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 LibraryH3lp username / password.

See the FAQ I've forgotten my LibraryH3lp username / 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.


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?"
    • Note: When sending a message to any of the AskAway lists, please use the email address that you use to login to the AskAway staff website otherwise the message will not go through
    • If you don't receive a response quickly, move to the next step
  3. If no one jumps on to help, call or text the Admin Centre (Note: use Evenings & Weekends Emergency contact – Admin Centre email is not checked after office hours) 
  4. If these steps don't work out or if at any time 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?"

I'm unable to staff my AskAway shift. What should I do?

If you're unable to staff your AskAway shift, please find coverage either at your library or from among participating library staff:

Daytime shift during the week

  • Before putting a shift coverage (or trade) request out to the list, work with your local coordinator to see if someone at your library can cover for you.
  • If no one is able to cover, you can put the request out to the service providers list ( to see if someone at another library can cover for you.
  • Once your shift has been covered, it's good practice to send a quick message to the list, so that folks don't continue to contact you.

Evening or weekend shift

Please see the Shift Trade Protocols for evening and weekends service providers.

LibraryH3lp Webclient

See the LibraryH3lp Service Provider FAQs for questions relating specifically to using LibraryH3lp to staff AskAway.

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

Will patrons see my name when I pick up the call?

See the FAQ Will patrons see my name when I pick up a call?

What information about the patron is available?

See the FAQ What contextual information is available about the patron? 

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

  • Check to make sure you have selected all queues under "I'm Staffing."
  • Check in Campfire to see if your colleagues on shift are seeing calls come in.
  • Check one of the chat boxes on a library's website to make sure they 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.

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.

Busy Shifts

How can I make my shift easier during busy times?

  • Login to LibraryH3lp 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.
  • Adjust your personal preferences in the LibraryH3lp webclient.
  • Communicate with your colleagues in Campfire to manage questions.
  • Pick up patrons as quickly as you can. You can use the Begin - 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 Working with 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.

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 is anonymous, so we don't ask patrons for personal information (this includes their email address). 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

On AskAway, you may sometimes respond to patrons who have unexpected requests, behaviour, or support needs. This includes patrons who are in crisis, a patron who needs to contact security, rude or abusive behaviour, prank calls, and patrons who are not post-secondary students.

See the Unexpected patrons page for more information on how to respond in these situations.

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 Problem - Technical script 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. 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.

I was logged out / disconnected from the webclient or my computer crashed

See the FAQ What can I do if my computer crashes or I'm disconnected from LibraryH3lp?

I don't see any new patrons coming in, but other service providers 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 or disconnected.

You could provide the patron with another URL to a different chat box from their institution (or another institution) to restart the session.

Suggest they try a different browser. See LibraryH3lp list of supported browsers. 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!

The patron may lose the session if they conduct a search in a database where the chat box is embedded or refresh the results on that page. Send the patron the Begin - Chat Expand script asking them to pop-out the chat box into a separate window.

If you send the patron a link, it should automatically open in a new browser tab or window. If they disappear and then return, you could ask them to copy and paste the URL and open it in a new window.

Ending the Chat

How can I successfully end a session with a patron?

See the FAQ How do I end a chat session?

What are tags?

See the Descriptive Tags page for a complete list of tags and how to use them. See also the FAQ How do I add descriptive tags to a session?

Finishing your Shift

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

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

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 do what's called "hopping out of the queues." See the FAQ How do I hop out of the queues?

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

The service will close when every service provider has left the queues or logged out of LibraryH3lp.

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
  • Message them in Campfire and ask them 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


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

See the FAQ How can a student request a transcript of their session? (scroll down to "Can I send a patron a copy of their transcript?")

How do I view my transcripts?

See the FAQ How do I view my own transcripts?

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

LibraryH3lp: Logout Problems

If you or another service provider is logged in to LibraryH3lp 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

LibraryH3lp: Technical Issues

If you experience technical problems with LibraryH3lp, 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).

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!