Quick tips to improve conversations with patrons

July 31st, 2017

QuestionPoint recently hosted a brief 30 minute webinar with quick tips to improve chat reference conversations. They also shared several follow-up questions and answers from the session.

In the webinar, a public and an academic librarian share general tips that can be applied to any chat reference question, from in-depth research to circulation.

Three tips that stood out were:

  1. Follow the chatter’s lead
  2. Think beyond the chat
  3. Give the patron’s question the benefit of the doubt

Follow the chatter’s lead
Erin Callahan from Hennepin County Library encourages you to follow the chatter’s lead. By doing so, you let them decide how much information you provide, how fast the chat and the search progress, and where to go next. Set realistic expectations and provide options, but let the learner guide the interaction as much as possible. As you’re working with a learner, you could ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are they in a hurry? Or should you move slowly?
  • Do they want a little bit of help to get started or are they looking for a deep dive?
  • Are they done with their research or should they be referred for further help?

Think beyond the chat
This tip is all about setting the patron up for success. According to Callahan, chat reference is a conversation and each conversation provides an opportunity for the library to build a positive relationship with the patron. Although at AskAway, library staff don’t follow-up directly with patrons after a chat, we can still provide the patron with the information they need to continue their search or seek further help:

  • Point to other resources that the learner can check out later on their own time
  • Share search tips and suggestions as you go
  • If necessary, refer them and provide them with the information they need for a successful referral

As always, encourage the chatter to email themselves a transcript so that they can revisit the chat and draw on it during any follow-up.

Give the patron’s question the benefit of the doubt
Have you ever received a question that catches you off guard? It might sound like a question that’s not related to coursework or it might sound like a prank. Lisa Hartman from Frostburg State University has some interesting examples of these types of questions and encourages you to give the patron the benefit of the doubt.

When a learner comes in with an unexpected question, a reference interview can go a long way. If you don’t understand the question, it’s okay to say so and to ask for further information and clarification. Sometimes, you’ll need to draw a line and explain what services you can provide.

If the patron has a legitimate information need, they will be thankful that you took their question seriously and took the time to help. If their question is outside the scope of AskAway or the library, they will learn something about the library and its services.

Tips to share?

If you have any more tips to share or any comments, feel free to contact the Admin Centre!


Improving Chat Reference with Emotional Intelligence

March 8th, 2017

The Florida State Library has shared a webinar they held on emotional intelligence in chat reference, which they offer as part of their library staff training. If you’re interested in a stronger connection with your patrons for better reference outcomes, please have a look:

Preparing for unexpected patrons

February 24th, 2017

As we are now approaching the busy part of the term, it may be helpful to review some tips and recommended procedures for working with unexpected patrons. 

Although it happens rarely, AskAway sometimes receives calls from unexpected patrons. These might include chats with non post-secondary patrons, pranksters, patrons with technical difficulties, or patrons in crisis. The Unexpected Patrons page has best practices and tips to help you be prepared and work with these patrons smoothly.

If you have any questions about these pages or suggestions for improvement, feel free to contact the Admin Centre.

Sending database links to patrons

January 23rd, 2017

A recent message from a service provider:

“I’ve been having intermittent problems sending working links to Ebsco databases to patrons over Askaway. I’ll send a link to search results or a journal article and they will be sent to an Ebsco page where it asks them to pick their server. This is not the database homepage or a university off-campus log in page.”

If you’re running into this kind of problem, you’re probably sending patrons links copied from the address bar in your browser. Those URLs usually do not include institutional proxies, and when patrons follow them from off-campus, they will get redirected.

The solution to this is the Permalink. Databases will typically include permalinks to both articles and search results – you just need to know where to look. The following demonstrate permalinks in EBSCO databases.



Unreliable link via address bar: http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=354281f8-be99-4a03-9636-256ede3f589a%40sessionmgr102&hid=128&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#AN=120566051&db=a9h

Reliable permalink: http://proxy.lib.sfu.ca/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=120566051&site=ehost-live

Permalinks to journal articles

On the article’s record page, you’ll see a Tools menu in the sidebar. Clicking the Permalink option opens a text box near the top of the page, with a URL to copy. This permalink includes the institution’s proxy information, and will send patrons to the right place without redirection.

Permalinks to search results

You can also send permalinks to search results. On the search result page, click the Share button. Choose Use Permalink, and copy the URL that appears.

Large SFU Psych 100/102 assigment

September 30th, 2016

It’s that time of semester when you may hear from SFU students in Psyc 100 / Psyc 102 looking for research help on their assignments.

Please note that there is a guide for Psyc 100 / Psyc 102. Some students may still need help navigating the databases, as they are mostly first year students new to research and academic databases. I’ve also attached copies of the assignments for your reference.

In Psyc 100, students are required to find two empirical articles in PsycINFO – one non-experimental, and one a true experiment.  In the instructor’s words:

“One of these articles must be based on a true experiment while the other article must be based on a non-experimental study that examines the same general research hypothesis.”

In Psyc 102, researchers are asked to find two articles on the same topic, but as analyzed through two different theoretical perspectives. These perspectives might include Biological, Psychodynamic, Humanist, Cognitive, Behavioural and Sociocultural. Notably, there are also narrower theoretical perspectives within these broad ones; if using one sub-topic, the student should note the broader theoretical view it belongs to. In the instructor’s words:

“Find two articles that you understand well enough that you can determine that they are reporting research on a ‘similar issue’,(same construct), but differ in their underlying theoretical perspectives”

Both Psyc 100 and Psyc 102 students are also limited by date range and alphabet range of the author’s last name.

There is no way to specifically narrow to either a particular perspective or to a true experiment in PsycINFO using the limiters, but adding keywords likely to be associated with a particular perspective (for instance, repress*, dopamine, actualization, etc.) or type of experiment might help narrow large result sets. Suggestions of key words are found in the 100/102 guide.

Notably, the percentage of true experimental versus non-experimental designs will vary by Psychology sub-discipline, but in general, there are fewer true experiments conducted.

Sometimes it just comes down to a matter of understanding the course material in order to interpret the articles; in other words, the student may already have a search results list with both required types, but not know how to distinguish. In these cases, we can’t distinguish for them, but could point them to a psyc handbook, for instance, to help them understand the concept of a true experiment better. Or, they may need to speak with their TAs. Other times, it will indeed be a matter where we can help improve the search and teach them how to use the interface.

Thank you for your help with this assignment.