Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Mitigating Microaggressions in Chat Reference

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

QuestionPoint recently hosted a one-hour webinar on mitigating microaggressions in chat reference sessions.

  • To view the recording, click “View Webinar Recording” at the bottom of the event page and then click “Playback” (you may be asked to download the Cisco WebEx add-on).

The webinar was presented by Marie Radford (School of Communication and Information, Rutgers University) and Lynn Silipigni Connaway (OCLC). They share findings from their research on microaggressions in chat reference transcripts and share tips for library staff to avoid microaggressions when they’re chatting with patrons.

At AskAway, patrons often tell us that they felt heard and supported (rather than judged) during their chats. But, by continually reflecting on the assumptions that we bring to a session and how we communicate these in our chats, we strengthen communication with students and faculty and work with them to meet their information needs.

Defining and identifying microaggressions

The presenters define microaggressions as “intentional or non-intentional verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities towards marginalized groups.”

For their research, they reviewed 1000s of public and academic chat transcripts available via QuestionPoint between 2006 and 2016. They note that microaggressions can be difficult to identify as they tend to be subtle and personal.

Of the transcripts reviewed, they found that 97% of transcripts were free of microaggressions and that 3% included microaggressions.

Examples of microaggressions

The researchers identified microaggressions such as assuming a patron’s socioeconomic status or making heteronormative or ageist assumptions.

The researchers also identified the following types of microaggressions related to library research:

  • Assuming a patron’s search independence (e.g. their ability to use a search engine)
  • Calling out a patron (e.g. for making a mistake)
  • Assuming a patron’s technical literacy
  • Assuming a patron’s information need

How to mitigate microaggressions

The researchers shared tips for mitigating microaggressions in chat reference:

  • Avoid assuming a patron’s identity or ability
  • When unsure, respond with open, respectful questions rather than assumptive statements
  • Avoid library jargon and check-in to ask if they would like you to define any terms
  • Respect their time and check-in with them when doing a longer search (e.g. rather than saying “I have to do a prolonged search” you could ask “This is going to take me a few minutes to search. Is that ok?”)
  • Allow the patron time to reply and look for subtle queues that they may need more help

Questions or comments?

If you have any questions or comments to share about the webinar, feel free to contact the Admin Centre.

Refresher: Resolution and Descriptive Codes

Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017

At the end of a chat session, you have the opportunity to add Resolution and Descriptive codes to your chat. By adding these codes, you help us track technical issues with the service and give a clear picture of why patrons are coming to AskAway and the kind of help you are providing them.

Below, you’ll find a quick refresher on how to apply resolution and descriptive codes.

Adding a Resolution Code

Resolution codes allow us to track technical problems and to exclude practice calls from AskAway statistics.

Add only 1 of the following resolution codes:

Answered: For all sessions unless one of the other two codes apply. Even if you referred the student or did not fully answer the question, use this code.

Lost Call: If you think there was some technical reason why the patron disappeared abruptly or unexpectedly.

Practice: If you’re practicing or testing the service.

Please do not use any of the other resolution codes. If you referred a patron, use the Referred or Referred to Home Library descriptive codes.

How to add a resolution code.

Adding a resolution code


Adding Descriptive Codes

Descriptive codes help us understand how students use AskAway and what kind of help you are providing them. This information allows us to respond to learners’ needs at the service level. Thanks to descriptive codes, we know that approximately 40% of AskAway questions are related to research and 10% are questions about accessing eResources.

You can add up to 4 descriptive codes per session. For example, if you have a research question and during the chat you help the student with an interlibrary loan and at the end of the chat refer them to their liaison librarian, you would add the following codes: Research, Interlibrary Loan, Referred to Home Library.

The AskAway staff website has more information about descriptive codes, including definitions for each.

Adding descriptive codes.

Adding a descriptive code


Questions about resolution or descriptive codes? Feel free to contact me at the AskAway Admin Centre.

Student preferences for different forms of reference

Friday, June 27th, 2014

A very interesting article came out in CRL last month, entitled “A Usability Evaluation of Academic Virtual Reference Services“. Studies were done at two American universities comparing students’ experiences with and preferences for various forms of reference service, with extremely positive results for AskAway-style online chat.

Well worth a read:

OutLook OnLine Outage Sunday March 23rd

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Just a heads-up that OutLook OnLine, the service you may use to help patrons discover items held at BC public or post-secondary libraries, will be offline on Sunday, March 23rd from 9 AM – 6 PM.  While OutLook is offline, the alternative will be to search library catalogues individually.  It will be back up and running as normal on Monday March 24th.
- Sunni

AskAway Administrative Centre

Ethical Dilemmas survey

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Something that came up on the DIGI_REF listserv that might be of interest to AskAwayers. Here’s a chance to contribute some data points to a study on ethics in reference work…

Dear colleagues,

I cordially invite you to complete a brief survey that seeks to study reference librarians’ experience with ethical dilemmas at work.

It will only take ten minutes of your time, and your input is highly appreciated. Results of the survey will be presented at the 2014 International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) satellite meeting organized by the Committee on Free Access to Information and Freedom of Expression (FAIFE). Also, it will help educators gain insights on how to better teach ethics in courses about reference and information services.

The survey study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board at San Jose State University. The survey is completely anonymous.

By click the survey link below, you are consenting to participate in this study. Please contact me at if you have any questions regarding the survey.

Thank you!



Lili Luo
Associate Professor
School of Library and Information Science
San Jose State University, CA
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