Update for May 20th

In this update:
AA News: AskAway Sustainability | AskAway and Premier Campbell | BC Library Conference Presentations | Software Selection Committee Update | AskAway 2.0 | New Look for Patrons and Staff | AskAway Staff Changes |
AA FAQs: How did that other service provider suddenly appear in my session?
AA Stats: Sessions per FTE: 2007/2008 vs. 2008/2009
Absolutely Amazing Patron Feedback: “librarians can be our intellectual lifelines and collaborators”

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AA News:
AskAway Sustainability
Since August 2008, the Sustainability Subcommittee of the AskAway Advisory Committee has been exploring ways to achieve AskAway sustainability through the 2009/2010 fiscal. Over the past 3 years the Ministry of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development has contributed $250,000 in support for AskAway. An additional $95,000 in support has come from BCcampus. BCcampus is contributing $65,000 in support for the 2009/2010 fiscal; however Ministry support has ended as of March 31, 2009.
In anticipation of impacts to AskAway service levels, in the fall of 2008 the Sustainability Subcommittee canvassed AskAway libraries for ideas and feedback on various approaches towards AskAway sustainability. After deliberating on this feedback, the subcommittee recommended a shared service fee approach to the AskAway Advisory Committee.
After acquiring BC ELN Steering Committee approval to move ahead, the AskAway Advisory Committee surveyed AskAway libraries to assess support for this approach. In March 2009, libraries voted in favour of a shared service fee to ensure AskAway sustainability for the 2009/2010 fiscal.
With AskAway sustainability for the coming year assured, the Advisory Committee will be focusing on software selection, service evaluation, communication, marketing and collaboration with other sectors.
AskAway and Premier Campbell
Premier Gordon Campbell had a close encounter with AskAway in April at the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Library. Premier Campbell was at Kwantlen to make several announcements. Caroline Daniels, an enterprising Kwantlen AskAwayer, placed herself front and center on the reference desk for her AskAway shift so that she would be there as Premier Campbell toured the library. He stopped to chat, and Caroline explained how AskAway worked. She showed him that she was currently helping a BCIT student, and made a point of letting Premier Campbell know that his government needed to continue to fund AskAway. Apparently Premier Campbell was impressed and wondered where AskAway had been during his university days… Way to go Caroline!
BC Library Conference Presentations
BC Library Conference attendees had the opportunity to participate in two highly engaging AskAway-sponsored sessions with Marie Radford, an internationally renowned researcher on in-person and virtual reference interactions.
Effective Reference Encounters was a fun-filled pre-conference session in which Marie shared hilarious and educational customer service stories, illuminating the ways in which we can enhance our reference encounters with patrons. The importance of great customer service skills was made clear when Marie made the point that a satisfied customer will tell 4-8 friends, whereas a dissatisfied customer will tell 9-16 friends and will often never return to the service! Marie’s top tip for virtual reference service providers was this strategy: find a result for the patron to get them hooked early on in the interaction, and then ask if they’d like to know how you found it.
In her Seeking Synchronicity session, Marie shared results of her international research study examining characteristics of users and non-users of virtual reference. Among her interesting findings was confirmation that recommendations from friends are very important to VR service’s biggest users, the Net geners. This reinforces that excellent customer service is crucial to ensure those satisfied customers go and tell their friends to use AskAway!
Powerpoint slides from Marie Radford’s highly informative sessions are now available on the Staff Portal:
Effective Reference Encounters.ppt
Virtual Reference Trends.ppt
Software Selection Committee Update
The Joint Software Selection Committee is in the process of evaluating vendor responses to the RFP posted on the BC Bid website in April. The Selection Committee has solicited volunteers to test the various software candidates, and testing will begin shortly. (Thanks to all those who volunteered to be testers!) The committee aims to have a software recommendation to the Public and Post-secondary Advisory Committees in early June.
AskAway 2.0
AskAway stats tell us that the majority of our users turn to AskAway because they are online searching for resources anyways – AskAway is right there and convenient. Research also tells us that personal recommendation is an important reason why today’s users decide to try a new service. With this in mind, we’re working together with Public Library AskAway to get AA out into the places where our users are spending their time and making recommendations to each other: Facebook and Twitter.
AskAway now has a public Facebook page, so our users can find us, become fans and spread the word. To find us on FB, search for AskAway. Have a FB page for your library? Let Sunni or Phil know so we can link to it.
There’s also an AskAway Tweet: @askawaybc We’re posting user feedback and questions, as well as news and statistics geared at keeping AskAway and BC libraries on their minds, so they think of us when they have a question. We’re following @bcitlib, @vpl, @sfu_library, @etug… have a Tweet for your library? Let Sunni or Phil know so we can follow you and spread the word about your library too!
Have a news item or an AA patron quote/question that you think other patrons could relate to? Let Sunni or Phil know so we can send it out and get the social media phenomenon working for BC libraries!
New Look for Patrons and Staff
The AskAway Staff Portal has been re-vamped to improve clarity and navigation. Kudos to Niki Baumann for her work on re-organising and coding the new look!
The post-secondary patron interface also benefitted from a spring overhaul: patrons now see a simpler and less text-intense screen when they login to AskAway.
AskAway.org, the website that all AskAway marketing points folks to, has an entirely new look as well. Post-secondary staff provided input on overall design and content, but kudos to the folks at VPL and PLSB for building the new site!
AskAway Staff Changes
It is with conflicted hearts that we report that Niki Baumann, AskAway staffer and VR Librarian Extraordinaire, will be leaving us for a position at Burnaby General Hospital. Niki has been an integral member of the AskAway team at BC ELN for almost 3 years. We are so excited for Niki in her new position but will really miss her skill-sets and sunny personality around the office. We’re sure that the Fraser Valley Health Authority librarians will appreciate her considerable teaching, reference, communication, technical and design skills as much as we have. Best wishes, Niki!
Welcome to two new BC ELN AskAwayers who will staff AskAway over the summer:
Jenna Walsh is a recent SLAIS grad who worked at UBC as an AskAwayer and Graduate Academic Assistant at Xwi7xwa Library.
Joe Haigh was also an AskAwayer at UBC, and staffed the Fine Arts, Science and Engineering Reference desk there. He has also worked as a limited-term librarian at SFU.
We’re pleased to have continuing with us this summer Richard Baer, Pamela Dent, Liz Hansen, David Karppinen and Angela Ryan.
AA FAQs: How did that other service provider suddenly appear in my session?
The quick answer: the other librarian (probably accidently) clicked on your call in the All tab and is now in Conference Mode with you and your patron.
The long answer: The All tab in the chat monitor lists calls that OTHER service providers are handling – your own calls will not show up in this tab. Clicking on a call in the All tab will launch you into Conference Mode, where you can participate in the conversation. While this may be desirable in some cases, please establish with the other librarian that you can join their session BEFORE jumping in – it can be disconcerting and dismaying for you and for the patron to suddenly find another librarian in the conversation!
If you accidentally find yourself in Conference Mode with another librarian, don’t click on Exit Conference Mode, as this will shut down the entire session! Simply go back to your own calls in the My Active tab and come back to click on Exit Conference Mode once the session has concluded.
Full instructions for Conference Mode are available in the Software Manual on the Training Materials page of the Portal.
AA Stats: Sessions per FTE
Due to the amazing diversity of AskAway institutions, a simple comparison of AskAway sessions per year can be misleading. More representative is a comparison of Sessions per FTE, a statistic that gives us some sense of how widespread use of AskAway is at a particular institution, and how that is changing from year to year.
To see how widespread use of AskAway is at your institution, have a look at this comparison of AskAway Sessions per FTE for the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 academic years.
Absolutely Amazing Patron Feedback
“I'm student who works and studies all hours. Study and research at 3am is not unusual for me or for my classmates. When I'm in flow and maybe stagnating in idea or research due to a lack of necessary information or resources, it would be greatly appreciated to have someone to offer support and assistance via an online service because librarians can be our intellectual lifelines and collaborators.”
“I found this service to be very accessible and very helpful. I got my questions answered right away and I felt the librarian went the extra mile to help me with my questions. Thank you and keep up the great work. Sincerely, A student who really needed help with the sources and got it. :D”
“I wish I could have been aware of usefulness of askaway a lot sooner.”
“What a wonderful service. It saves students time.”
Want to know what YOUR patrons are saying about AskAway? Results from the Patron Exit Survey are available on the Portal, sorted by institution.
Questions about this update or suggestions for future ones? Let me know!
- Sunni
BC ELN