AskAway Update for October 16, 2006

Welcome to the AskAway Update! This is a weekly email to keep all of you who are working on the AskAway project up-to-date on how the service is doing. The update is also a way for us to push you technical tips, feedback and stats without inundating your inbox with emails! Please let Sunni know if you have any suggestions for future content:

  • AA News: Launch; On-call librarian available
  • We Need Your Input!
  • Last Week’s AA Stats
  • AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
  • Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week: “Help! I’m the only librarian on!”
  • How Do I…Make a Warm Referral?
  • Neat New Stuff
  • Coming Soon…

AA News
Launch: Although it is officially hush-hush, we wanted to give you a heads-up that AskAway is going to be launched to the public and the media on Tuesday morning, so look for new patrons (and possibly members of the media) trying out the service this week. This is nothing to worry about – you are all doing an AA (Absolutely Amazing) job of helping patrons with their questions – keep it up!
Staffing: Recognizing that staffing is an issue for all of you, we have hired an on-call librarian who can be available to pick up shifts that can't be covered by existing staff. Jeff Davis is working as a contractor for ELN on another project, but has previous experience staffing the virtual reference service at U of A using QuestionPoint. Just to be clear, Jeff is only available for back-up if you have put out a call for a shift switch on the servprov listserv but no one on the list is able to cover it for you, or if you have a last minute emergency and can’t make a shift. In that case, please contact Jeff Davis to see if he is able to take the shift: We will add this info into the Service Guidelines document on the portal, and Jeff’s contact info will also be added to the Contacts page.
We Need Your Input!
Training Needs: Now that things are well underway, we are looking at future training and/or online professional development sessions. With some hours of service under your belts you may have a better idea of existing training needs. Please let Sunni know if you have suggestions for how to improve training, or suggestions for professional development sessions:
BCLA Session: Although it is a little late in the game, we are trying to get a proposal in for a BCLA session. If anyone has any ideas for what they would like to see in an AskAway session, please let Sunni know Some ideas are: roundtable discussion; Q&A; service update; speakers from other VR initiatives; panel discussion….??
Last Week’s AA Stats
The following numbers are for all chat sessions acepted by a librarian, excluding those sessions coded Practise.
Stats for 11 AM on Tuesday October 10, 2006 [Service closed Monday Oct 9] – 5 PM on Sunday October 15, 2006

  • Total number of calls accepted: ~260
  • Busiest day: Tuesday (~ 60 calls)
  • Slowest day: Thursday (~ 34 calls) We had several reports of technical difficulties on Thursday, so this may account for the low number.

BTW, our apologies for not getting back to anyone this week about technical difficulties - Gordon and I were both away at meetings/conferences. Please keep letting us know when you're having issues.
AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
“This the first time I use library on-line, I felt excellent. English is my second language. I am very shied to write or speak it since I am afraid that people would not understand me. The Librarian [name removed] is very competent, I definitely would visit again.”
Although comments such as the one above from the patron exit survey are great, we’re also looking for stories from you and user comments from within transactions! If you have any stories about particularly grateful patrons (“AskAway has saved my life!”) that you’d like to share, please let me know (of course, all identifying info would be stripped out). The folks that fund us are really interested in knowing how we are impacting lives…!
Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week
“The librarian tab is showing only one librarian logged in right now. Help! Isn't someone else supposed to be on with me?”
The known technical issue with the librarian monitor was supposed to be fixed in the last install a week ago, but if you are still experiencing this issue, try the following:
1. Wait a moment to see if it changes. If you’ve just logged in, it may take a moment for the current data to appear.
2. Other librarians may be logged on and answering questions, but not showing up on your screen. To check if this is the case, go back to the MyQuestionPoint screen (that's the first screen you see when you log into QP). Below the Launch Chat button is the Chat Monitoring Tool. Click it, and you should see an accurate picture of who is logged in. Note that the Chat Monitoring Tool is a static display; it does not refresh, so it only shows who's on at the moment you click it.
3. It could be that another librarian has missed a shift due to illness or for some other reason, and has not been able to find someone else to cover it. If you're very busy, do your best to help all the patrons, and deploy all the tricks in your bag for handling multiple patrons (e.g. be honest about how busy you are, try to refer them to email reference, etc. etc.)
If you have time, please use the Staffing Schedule (available in the Portal) to determine which other library is supposed to be covering the shift. Then phone the Local Admin person at that library and politely inquire. On the weekends or if you cannot get a response at that library, please contact Sunni or Gordon
4. If you haven't already done so, whenever you get a chance after your shift, please let Gordon or Sunni know that you have experienced this problem. We need to know if it is happening in order to sort out if it is a technical or staffing issue.
This information is also available in the Tech Troubleshooting manual on the Portal:
How Do I… Make a Warm Referral?
When you need to refer a patron to another institution, service point or librarian, make your referral as 'warm' as possible by giving the patron as much specific information as you can. If you have it, give them the email and phone number of the specific service point or person at the institution, hours of probable availability, webpage address for further information, etc.. Remember, the patron will likely receive the transcript of the session, and will be able to refer back to the information you give them.
Neat New Stuff , the website address on all our forth-coming PR materials, is sporting a spiffy new look: This page will route patrons to the academic or public library queues, so you can use it when referring members of the general public to the public library AskAway service.
Coming Soon…
Revised guest logins info: several institutions have sent me new guest logins, and we’re checking into a few technical glitches, but will have the revised spreadsheet out ASAP.
Sunni Nishimura
BC ELN Virtual Reference Coordinator
Phone: (604) 268-6937
Fax: (604) 291-3023
AskAway is coordinated by the BC Electronic Library Network.