Assignment Alert: UVic BIOL 184 Library Assignment

September 19th, 2016

The annual Biology lab assignment at UVic is underway – here is a message with various bits of information for you and any UVic students you might come across while chatting. Questions can be directed to the subject librarian – Kathleen Matthews,

The BIOL 184 Library Lab assignment is getting underway and the assignment will be due Oct 3-6.

The PDF of assignment is posted on the BIOL 184 Subject Guide at

This library assignment is the “Get to Know Your Biology Faculty” and focuses on finding  journal articles using the Web of Science and creating a “bibliography/list of references”  using EndNote Basic.

There are about 800+ students in BIOL 184. The assignment worksheet is very detailed and prescriptive so students should really be able to manage this without too much help, assuming they read the instructions.

- via email from Tracie Smith

Douglas College computer system shutdown: February 11-15

February 3rd, 2016
Hello all,

Douglas College will experience a full computer systems shutdown between 9pm on Thursday Feb 11th and 6am Monday Feb 15th in order to relocate the College’s main server and network equipment room.

Although this information will be posted on the Douglas College website, there will likely be many confused students in AskAway. Students will be able to use the library website and One Search, but they will not have access to any full text articles. 

If you are helping a Douglas College student, please let them know the hours of the shutdown, and bear in mind the free and open-access resources that are still available to them. Here are a few for your reference:

List of free collections via reSearcher:

Links compiled by AskAwayers, organized by subject: 

Douglas College librarians will continue staffing AskAway as normal during the shutdown.

Please contact the Admin Centre with any questions.

Large Biology assignment at UVic

January 18th, 2016

There is a large biology assignment (BIOL 186) beginning this week at UVic. There are about 800 students in the course so you may run into some of them on AskAway. According to the biology librarian (Kathleen Matthews), the students are looking for articles in the Web of Science, exporting results to Endnote Web and printing a list of references in the style of Canadian Journal of Zoology.

Kathleen has created a subject guide  which should help immensely. Kathleen’s email is

- via Tracie Smith

VR bringing back reference question complexity

January 11th, 2016

Krisellen Maloney and Jan H. Kemp recently published a fantastic article about how chat reference and proactive chat are bringing back the complexity of the reference question:

Some key points:

“Online chat may be popular (and less threatening) because it makes the service interaction available to users in a way that is culturally more familiar and inviting, providing assistance in a manner similar to many other online chat services they encounter in daily life. At the reference desk, it is fairly common for students to preface a question with an apology such as “I’m sorry to bother you,” or “I should already know the answer to this, but…” Interestingly, in the chat reference environment at the University Libraries, apologies are almost never offered—student simply ask their questions.”

“By differentiating between questions asked at the reference desk and questions asked via chat, we see evidence that users do ask more complex questions via chat. The trend of declining questions complexity does not appear to hold true in the virtual environment”

“the findings demonstrate that the reference transaction can result in the librarian providing guidance and advice, involving the librarian in a learner-centered approach to the research process that focuses on the active participation of the learner and experiential learning rather than on activities involving rote memorization.”

“After spending more than a decade moving librarians away from the reference desk and more recently away from chat reference, new evidence about user preference and students’ increasing use of chat reference to support learning may encourage academic libraries to reconsider the reference staffing model.”

What does AskAway sound like?

September 15th, 2015

The Access 2015 conference (September 8-11) included a hackfest session led by York University’s William Denton, who taught attendees how to use Sonic Pi to turn data into sound. The idea is to explore different ways of representing data, which may tell you things about your data that you hadn’t realized.

With some rather basic Ruby coding (which the software helps you with), you can take a data set, read it into the program, and generate music. (Bill provides instructions here.)

We had to pick some data to work with, and what data is more readily available and interesting than AskAway usage statistics? So I took the Form Fields data from January 2015, which includes a record for each question, and read it into the software thus:

  • Arranged questions in order of date and time entered
  • Assigned each patron’s institution to one of the five AskAway tiers
  • Assigned each tier a note
  • Assigned each note a length based on the length of the chat session

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