librarians have abandoned digital reference products for simpler and more commonly used (among patrons) IM programs. Using a multiplatform IM program such as Trillion or GAIM or the web-based service Meebo. Since many patrons already use IM it has not been difficult for libraries to tell patrons to "Add us to your buddy list!" We are still communicating to our patrons and communicating to them on their terms using the software they are familiar with. Privacy is rarely an issue because most libraries don't save IM transcripts and patrons don't have to use their real names. IM also creates an environment where you can't get too in-depth with the type of questions that can be answered. No need to worry about whether a patron is suppose to have access to a certain resource or not because you don't co-browse with IM.

There are many great advantages to IM as there are to using co-browse. Can we have the best of both worlds? Maybe. As Caleb Tucker-Raymond points out in a recent response on the DigRef listserv, ideally what we need is to be able to share and interact with resources and documents using any digital reference medium. Currently, that is not possible using one application. However, there are tools out there that can help with this. As Caleb explains:

You have probably heard of OpenURL, the standard for linking to
electronic documents no matter who is asking for them or who owns them.
This is great. Now you can send a patron a link/citation to an article
from the New York Times and he can open it even though you are logged
into Big U's subscription through Lexis/Nexis and he is logged in
through Little PL's subscription through NewsBank. Or, that's the idea.

You may not have heard of SRU, which stands for Search and Retrieve via
URL. It is "a standard search protocol for Internet search queries". Do
you know how you can copy your Google Search and bookmark it and save it
and e-mail it to a patron? SRU would let us do that with library
catalogs and databases. It would obviate the need for co-browsing (at
least the part where we are using co-browsing to share and review
searches), and it would work over IM, too.

So while co-browsing is not dead, we do have more than one option for guiding and pointing patrons to resources and websites and sharing documents. I suspect more options like these and transformations of IM/digital reference software will start forming as the use of mashups increases to create these specialized and useful tools.