AskAway Update for October 23, 2006

Welcome to the AskAway Update! This is a weekly email to keep all of you who are working on the post-secondary 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
  • Last Week’s AA Stats
  • AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
  • Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week
  • How Do I…deal with non-academic questions?
  • Neat New Stuff
  • Coming Soon…

AA News
Reminder: Time change on Sunday Oct 29th!
AA Launch PR
The official government launch last Tuesday generated a lot of media interest in AA. We were written up in several newspapers, including the Times-Colonist, the Nanaimo Daily News and the Alaska Highway News (out of Fort St. John), among others. There were also pieces on A-Channel TV and CBC radio. This past weekend the Vancouver Sun included a special insert on libraries, with a section on AskAway. We’ll try to compile citations to some of the PR onto the Librarian’s Portal at some point. See Last Week’s AA Stats below to see the impact the PR had on our traffic.
Note: Although AA was launched to the public as a single service, the public and post-secondary queues are operating separately. When patrons go to, they will be directed to either the public library queue or the post-secondary queue, depending on which institution they choose as their ‘local’ library. See the How Do I… section below on handling questions better suited to the public library queue.
Welcome BCIT!
Beginning Nov 1st, BCIT will begin staffing the service Wednesdays from 11am-1pm. Lin Brander and Pat Cumming will be staffing for BCIT until the rest of the BCIT crew gets trained in December.
Extra coverage
Jeff Davis, our on-call contractor, will be staffing the service Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11am – 1pm. Please still feel free to contact him if you are having difficulty covering a shift.
Last Week’s AA Stats
The following numbers are for all chat sessions accepted by a librarian, excluding those sessions coded Practise.
Stats for 11 AM on Monday October 16 – 5 PM on Sunday October 22, 2006

  • Total # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted: ~455
  • Average # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted per day: ~ 65

Pre-launch, we were averaging 45-55 calls a day. For three days post-launch, we're were averaging 80-100 calls a day! A big thank you to everyone who handled the extra traffic so well – we looked great in the spotlight!
AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
“I absolutely love this service, it makes my stress level manageable. When i can't find something this services helps a great deal. i will continue using it as long as i can :).”
“This service is a fabulous idea. I am an information junkie, and often have difficulty finding a source to obtain the information. I'm amazed at how quickly the information was found. I'll likely become a regular user. Cruiser”
“Its so hard to get in touch with a human being in todays world of technology. Its great to see that someone is available whenever you have a question. thanks!”
Didn't know answer to my question, but nice to know that someone is there to help in real time when needed! :) AWESOME SERVICE! (Sunni’s note: This was a local knowledge question that wasn’t answered by any information on the library website.)
Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week: Clear your cache often!
Clearing your cache is always a good idea at the beginning of a shift, but a number of folks have reported that clearing the cache has resolved all sorts of issues, so it is always worth trying if you run into problems.
To clear your cache in IE go to Tools ? Internet options ? Under Temporary Internet Files, click Delete Files.
How Do I…
…deal with inappropriate questions?
The launch has generated lots of interest in AA, and there has been an increase in questions from non-students, or folks just wanting to try the service out; e.g. a patron who wanted to know who he should designate as his insurance beneficiary! While we are open to questions from the general public, our mandate is primarily to serve students, faculty and staff from BC post-secondary institutions – this information is clearly stated on the patron login page. Other questions can be referred to the public library service at
One approach to determining whether the question is academic is to ask “What course is this for?”
If the question is not academic, you can decide whether you want to pursue the question, based on traffic, the plausibility of the question, and your interest/knowledge, but post-secondary patrons should have priority. Remember, we don’t give legal or medical advice.
.... tell my side of the story?
A number of folks have been distressed about receiving negative feedback from the patron survey, and expressed that it would be useful to be able to tell their side of the story as well. QP does give you the ability to do this. After you close the session, on the screen where you enter your resolution codes for the session, there is a space to enter ‘Librarian Only’ comment. This will be appended to the transcript but will only be visible to you and the administrators, not the patron. Use this note to explain any extraneous circumstances that might be useful to put the call into context.
Neat New Stuff on the Librarian’s Portal
AskAway Updates
Until we get our blog up and running, all the AskAway updates will now be posted on the index page of the Portal.
Practice questions
Remember I asked you a loooong time ago to send me practice questions for your institution? Well they are finally up on the portal on the Self-practice and Training tab, including ones from BCIT (joining the service next week). Some have answers provided, some don’t. If anyone would like to contribute answers for the ones that don’t, feel free to email them to me and I’ll add them.
Self-assessment and peer transcript review checklists
PLSB and VPL developed these checklists to use when reviewing your transcripts or reviewing those of your peers. You'll find them on the Self-Practice and Training tab of the Portal.
Coming Soon…

  • Revised Service Guidelines document including AA Competencies
  • Training schedule for Nov/Dec
  • Draft AA schedule for January

Sunni Nishimura
BC ELN Virtual Reference Coordinator
Phone: (604) 268-6937
Fax: (604) 291-3023
AskAway is coordinated by the BC Electronic Library Network.