Service Provider FAQ

Unless the solution below specifies other people to contact, please report all technical problems to the AskAway Administrative Centre. You may also wish to inform your local coordinator.

Before you start

What should I do before my shift?

We recommend that you open up QuestionPoint, Campfire, Guest Logins, and the Staff Portal. Also, take a look at the Shift Checklist.

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 to our patrons. In Campfire, you can share your expertise on tricky or local knowledge questions, find out about any technical problems, facilitate call transfers, etc. For more information on using Campfire, please see the AskAway Blog.

Any general tips for handling technical issues?

  • 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. There are some scripted messages for dealing with common technical problems.
  • Know When To Give Up or Refer. 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, maybe sending links. 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." If appropriate, refer them to their library or encourage them to come back to AskAway at another time.
  • 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 your local coordinator. Your local coordinator can retrieve your User ID and reset or email you your password. If it's urgent and you cannot contact your local coordinator, contact the AskAway Admin 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 QuestionPoint chat monitor is updating properly. 
3.  Use the Schedule to determine which other library is supposed to be on shift. If you wish, phone the local coordinator at that library and politely inquire - often their contact info is at the bottom of the library's Policy Page. If it's during the weekday, you can also contact the Admin Centre.
4.  On the weekends or if you cannot get a response at that library, use the Swamped button on the Staff Tools page to send out a call for more AskAwayers and let them AskAway Admin Centre know.

Can I change my screen name?

Yes, your local coordinator 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 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. CristenP@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?

  • 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 you use to login to the AskAway staff website - contact the Admin Centre or your local coordinator if you aren't sure which address this is. 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. Log 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 your local coordinator or 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.

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. Note: patrons may return even if the indicator is red. If you're unsure, check in with the patron to see if they are still connected

For more information, please see the AskAway Blog.

What is the Librarians tab in the chat monitor?

The Librarians tab lists all librarians that are currently chatting, the number of queues they are monitoring, and the number of active calls they have.

What is the All tab 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. Note: not all institutions have enabled the All tab so you may not see it.

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 that have been created by that institution's local coordinator.

How do I create my own scripts?

Institution-specific scripts can be created by the QuestionPoint local coordinator for each institution. Instructions on creating institutional scripts are available on the portal. Step by step instructions for personal scripts are available online.

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

The Qwidget is the popular chat window, and it is typically located on the institution's library website or within the article databases. When you receive a call, 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 patron's 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 the Service Guidelines.

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, or 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 patrons are using the service. A complete list of the AskAway descriptive codes and their definitions can be found 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.

Deselect any queues you are monitoring and then 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 queues, so that you can continue with your call, but don't appear to be available to take more questions. To de-select the queues:

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

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

At closing time:

  • Click on the Queue link at the top of the chat monitor
  • 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 Queues. 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 chat monitor, 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, 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.

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 monitor keeps 'updating' - what do I do?

    Try logging out of your QuestionPoint 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 they don'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 there is a 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. You can look at the Referrer URL in the Patron 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, they leave 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.

    What should I do with a prankster?

    With each patron coming in, you should pick them up and use the reference interview to determine 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 their calls 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 AskAway 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 Refer - Public Library script might be useful.

    Local Coordinators

    If you question is not answered in the FAQs, please review the Local Coordinator's Manual.

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

    Please review the Checklist for the Beginning of the Term and contact the AskAway Admin Centre if you have any questions.

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

    This can be accessed through your administrator login to QuestionPoint. For full steps, please see the Local Coordinator's Manual.

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

    AskAway provides usage statistics by institution. For more information on how to gather statistics for your institution, please see the Local Coordinator's 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. Please also see the AskAway Visibility Best Practices.

    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 - Technical 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

    If a service provider is logged in on QuestionPoint but is 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 local 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 or 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!