Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have a question about what to do during your shift or are you encountering a technical issue? You may find the answer below!

If you don't find the answer to your question, please contact us. You may also wish to ask your local coordinator.

Logging In

What should I do before my shift?

See the Shift Checklist.

I've forgotten my QuestionPoint user ID / password.

Your QuestionPoint user ID is a 6-digit number. If you have forgotten your ID, contact your local coordinator, and they'll retrieve it for you. If you have forgotten your password, click the Forgot your password? link on the QuestionPoint login page to retrieve your password. 

If it's urgent and you can't contact your local coordinator, contact us, and we can retrieve your user ID or reset your password.

I can't login to the AskAway staff website.

If you've forgotten your password, request a new password from the login page. If your email address isn't recognized, contact your local coordinator who can create an account for you.

Picking up a Patron

What are the best practices for picking up patrons?

  • Pick-up patrons as quickly as possible - aim for no more than 60 seconds wait time
  • Greet the patron as soon as you pick them up
  • Remember that other libraries have different network speeds and may not see new patrons coming in as quickly as you
  • Communicate in Campfire if you feel something is wrong

Can I change my screen name?

We recommend leaving your name as the default as each person staffing AskAway needs to be uniquely identified. This helps your colleagues know who they are working with.

The default screen name is FirstnameLastinitial@AskAway (e.g. CristenP@AskAway). While using your real name is preferable, if you are not comfortable for privacy reasons, you may choose a different screen name. Your local coordinator can make the change for you.

What is the difference between the fullscreen and the Qwidget interface?

The Qwidget is a chat box typically located on a library's website or within databases. The majority of chats come to AskAway via the Qwidget. When you receive a call, you will see [QWIDGET] next to the patron's question in the Patron Info tab. When you send a URL, patrons receive it as a hotlink that they can click to open. When you pick up a Qwidget patron, send the Begin - Qwidget Expand script.

The fullscreen interface is the other option for patrons. Typically, patrons click a link or a button on the library website to enter the fullscreen chat. URLs sent to patrons will automatically show up as a web page in the patron's browser, beside the chat conversation. Not all pages will show up, so check in with the patron to make sure they can see what you've sent.

During your Shift​

How should I use Campfire?

Use Campfire to communicate with other service providers during your shift. You should be logged in to Campfire throughout your shift and have your volume turned on so you can hear notifications.

In Campfire, you can say hi to your colleagues, share expertise, learn about and troubleshoot technical problems, facilitate transfers, etc.

I'm the only one logged in or someone is missing. What should I do?

There should always be at least one other person on shift with you. If you find yourself alone or short-staffed, the Admin Centre and your colleagues are here to help.

Working a daytime shift during the week?

  1. Check the Schedule. Which library should be staffing?
  2. If you're comfortable, contact the local coordinator and politely ask if someone is able to log on
    • Visit the library's Policy Page to find contact info for the local coordinator (scroll to bottom)
  3. If you're not comfortable contacting the library or you don't get a response from them, contact the Admin Centre by phone or email
  4. If no one is available and the service is overwhelmed, use the Swamped button to request help from service providers
  5. Always let the Admin Centre know if an institution is missing so we can follow-up

Working an evening or weekend shift?

  1. Check the Schedule. Which library should be staffing?
  2. Send a quick message to the mailing list to let them know you're alone or short-staffed
    • We want to avoid broadcasting blame, so please send a message simply saying "I'm currently alone (or someone is missing) on my AskAway shift, is anyone available to help?"
    • If you don't receive a response quickly, move to the next step
  3. If no one jumps on to help and it's busy, give us a call or text (see evenings and weekends emergency contact)
  4. If these steps don't work out and you're overwhelmed, send a swamped message to all service providers using the Swamped button
  5. Always let the Admin Centre know if an institution is missing so we can follow-up

For strategies to manage calls while you wait for help to arrive, see the FAQ below "How can I make my shift easier during busy times?"

How can I make my shift easier during busy times?

  • Login to QuestionPoint and Campfire a few minutes early. Offer to take transfers.
  • Set-up your workstation in a way that works well for you. Try using two browsers.
  • Communicate with your colleagues in Campfire to manage questions.
  • Pick up patrons as quickly as you can. You can use the Begin - Busy Swamped script to manage their expectations.
  • Refer, refer, refer! During busy times, you may not have time to give every patron the in-depth help you'd like to.
  • See the training handouts Tips for Handling Multiple Patrons for more strategies!

What is the Swamped button?

The Swamped Button will automatically create an email addressed to the AskAway service providers mailing list saying that AskAway is swamped.

To send a swamped message, click the button, enter your email address, and press "send." Your email address must be the one you use to login to the AskAway staff website. If you aren't sure which address this is, contact the Admin Centre or your local coordinator.

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

There is nothing wrong with letting patrons know that AskAway is staffed by BC and Yukon service providers and that they are talking to someone from a different institution. If they are asking for local information, they may be more patient if they realize the person they are talking to is from another library.

We want to avoid patrons making the assumption that someone from another institution can't help them. If they seem discouraged, assure them you can help them get started and then refer them to someone at their library.

There don't seem to be any questions coming in!

  • Check to make sure you have selected all queues.
  • Check in the Librarians tab to see if patrons are coming in through institutional queues and being picked up by their own librarians.
  • Check one of the Qwidgets on a library's website to make sure the Qwidgets are open and working. If they aren't, contact the Admin Centre immediately. If they are open, be patient and wait for your first call to arrive.

QuestionPoint Chat Monitor

I don't hear a sound when a new patron arrives.

Check your volume and check your settings in the Chat Monitor. Make sure "Sound alert when 'New' patron arrives" and "Sound alert repeatedly while 'New' patron in queue" are checked off.

What do the patron status indicators mean?

The patron status indicators show you the current status of your patrons:

  • (!) Patron is typing
  • (+) Patron sent a new response
  • (green) Patron is active
  • (yellow) Patron is off searching or may be slow responding
  • (red) They may have disconnected. Note: patrons may return even if the indicator is red. If you're unsure, check in with the patron to ask if they're still connected

What is the Librarians tab in the chat monitor?

The Librarians tab lists all service providers 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 service providers in your primary queue are working on. Calls you are currently working on will not show up in the All tab. Note: not all institutions have this tab enabled, 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 person handling the call and if the patron is informed!

What are Scripts and how do I create my own?

Scripts are scripted messages that you can send to patrons during a chat session. To learn more about the scripts available for you to use and steps to create your own, see the Scripts page.

How do I transfer a patron to another AskAwayer?

Ask in Campfire if someone is able to take a transfer. Patron calls can be transferred to another service provider by clicking the Transfer button in the chat window. A list of available service providers will appear for you to select the recipient. Click their name and then click Transfer again to transfer the call.

Accessing Resources

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

Each library has filled out a template of ready reference information, called a Policy Page, that you can use to find direct links to information on their website.

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 page to find out the guest login for your patron's institution.

A Guest Login is not working.

If you notice that another institution's Guest Login is not working, check with your colleagues in Campfire to make sure it's a system-wide issue. If it's not working for anyone, please email the Admin Centre. If possible, include details (e.g. the institution, which resource(s) didn't work, and a description of what happened).


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

AskAway transcripts are stored on a server in the U.S., so it is against BC privacy law to ask for any identifying or contact information from our patrons. Instead, you can choose to give a patron your own (professional) contact information, if you would like the patron to follow-up. You're not required to do so though. Another option is to refer the patron to someone at their own library.

Unexpected Patrons

How should I help a patron in crisis?

On rare occasions, service providers may find themselves chatting with a patron in crisis. Crisis calls may contain threats of suicide or indications of abuse. Please see the Patrons in Crisis page for more information.

A patron needs to contact security.

We recommend that you help the patron find the appropriate contact information and inform them that they will need to make the call themselves for assistance. We cannot call campus security for them. Check out the Problem - Contact Security script that will make it easier to quickly deal with situations like noise complaints, smoke and fire alarms, theft, first-aid, and more.

A patron is being rude or abusive.

You don't 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.

How should I respond to a prank call?

With each patron, you should pick them up and use the reference interview to determine if there is a legitimate information need. If you think you are dealing with a prank call, you can use scripts to bring the call to a close quickly.

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

When you end a prank call, please apply the Inappropriate / Prank descriptive code to the call. This helps the Admin Centre track the number of prank calls.

If a prankster comes to the service repeatedly, please let the Admin Centre know.

How should I help a patron who is not a post-secondary student?

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

It's up to you whether or not you choose to help unaffiliated patrons. If you feel that helping them will not impact your ability to our primary patrons, and you wish to do so, please go ahead. It's always good to leave any 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. The Refer - Public Library script may be helpful.

Technical Troubleshooting

Any general tips for handling technical issues?

  • Chat through technical problems. Let the patron know that there may be delays due to technical difficulties.
  • Use Scripts. The Technical Problems scripts may be helpful.
  • Know when to give up or refer. If you or your patron are becoming frustrated, don't try every possible solution to a tech problem. Try one or two troubleshooting options but then return to what does work: chatting or maybe sending links. If appropriate, send the patron a message such as "Looks like this isn't going to work tonight - I'm going to send you X instead." Or you may refer them to their library or encourage them to come back to AskAway at another time.
  • Always follow-up. If a patron disappears, don't just end the session. The transcript isn't complete until you end the session. You may wish to give one or two troubleshooting tips or suggest a few resources. Don't spend too much time on abandoned sessions but always be sure to leave the patron with something they can use.

My chat monitor keeps 'updating.'

There may be issues with the QuestionPoint server, and it usually resolves in a few minutes.

Try closing and restarting your browser. Try logging out of QuestionPoint and logging back in. Your patrons should still be there when you log back in. If the problem persists, communicate with your colleagues in Campfire and report the problem to the Admin Centre.

When the issue occurs, right-click anywhere on the Chat Monitor, choose 'QP About,' click 'Copy to clipboard' and paste the copied text into an email to the Admin Centre. Capture the URL displayed in the web browser at the time of the 'Updating' message and send this to the Admin Centre too.

Continue to try refreshing your browser, restarting your computer, and logging out and back in again until your shift is over.

My computer just crashed or there was a power outage.

QuestionPoint is resilient. Even if you disconnect, it will keep the connection with the patron alive. Log back into the chat monitor and check your Active queue. Your patrons should be waiting there. Let the patron know that there was a technical delay on your end and thank them for their patience. You may also want to let your colleagues know in Campfire.

For a power outage, let the other AskAwayers on shift know, if you can. Send a message to the Admin Centre to notify them of the issue and log back in as soon as you can to log yourself out fully.

I don't see any new patrons coming in, but other librarians see them.

Different libraries may have different network speeds. A service provider may see a new incoming patron before you do. Use Campfire to let other service providers 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.

My patron is complaining that they keep getting timed out.

If the patron is using a Qwidget, suggest they enter their email address using the email icon at the start of each session. If they're timed out, they should still receive the transcript. You can look at the Referrer URL in the Patron Info tab or ask the patron for more information to troubleshoot. You could provide the patron with another URL to a different Qwidget or fullscreen chat link from their institution (or another one) to restart the session.

Suggest they try a different browser. See QuestionPoint's list of supported browsers for patrons. If they continue to experience problems, refer them to their institution so they leave with something they can use.

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

If the patron came in via Qwidget, they may lose the session if they conduct a search or refresh the results on that page. Send the patron the Begin - Qwidget Expand script asking them to pop-out the Qwidget into a separate window.

Some URLs are framebusting URLs, which means they won't open in the patron's fullscreen chat. They 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 they return, ask them to copy and paste the URL into a new window.

Ending the Chat

How can I successfully end a session with a patron?

There are many ways to successfully end the session. Make sure the patron has enough to get started, or that you've made an appropriate referral. Ask if they'd like any additional help with their original question or if they have any other questions before closing. Encourage them to have a transcript of the session sent to their email.

Has your patron stopped communicating? Check-out the patron status indicators to see if they are still connected to the chat. When you see the "Patron is no longer connected" message, this means they have definitely left the session.

I see a red dot beside the patron or they aren't responding, what should I do?

Patrons can disappear for a while and then return, even if the red dot indicator is showing. Until you see the "Patron is no longer connected" message, they may still return! If you're unsure, you can always ask if they are still connected. If they don't respond after several minutes, let them know you're ending the session and encourage them to return.

What are Resolution and Descriptive codes?

Resolution and Descriptive codes are applied to chat sessions after the session has ended. They are important for gathering statistics, tracking technical issues, and show us what kinds of questions are being asked on the service. See the Resolution and Descriptive Codes page for a complete list of codes and information on how to use them.

Finishing your Shift

How do I log out properly at the end of my shift?

It's important to log out fully at the end of every shift, otherwise the service may stay open overnight with no one to pick up calls. To log out of the chat monitor fully, deselect any Queues you are monitoring and then log out by clicking the Logout link in the top right of your chat monitor. You will see a message confirming you have logged out. See this short GIF with steps for logging out fully.

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 your shift has ended or if you would like to transfer the call to someone else. If you would like to finish up, you can deselect the queues. This will allow you to continue with any active sessions but you won't see new calls coming in. To deselect the queues:

  • Click on the Queues button in the top right of the chat monitor
  • Uncheck queues and click Save
  • When your calls have wrapped up, remember to also log out of the chat monitor

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

The service will close when every service provider has left the queues. The Qwidget and fullscreen links will close, allowing you to wrap up any outstanding calls without new questions arriving.

At closing time:

  • Click on the Queues button in the top right of the chat monitor
  • Uncheck all queues and Save
  • In the top right, it should now show that you are monitoring 0 queues
  • Wrap-up any unfinished calls and remember to log out of the chat monitor

A colleague is still logged in long after their shift was over or after we've closed. What can I do?

Until everyone has left all the queues, the service will remain open. If someone seems to be logged in past the end of their shift, please check the following:

  • Check the Schedule to see if they have a long shift
  • IM them in QuestionPoint to see if they are there or if they forgot to logout
  • If they don't respond, try contacting them by phone or email to let them know they're still logged in
  • If it's less than 2 hours before closing, contact the Admin Centre
  • If they're still logged in at closing, you don't have to stay online - just be sure to let the Admin Centre know by phone
    • If it's an evening or weekend or if there isn't a response from the Admin Centre, call Cristen on her cell phone
    • If you can't reach Cristen, call Sunni on her cell


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

No. If a patron 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.

How do I view my transcripts?

  • Login to QuestionPoint
  • Click the Select Service drop-down in the top left and select Ask
  • Click My Questions in the top menu

Is there any quality control on AskAway sessions?

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

Reporting Issues

QuestionPoint: Logout Problems

If you or another service provider is logged in on QuestionPoint but is unable to logout at closing time, the service will appear to be open to patrons. If you suspect this is happening, let the Admin Centre know immediately:

  1. Contact the Admin Centre - we'll be able to log them out manually
  2. If there isn't a response from the Admin Centre, call Cristen on her cell phone
  3. If you can't reach Cristen, call Sunni on her cell

QuestionPoint: Technical Issues

If you experience technical problems with QuestionPoint, please email the Admin Centre and include as much info as possible (time, date, institution(s), browser and version, operating system, a description of the technical issue, any screenshots, and what was going on just before it happened).

If possible, when the issue occurs, follow these steps to get technical information that we can pass on to QuestionPoint:

  • Right-click anywhere on the Chat Monitor
  • Choose 'QP About'
  • Click 'Copy to clipboard'
  • Paste the copied text into an email to the AskAway Admin Centre
  • Grab the URL in the chat monitor browser window and send it to the Admin Centre

Guest Logins

If you notice that another institution's Guest Login is not working, check with your colleagues in Campfire to make sure it's a system-wide issue. If it's not working for anyone, please email the Admin Centre. If possible, please include details (e.g. the institution, which resource(s) didn't work, and a description of what happened).

Policy Pages

If you notice a mistake, broken link, or outdated information on your library's Policy Page, please notify your local coordinator.

If you notice it on another library's page, please email the Admin Centre with the name of the institution and the incorrect information.

Procedures and Policies

If you are unsure about a general policy or procedure, please check the Service Guidelines, contact the Admin Centre, or talk to your local coordinator.

AskAway Website

If you notice a mistake or outdated information on the AskAway website, please let us know!