Service Provider FAQ

Unless the solution below specifies other people to contact, please report all technical problems to AskAway Administrative Centre. You may also wish to inform the AskAway/QuestionPoint local admin person at your library.

Before you start

What should I do before my shift?

We recommend that you open up QuestionPoint, Campfire, Guest Logins, and Staff Portal. Also, take a look at our full checklist online.

How should I use Campfire?

You will want to use Campfire as a communication tool between yourself and the other AskAwayers on shift. It can help provide better service for our patrons. Using Campfire you can share your expertise on tricky or local knowledge questions, find out about any technical problems that may be occurring, facilitate call transfers, etc. For more information on using Campfire, please see the AskAway Blog.

Any general tips?

  • Chat Through Technical Problems. Let the patron know that there may be delays in response due to technical difficulties (further details are not usually necessary).
  • Use the Scripts & Preselected URLs. There are some scripted messages for dealing with common technical problems, and more scripts will be added soon.
  • Know When To Give Up. If you or your patron are becoming frustrated or impatient, don't insist on trying every possible solution to a technical problem. Try one or two troubleshooting options, but then resort to what does work: chatting, perhaps page pushing. If appropriate, send the patron a message like, "Looks like that's not going to work tonight -- I'm going to send you X instead."
  • Always Follow Up. If a patron disappears, flakes out, or otherwise doesn't stick with you from start to finish, don't just end the session. The transcript isn't complete until you end the session, which means you can add information, give troubleshooting tips, suggest a few resources, or even answer the question even when the patron appears to have disappeared. Don't spend loads of time on abandoned sessions, but always be sure to suggest a few resources or include a suggestion to use email reference.

Logging in

Where do I login?

Go to the AskAway Staff Portal and click the QuestionPoint Login link.

I've forgotten my User ID / my password.

Your User ID is a six digit number, something like this: 120123. If you have forgotten your ID or your password, contact the AskAwayer at your library who is administrating your library's QuestionPoint account. This person is known as the AskAway Local Admin, and her/his name is listed in each library's Policy Page. S/he can retrieve your User ID, and reset or email you your password. If it's urgent and you cannot contact your Local Admin, contact AskAway Administrative Centre. We can retrieve your User ID and reset or email you your password.

I'm the only one logged in. Help! Isn't someone else supposed to be on with me?

1.  Wait a moment to see if it changes. If you have just logged in, it may take a moment for the current data to appear.
2.  Check your browser settings to make sure your QP chat monitor is updating properly. 
3.  Use the Staffing Schedule to determine which other library is supposed to be covering the shift. If you wish, phone the Local Admin person at that library and politely inquire - often their contact info is at the bottom of the library's Policy Page.
4.  On the weekends or if you cannot get a response at that library, use the Swamped button on the Staff Tools page of the Portal to send out a call for more AskAwayers and contact the AskAway Administrative Centre.

Can I change my screen name?

Yes, your local administrator has access to change your name. However, we do recommend leaving your name as the default. Each person staffing AskAway needs to be uniquely identified; as in the real world, this assists other librarians in identifying who they are working with in QuestionPoint, and who they are transferring calls and instant messaging to. A unique identifier is also essential for collecting AskAway statistics. The default screen name for AskAway staff is FirstNameLastInitial@AskAway screen name, e.g. BrandonW@AskAway. While using your real name is preferable, if you are not comfortable with this for reasons of privacy, you may choose a different screen name.

Picking up a patron

What are the best practices around picking up patrons?

Ultimately we want to be able to provide our patrons with the best service possible. Taking a moment for assessment before picking up the patron can be very helpful.

  • Allow librarians to pick up their own patrons if possible.
  • Pick up patrons as quickly as possible – aim for no more than 60 second wait time.
  • Remember that other libraries have different internet/network speeds and may not see the alerts as quickly as you.
  • Communicate on Campfire if you feel something is wrong!

For more tips, please see the AskAway Blog.

During the chat

What can I do to make my shift easier during busy times?

  • Log into Campfire! In Campfire you're able to quickly communicate with all your AskAway colleagues online.
  • Pick up patrons as quickly as you can, preferably before 60 seconds have passed, and use the swamped scripts to manage patron expectations and queue flow.
  • Login to both QuestionPoint and Campfire a few minutes early. Offering to take transfers and pick-up new questions around shift-change relieves the burden on AskAwayers…
  • When it is busy, having a number of windows open at the same time can get confusing. Try using two browsers…
  • Refer, refer, refer! During busy times, you may not have the time to give every patron the in-depth help you'd like to give them.

For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.
For more questions about multiple users, please see the AskAway Blog.

What is the swamped button?

The Swamped button will automatically create an email addressed to the AskAway service providers listserv saying that AskAway is swamped. All you have to do to is enter your email address and press "send". Your email address must be the one subscribed to the eln-vrefservprov listserv - contact the Admin Centre if you aren't sure which address is subscribed to the listserv. The Swamped button is located on the Staff Tools page. For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

Can I use resources from my institution to help a patron that isn't from my institution?

No, we are always helping the patrons with resources they have access to, even if we know the perfect resource exists somewhere else. Login into the Guest Logins to find out the Librarian login for your patron's institution.  If you need help accessing the guest logins page, contact the Administrative Centre.

How can I quickly find information for an institution I'm not familiar with?

Each library filled out a template of ready reference information, called a Policy Page, so you don't have to search their websites. You can either use the Policies link in the chat window to link directly to the policy page for your patron's home library or use the Library Policy Pages link on the Portal.

QuestionPoint Technical

What do the patron status indicators mean?

The patron status indicators inform us of the current status of our patrons.

  • ( ! ) Patron is typing.
    (+) Just sent a new response.
    (yellow) Is off searching or may be slow responding.
    (red) If they may have disconnected from the session.

For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

Can I still use co-browse?

QuestionPoint no longer supports co-browsing, but there are other tools out there, such as Screenr or Jing, that you can use to create instant videos for sending to patrons. More information is available at the AskAway Wiki, under Productivity Tools.

What is the All tab for in the chat monitor?

The All tab lists calls that other AskAwayers in your queue are working on.  Calls YOU are currently working on will not show up in the All tab. 

The All tab can also be used to enter into Conference Mode on another AskAwayer's call.  Only use the Conference Mode to join another call if you have okayed it with the AskAwayer handling the call!

What is the difference between the My Library scripts and the Patron Library scripts in the chat monitor?

My Library scripts show service-wide scripts, scripts specific to the AskAwayer's institution and personal scripts created by the AskAwayer. The Patron Library scripts also show service-wide scripts, however, they also show scripts that are specific to the patron's institution.

How do I create my own scripts?

Institution-specific scripts can be created by the QuestionPoint local admin for each institution. Instructions on creating institutional scripts are available on the Portal. Step by step instructions for personal scripts are available online through Scripts and URLS.

What is the difference between the full-screen interface and the Qwidget interface that the patron sees?

The Qwidget is the popular IM chat window, it is typically located on the institution's library website or within the article databases. The chat screen will display [QWIDGET] next to the patron's question. Patrons will need to open a new window to open any links sent to them, to ensure they don't lose their chat window. The full-screen interface is the other option for patrons. It is typically connected by links to AskAway or the logo button on the library website. In this interface the URLs sent to patrons will automatically show up as a web page in the chat side-browser.

How do I transfer a patron to another AskAwayer?

Patron calls can be transferred to another AskAwayer by clicking the Transfer button in the chat window. A list of available AskAwayers will appear for you to select the recipient. For more detailed instructions, see page ten of the Service Manual on the Portal.

Ending the session

How can we successfully close the session for the patron?

There are many ways to help successfully close a patron session. Make sure you check the patron has enough to get started. Ask if they'd like any additional assistance with their original question or if they have any other questions before closing. Has your patron stopped communicating? Check-out the Patron Status Indicators in the chat monitor for current info on them. Try to wait for the "Patron is no longer connected." message before closing the session and send them additional resources if possible. For more tips, please see the AskAway Blog.

I have a red dot or my patron isn't responding, what should I do?

Patrons can disappear for long periods of time and even return to a session from a red dot indicator and find it frustrating that their question was closed without any explanation. Just remember that until the "Patron is no longer connected." message appears, they may still return! For more tips, please see the AskAway Blog.

Which resolution code should I use?

There are five resolution codes available as you end your sessions, but please use only these three: Answered, Lost Call, and Practice.

  • Use Lost Call in all cases where you felt that there was some technical reason why the patron disappeared abruptly and unexpectedly, i.e. neither of you intended the call to end.
  • Use Answered in all other cases where you felt that both you and the patron were aware that the call was coming to an end. This is regardless of whether you felt you answered the question or not. If you're not sure, use Answered.
  • Use Practice for any practice sessions.

For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

What are the descriptive codes?

Descriptive codes will allow us to gain a better understanding of how our patrons are using the service. A complete list of the AskAway descriptive codes and their definitions can be found on the Portal, in Descriptive and Resolution Codes. For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

Finishing the shift

Do I need to log out the end of my shift?

Closing the browser window does not log you out of QuestionPoint; it may take hours for your session to time-out if you do this, and you will be visible to other AskAwayers until then. There is no way of knowing someone has left unless they have logged out. This leads to slower service, as other AskAwayers leave calls expecting you to pick them up because you do not have any sessions in progress, or because the patron is from your institution.

Log out by clicking the Logout link in the top right of the chat window. You will see a message confirming you have logged out.

I want to finish up one more question at the end of my shift. Can I stay on without picking up other questions?

It's your choice whether you would like to stay to finish up a question after the end of your shift, or whether you would rather transfer the question to another service provider. If you would like to finish up your question, you can de-select the queue, so that you can continue with your call, but don't appear to be available to take more questions. To de-select the queue:

  • Click on the Queue link at the top of the librarian viewscreen
  • Uncheck and Save

How do I close the queue at the end of the night?

At closing time:

  • Click on the Queue link at the top of the librarian viewscreen
  • Uncheck and Save the list of Queue's monitored to zero (0), even if you have live chats in progress.

The service will close when every AskAwayer has left the AskAway Queue. The Qwidget and Fullscreen Chat links on library web pages will close allowing you to wrap up your current questions without new questions being queued. For more information, please see the AskAway Blog

A colleague is still logged in long after their shift was over. What's up?

Until everyone is logged out of the QuestionPoint, the service will remain open. If someone seems to be logged in past the end of their shift, please check the following:

  • Check the Staff schedule to see if they have a very long shift today
  • IM them to see if they are there, or if they have had a logout error
  • If they don't respond, try contacting them by phone and/or email and letting them know they're still logged in
  • If it's less than 2 hours before closing, contact the AskAway Administrative Centre
  • If they're still logged in at closing, you don't have to stay online – just be sure to let the AskAway Administrative Centre know by phone


Can AskAway transcripts be re-sent, at the user's request?

If a user asks for a transcript to be re-sent, we unfortunately have no way of verifying the identity of the person asking, so re-sending the transcript violates the patron's privacy. For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

What should I do when the patron thinks the service provider is always from their institution?

From a service perspective there is nothing wrong with letting users know that AskAway is serviced by BC and Yukon AskAwayers and that they are talking to an AskAwayer from a different institution. If they are asking for local information, which is when their mistaken belief is most likely to be evident, they may be more patient if they realize the AskAwayer they are talking to is from another institution, and understand why it takes a few moments to check and see whether their library is open, etc.

Additionally, we want to avoid users making the assumption that an AskAwayer from another institution they can't help them – if they seem discouraged, assure them we can always take them the first step in the research process or refer them to someone who can help them. For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

Why can't I ask a patron for their email address to follow up?

Because AskAway transcripts are stored on a server in the U.S., it is against BC privacy law for us to ask for any identifying or contact information from our patrons. Instead, service providers can choose to give a patron their own (professional) contact information, so that the patron may contact them for follow up. However, service providers are not required to do so. Another option is to refer the patron to someone at their own library, as appropriate.

How do I view my transcripts from other shifts?

To view past transcripts, select the Ask module in the upper right corner of My QuestionPoint and click the My Questions tab. These transcripts are only for the past 90 days. They are then are moved into the Service History tab. For best practices, review your transcripts while consulting the Self-Assessment Criteria.

Is there any quality control on AskAway sessions?

There is no quality control at the consortial level, only at the institutional level, if desired.


    My chat window keeps 'updating' - what do I do?

    Try logging out of your QP account and logging back in to see if that corrects the problem.  Your patrons should still be there after you log back in.  If the problem persists, communicate with your colleagues in Campfire and report the problem to the AskAway Administrative Centre.  Continue to try logging out and logging back in, or restarting your computer, until your shift is over.

    My computer just crashed/is frozen/I had a power outage - what do I do?

    QuestionPoint is very resilient. Even if you disconnect, it will keep the connection with the patron alive (as long as he or she doesn't hit the End button). Log back into the Chat monitor and check your Active queue. Your session(s) will be waiting there. Click on the patron's name to resume the session. The patron won't be aware that you have been experiencing technical difficulties at your end, so explain what happened in case they are frustrated at the delay.

    For a power outage, let the other AskAwayers on shift know, if you can. Send a message notifying the Admin Centre of your technical issues and log back in as soon as you can to log yourself out properly.

    I don't see any new patrons coming in, but other librarians see them - what do I do?

    With AskAwayers assisting patrons from all over BC and from Yukon, there are small technical differences between libraries, which lead to varying network speeds. Due to differing speeds, it's not unusual for one service provider to be made aware of a patron before another service provider. In this situation, it works to use Campfire to let other AskAwayers know that you suspect their network speed is faster than yours, and ask them to hold back a moment to let you pick up calls. Transferring calls is always an option as well. For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

    My patron is complaining that they keep getting timed out - what do I do?

    If the patron is using a Qwidget - suggest they enter their email address using the email icon/button pop-up at the start of each session. Even if they're timed-out they should still receive the transcripts of the session with any additional information. The AskAway Provider should look at the Referrer URL & Browser information in the QuestionPoint Librarian Info pane OR ask the patron for more information to trouble-shoot the problem. For example, their browser settings OR qwidgets used from some library catalogues may time-out the patron. You can provide the patron with another URL to a different Qwidget or Full-Screen Chat link from their institution (or another institution) to re-start the session.

    Suggest they try a different browser or adjust their browser settings. For example, in Internet Explorer, select Change 'Temporary Internet Files', 'Check for newer versions of stored pages:' and set to 'Every time I visit the webpage'. If they continue to experience problems provide them with additional assistance options such as telephone or email reference for their institution so they don't leave frustrated.

    I just sent my patron a link and now they've disappeared!

    Certain URLs are framebusting URLs, which means they are pages that will not open within a frame in another page. If used in a chat, a framebusting URL will create a message prompt asking if the patron wants to go to another page. If the patron agrees, he or she leaves the chat window and may not return to the session. If your patron returns, ask them to copy and paste the URL into a new window.

    Unexpected patron

    What should I do if the patron needs to contact security?

    At times it can be difficult to know what to do when an upset or stressed patron asks for help… Should we provide them with contact information or call and pass along the concern/complaint ourselves? For consistency in dealing with these situations, which are often more complex and time-consuming than they initially seem, we recommend that you help the patron find the appropriate contact information and inform patrons they will need to make the call themselves for assistance. We cannot call campus security for them.

    Check out the Problem – Contact Security script available to make it easier to quickly deal with situations like noise complaints, smoke & fire concerns, theft, first-aid requests and more… For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

    How should I help a patron in crisis?

    On rare occasions, AskAwayers may find themselves dealing with a patron in crisis. Crisis calls may contain threats of suicide or indications of abuse. Please see the Dealing with Patrons in Crisis page on the Portal.

    What should I do with a prankster?

    With each patron coming in, you should pick them up and ascertain if there is a legitimate information need. If you feel that you are dealing with a prankster, scripts are available that can help you bring the call to a close quickly and return to patrons with a legitimate information need:

    • Problem – Repeat Question: We're currently receiving a lot of calls with similar questions - are you part of a group? Please keep in mind that there are only a few librarians staffing AskAway right now, and we can help you better if we are not swamped with so many similar questions.
    • Refer – Service Limits: Sorry, your question is beyond the scope of the AskAway service, which is intended to help post-secondary students with their research- or course-related questions. Can I help you find contact information for your local public library?
    • Problem - Prank: This service is for questions related to library use. You are welcome to use the AskAway service if you have such a question.
    • Problem - Prank End Session: This service is intended to help you with library related questions. As your question does not appear to be related to library use, I'm ending this session now. You are welcome to come back and use the AskAway service if you have a library related question.
    • Problem - Threats: Obscene, abusive or threatening statements are not acceptable. I am ending this session now. You are welcome to use the AskAway service later when you can be polite and respectful.

    Calm, consistent use of the scripts to shut the prankster down and not engaging or taking the prankster's comments personally will hopefully bring this to a quick end.

    What should I do with a patron who is being rude or abusive?

    You do not have to tolerate rude or abusive behavior from patrons. Scripts are available that can help you communicate this to patrons or bring the call to a close quickly:

    • Problem - Rude: I would like to help you find your answer, but you will need to demonstrate patience while we search. We do not tolerate any kind of rude behavior from people who visit our service. Would you like to continue?
    • Problem - Rude End Session: We do not tolerate any kind of rude behavior from people who visit our service. You are welcome to use the AskAway service later when you can be polite and respectful.
    • Problem - Threats: Obscene, abusive or threatening statements are not acceptable. I am ending this session now. You are welcome to use the AskAway service later when you can be polite and respectful.

    What should I do with a patron who is not a post-secondary student?

    The primary mandate of the post-secondary service is to serve the students, faculty and staff of BC's post-secondary institutions with their research or course-related questions. These patrons are of course our priority.

    Whether or not you choose to assist unaffiliated patrons is entirely up to you. If you feel that helping an unaffiliated patron with their question will not impact your ability to help our primary patrons, and you wish to do so, please go ahead. It is always good to leave a patron with a good feeling about the library. If you are not able to assist an unaffiliated patron with their question, please make an effort to ensure the patron understands that their question is beyond the scope of our service. This script might be useful:

    • Ref - PS Service Limits: Sorry, your question is beyond the scope of the Post-secondary AskAway service, which is intended to help BC post-secondary students with their research- or course-related questions. Please contact your local public library for assistance with this question:

    Local Coordinators

    If you question is not answered in the FAQs, please review the Administrator Manual.

    What should I do to get ready for the start of the AskAway term?

    There are a few maintenance checks that should be reviewed before the start of a new term:

    • If necessary, change the offline message on your Qwidget to reflect that we are open for the term. Directions available online.
    • Remember to create QP accounts for any new AskAwayers staffing for you this term. Instructions are available in the AskAway Admins Manual.
    • Let the Admin Centre know of any additions/deletions that should be made to the service provider listserv.
    • Check your guest login to make sure it is still functioning correctly – the guest login is an essential tool for reducing service provider frustration! Check the current list of guest logins. To access the guest logins contact the Admin Centre.
    • To change your guest login, policy page URL, or other information about your library, log into your Local Coordinator account on this website. Your account username will be your institution's abbreviation and the word "library" (e.g. Yukon College = yclibrary).
    • Check for dead links on your policy page – this is another source of service provider frustration! If you have forgotten where your policy page lives, check the Policy Pages on the Portal to view the URL for your policy page.

    How do I create, edit or delete a service provider's account?

    This can be accessed through your administrator login to QuestionPoint. For full instructions, please see page 2 of the Admin Manual.

    How do I know how many of my patrons are using the AskAway service?

    Askaway provides usage statistics by institution, available online. For more instructions on reading the spreadsheets, please see page 9 of the Admin Manual.

    Can I embed AskAway in my ILS/databases?

    AskAway can be embedded into your institutions ILS and database using the Qwidget. For full instructions, see the Administrator Wiki. Information on maintaining your Qwidget can also be found in the Admin Manual.

    Reporting Issues, Questions, and Comments

    Guest Logins

    If you notice another institution's guest login is not working, please email the Admin Centre. When possible, please include details such as which resource(s) didn't work, the institution, whether other AskAwayers were able to access this institution's resources or not (if talked about on Campfire), and a description of what happened - an error message, timing out, etc.

    QuestionPoint - Tech problems

    If you notice repeated technical problems with QuestionPoint, e.g., repeated freezing of the screen or inability to login, - especially if it is also happening to your colleagues at different institutions (use Campfire to check), please email the Admin Centre, and include as much of the following info as possible: time, date, institution(s), browser and version, operating system, a description of the technical issue, and what was going on just before it happened.

    QuestionPoint - Logout problems (emergency/non)

    If a service provider is logged in on QuestionPoint but absent or unable to logout at closing time, the service will appear to be open. If you suspect this may happen (or it's happening), please let the Admin Centre know immediately.

    1. Email the Admin Centre - Cristen will receive the message and be able to log the person out manually.
    2. If there isn't a response by email, call Cristen on her cell phone
    3. If you can't reach Cristen, call Sunni on her cell


    If there is a logout problem during the day (not affecting the ability of the service to close) please email or phone the Admin Centre.

    Logins - QuestionPoint and Campfire

    If you no longer have your QuestionPoint or Campfire login, or one was never sent to you, please contact your institution's AskAway coordinator. If your shift is beginning or about to begin, please contact your local coordinator. If they are unavailable, contact the Admin Centre by phone and email.

    Library Policy Pages

    If you notice a mistake or outdated information on your own policy page, please notify your local coordinator. If you notice it on another institution's page, please email the Admin Centre with the name of the institution and the incorrect information.

    AskAway Websites

    If you notice a mistake or outdated information on the AskAway sites, please email the Admin Centre.

    Procedures & Policies - General

    If you are unsure about a general policy or procedure, please check the Policies and Procedures page, specifically including the Guidelines for Service Providers or contact your local coordinator.

    Comments, Suggestions, Questions - General

    Feel free to contact the Admin Centre and/or your local coordinator with general comments, suggestions or questions.