Archive for the ‘AskAway Updates’ Category

Institutional Queues: Review and Update

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

You may have noticed a larger number of queues popping up over the past couple of weeks, as institutional queues are set up at more and more libraries. We now have 14 libraries running institutional queues, and there may be more in the near future.

As institutional queues are rapidly becoming a permanent fixture on AskAway, it may be worthwhile to review how institutional queues affect your shifts, and some tips on how to work with them.

How Institutional Queues Work

Institutional queues are like a separate chat stream, where patrons from a particular institution are sent to work with staff from their own libraries. If those staff are not available, the patrons are moved to the general queue where they can be seen by all AskAwayers.

  • If someone is staffing an institutional queue, patrons from that institution are directed to their queue immediately. They are not visible in the general AskAway queue.
    • If the patron is not picked up for 40 seconds, they are dropped into the general AskAway queue.
  • If no one is staffing the institutional queue, their patrons are sent immediately to the AskAway queue and experience no delay.
  • Patron’s don’t know when they’ve been moved from one queue to the other.
  • If you see a patron from another library’s institutional queue, check whether an AskAwayer from their institution is logged in.
    • If so, that means the patron has already been waiting for 40 seconds, but their local service provider was too busy to pick them up. These patrons should be picked up as soon as possible.
    • If not, their institutional queue is closed, and they should be handled normally.
  • A patron’s queue shows up in the “Queue” field in the Chat Monitor. “BC Academic” is the general AskAway queue.

Selecting Queues when starting the Chat Monitor

When you start the Chat Monitor, you must select all queues (both checkboxes) in order to see all patrons. Patrons coming from queues that are not selected will be invisible to you.

At present, staffing AskAway means you should be logged into 15 queues. If someone is logged into fewer than 15 queues, many AskAway patrons will be invisible to them. Please let them know in Campfire that they should check the Queues menu and make sure they’re fully logged in.

People staffing the Institutional Queue only


One benefit of having an institutional queue is having the option to monitor it outside of your AskAway staffing commitment, to work only with patrons from your library. To do so, you would open the Chat Monitor as normal, and select only your institution’s queue.

When you look in the Librarians tab and see someone on just one queue, they are likely there outside of their AskAway commitment. They should not be expected to pick up AskAway questions, and will probably not log into Campfire. Please do not transfer chats to them without their permission.

Which libraries have institutional queues

Institutional queues are now active for the following libraries:

  • BCIT
  • Capilano University
  • Douglas College
  • Emily Carr University
  • KPU
  • Langara College
  • Northern Lights College
  • NWCC
  • Okanagan College
  • SFU
  • Thompson Rivers University
  • Trinity Western University
  • UBC
  • UVic

All libraries are now welcome to set up institutional queues at no additional cost, so there may be more in the near future.

If you have any further questions or concerns about institutional queues, or if your library wishes to set one up, please contact the Admin Centre.

Testing the New AskAway Website

Friday, August 15th, 2014

We are seeking volunteers — service providers and local coordinators — to assist with user experience testing of an updated AskAway staff portal. Participation should take around 20 minutes, and involves navigating to a number of pages on the website and completing a survey. Responses will help us to make pages easier to find and the website more useful and functional for those who use it.

If you’re interested in participating, please send an email to the AskAway Admin Centre, and we will send you a link to the questionnaire. We hope for all participants to complete the survey by Tuesday, August 26th.


The current AskAway website is powered by Drupal 6, a content management system that has served us well, but is getting increasingly out-of-date. As Ask AskAway has matured, more information and content have been added to the site, while the underlying architecture remained unchanged. An upgrade to Drupal 7 gives us access to features that make it easier to administer, more efficient, and allow us to host more of the site functions locally.

The AskAway website will soon be migrated to a new server, which provides the opportunity to not just upgrade its backbone, but to rebuild it from the ground up. This means a reorganization of the staff menu, harmonizing some of the pages, splitting others apart, and attempting to make things simpler. The look and feel will not change much, but it will (hopefully) be easier to use.

We’re running this user experience test in order to ensure that the new staff site serves the needs of all its users. For that reason, we’re seeking a range of user types to participate. Your input will have a direct impact on the website’s launch. Please get in touch if you want to participate.

We plan to launch the new website before the start of the Fall term.

AskAway: QuestionPoint Software License To Be Renewed

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

Hi All,

Please see Todd’s announcement below about the recent AskAway software evaluation process:


On behalf of the AskAway Advisory Committee, I am pleased to announce that  on August 1, 2013 we will be renewing the license with OCLC QuestionPoint to provide virtual reference (VR) software for the AskAway service for another 3 years.

The Advisory Committee would like to extend thanks to all those AskAwayers who participated in the software evaluation process.

Software Evaluation Process

QuestionPoint was selected as the VR software provider after a software evaluation process initiated in February 2012.  A software evaluation committee was created to review available VR products, determine a list of functional requirements, and develop a Request for Quote (RFQ).  Committee members were:

  • Tina Bebbington, University of Victoria
  • Debra Flewelling, Douglas College (Chair)
  • Ben Harrison, College of the Rockies
  • Kealin MCCabe, University of Northern British Columbia
  • George Villavicencio, Capilano University
  • Sunni Nishimura, AskAway Admin Centre

Pricing and vendor references were evaluated and scored by myself and Anita Cocchia (BC ELN).

The Software Evaluation Committee compiled a shortlist of four platforms from a longlist of platforms contributed by the Emerging Technologies Committee.  The RFQ was submitted to the four vendors, each of whom responded: SpringShare’s LibChat, LivePerson, OCLC Questionpoint and Altarama’s RefChatter.

Vendors made presentations and provided trial access to the AskAway community, and community feedback informed the evaluation committee’s decision-making.  While all the platforms had merit, the committee felt only QuestionPoint met the needs of the AskAway service in compliance with privacy legislation, consortial administration/reporting, pricing, and maturity.  The committee’s recommendation to renew the QP software was approved by the AskAway Advisory Committee and endorsed by the BC ELN Steering Committee. The recommendation is available here:

Questions? Let me, the AskAway Admin Centre or any members of the Software Evaluation Committee know.


Todd Mundle

AskAway Advisory Committee Chair

QuestionPoint All Tab Display Issues

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

We are currently investigating some issues with the QuestionPoint All Tab displaying an inaccurate count of the active questions for some service providers.  This tab usually displays all questions the other service providers are working on and also allows you to join a question in conference mode to assist a colleague.

How do I check-out questions on-the-go during my shift now? Regularly check the active question counts in the Librarians Tab instead to find out if your All Tab is updating or not. Communicate with your colleagues in Campfire to share issues with your All Tab and to assist each other with queue management.

You can also use the Chat Monitoring Tool to view current question snippets & service provider information.

  1. Go back to the MyQuestionPoint screen (that’s the first screen you see after you login to QP).
  2. Below the Launch Chat button is the Chat Monitoring Tool.
  3. Note that the Chat Monitoring Tool is a static display. Click Refresh on your browser to update!

Want to know more about the uses of the All Tab? Or is your All Tab not displaying? Check-out the All About the All Tab blog post for a refresher and contact your AskAway Local Coordinator to request the All Tab turned on.

Questions or comments about the All tab issue? Please contact us at the AskAway Admin Centre.

Administrative Centre Report, Dec. 1, 2012 – Mar. 31, 2013

Monday, April 22nd, 2013
Below is a link to AskAway’s latest Administrative Centre report. This is the first to come out since we adopted a new streamlined approach to reporting; the Administrative Centre will produce these reports twice a year now, instead of for every Advisory Committee meeting.

The latest Administrative Centre report
Administrative Centre reports archive

Please feel free to contact the administrative centre with questions or comments.
Reece, BC ELN