Archive for the ‘Professional Development & Training’ Category

Quick tips to improve conversations with patrons

Monday, 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

Wednesday, 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:

Tips for busy times and multiple patrons

Monday, February 23rd, 2015

As we’re now in the busy part of the term, it may be helpful to review some tips and recommended procedures for busy times and handling multiple patrons on AskAway.


How formal should you be? Here’s the research

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Our exit surveys exhibit a wide range of preferences for formality levels. Many of our users write to tell us that they appreciate the approachable, informal tone that many AskAwayers take on during a chat. Some users want AAers to express more formality, while others complain that we’re not casual enough.

So how can you make sure that patrons of all types are happy and comfortable with the tone of their interactions? Here are some tips, courtesy of this study of chat reference and politeness theory.

From the article:

Users tended to be less formal than library staff; however staff tended to adjust their own formality levels to that of the users. If a user started at a moderately formal level but quickly moved to a low-formal level, the librarian tended to move from a high-formality level to a moderate-formality level. That is, the librarian tended to stay a notch or two higher. That arrangement appeared to be comfortable for both parties in that neither made radical shifts to match or contrast with the other. As the help-seeker, the user needed to ask the library staff for a simple fact or actual guidance on a more complex problem. Ceding some control also permitted the user to cede responsibility to some extent; the comfort with which that occurred was underscored in the excessive gratitude and enthusiastic expressions of appreciation.

The take-away: Adjusting your formality according to that of your patrons puts them at ease. Staying just a notch or two more formal than they are keeps you approachable, but maintains your image as an authority or expert – someone who is able to provide the help they need.

QuestionPoint Webinar on Transcript Assessment

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

Dear QuestionPoint librarians

Join us for a free webinar on August 14 at noon ET (UTC-4) for a timely discussion on transcript assessment, presented by Cynthia Johnson and Caitlin Plovnik (both of UC Irvine).

In this webinar, Cynthia and Caitlin will use actual chat transcripts (anonymized) to demonstrate “good” and “great” examples of how librarians ask open ended questions and engage with their online patrons to provide the best possible service and answers in the virtual reference environment. This session will be interactive with polls and time to discuss what makes certain reference interactions go from “good” to “great.”

Title: Real Transcripts/Real Analysis: building blocks for online reference assessment and improvement

Date: Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Time: Noon ET (UTC-4)

Presenters: Cynthia Johnson and Caitlin Plovnik, UC Irvine

This webinar is another in our series “Best Practices in Virtual Reference”.

To register: go to this link and click the REGISTER button.

Please email me if you have problems registering, and I’ll record it for those unable to attend.  You can view previous webinars in this series here.



Susan McGlamery

QuestionPoint product manager