Archive for October, 2006

AskAway Update for October 23, 2006

Monday, October 23rd, 2006

Welcome to the AskAway Update! This is a weekly email to keep all of you who are working on the post-secondary AskAway project up-to-date on how the service is doing. The update is also a way for us to push you technical tips, feedback and stats without inundating your inbox with emails! Please let Sunni know if you have any suggestions for future content: sunnin@eln.bc.ca.
Sections:

  • AA News
  • Last Week’s AA Stats
  • AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
  • Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week
  • How Do I…deal with non-academic questions?
  • Neat New Stuff
  • Coming Soon…

AA News
Reminder: Time change on Sunday Oct 29th!
AA Launch PR
The official government launch last Tuesday generated a lot of media interest in AA. We were written up in several newspapers, including the Times-Colonist, the Nanaimo Daily News and the Alaska Highway News (out of Fort St. John), among others. There were also pieces on A-Channel TV and CBC radio. This past weekend the Vancouver Sun included a special insert on libraries, with a section on AskAway. We’ll try to compile citations to some of the PR onto the Librarian’s Portal at some point. See Last Week’s AA Stats below to see the impact the PR had on our traffic.
Note: Although AA was launched to the public as a single service, the public and post-secondary queues are operating separately. When patrons go to AskAway.org, they will be directed to either the public library queue or the post-secondary queue, depending on which institution they choose as their ‘local’ library. See the How Do I… section below on handling questions better suited to the public library queue.
Welcome BCIT!
Beginning Nov 1st, BCIT will begin staffing the service Wednesdays from 11am-1pm. Lin Brander and Pat Cumming will be staffing for BCIT until the rest of the BCIT crew gets trained in December.
Extra coverage
Jeff Davis, our on-call contractor, will be staffing the service Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11am – 1pm. Please still feel free to contact him if you are having difficulty covering a shift.
Last Week’s AA Stats
The following numbers are for all chat sessions accepted by a librarian, excluding those sessions coded Practise.
Stats for 11 AM on Monday October 16 – 5 PM on Sunday October 22, 2006

  • Total # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted: ~455
  • Average # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted per day: ~ 65

Pre-launch, we were averaging 45-55 calls a day. For three days post-launch, we’re were averaging 80-100 calls a day! A big thank you to everyone who handled the extra traffic so well – we looked great in the spotlight!
AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
“I absolutely love this service, it makes my stress level manageable. When i can’t find something this services helps a great deal. i will continue using it as long as i can :).”
“This service is a fabulous idea. I am an information junkie, and often have difficulty finding a source to obtain the information. I’m amazed at how quickly the information was found. I’ll likely become a regular user. Cruiser”
“Its so hard to get in touch with a human being in todays world of technology. Its great to see that someone is available whenever you have a question. thanks!”
Didn’t know answer to my question, but nice to know that someone is there to help in real time when needed! :) AWESOME SERVICE! (Sunni’s note: This was a local knowledge question that wasn’t answered by any information on the library website.)
Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week: Clear your cache often!
Clearing your cache is always a good idea at the beginning of a shift, but a number of folks have reported that clearing the cache has resolved all sorts of issues, so it is always worth trying if you run into problems.
To clear your cache in IE go to Tools ? Internet options ? Under Temporary Internet Files, click Delete Files.
How Do I…
…deal with inappropriate questions?
The launch has generated lots of interest in AA, and there has been an increase in questions from non-students, or folks just wanting to try the service out; e.g. a patron who wanted to know who he should designate as his insurance beneficiary! While we are open to questions from the general public, our mandate is primarily to serve students, faculty and staff from BC post-secondary institutions – this information is clearly stated on the patron login page. Other questions can be referred to the public library service at askaway.org.
One approach to determining whether the question is academic is to ask “What course is this for?”
If the question is not academic, you can decide whether you want to pursue the question, based on traffic, the plausibility of the question, and your interest/knowledge, but post-secondary patrons should have priority. Remember, we don’t give legal or medical advice.
…. tell my side of the story?
A number of folks have been distressed about receiving negative feedback from the patron survey, and expressed that it would be useful to be able to tell their side of the story as well. QP does give you the ability to do this. After you close the session, on the screen where you enter your resolution codes for the session, there is a space to enter ‘Librarian Only’ comment. This will be appended to the transcript but will only be visible to you and the administrators, not the patron. Use this note to explain any extraneous circumstances that might be useful to put the call into context.
Neat New Stuff on the Librarian’s Portal
AskAway Updates http://www.eln.bc.ca/vr_portal/index.html
Until we get our blog up and running, all the AskAway updates will now be posted on the index page of the Portal.
Practice questions http://www.eln.bc.ca/vr_portal/practisequestions.html
Remember I asked you a loooong time ago to send me practice questions for your institution? Well they are finally up on the portal on the Self-practice and Training tab, including ones from BCIT (joining the service next week). Some have answers provided, some don’t. If anyone would like to contribute answers for the ones that don’t, feel free to email them to me and I’ll add them.
Self-assessment and peer transcript review checklists http://www.eln.bc.ca/vr_portal/selfpractice.html#eval
PLSB and VPL developed these checklists to use when reviewing your transcripts or reviewing those of your peers. You’ll find them on the Self-Practice and Training tab of the Portal.
Coming Soon…

  • Revised Service Guidelines document including AA Competencies
  • Training schedule for Nov/Dec
  • Draft AA schedule for January

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sunni Nishimura
BC ELN Virtual Reference Coordinator
Email: sunnin@eln.bc.ca
Phone: (604) 268-6937
Fax: (604) 291-3023
AskAway is coordinated by the BC Electronic Library Network.

AskAway Update for October 16, 2006

Monday, October 16th, 2006

Welcome to the AskAway Update! This is a weekly email to keep all of you who are working on the AskAway project up-to-date on how the service is doing. The update is also a way for us to push you technical tips, feedback and stats without inundating your inbox with emails! Please let Sunni know if you have any suggestions for future content: sunnin@eln.bc.ca
Sections:

  • AA News: Launch; On-call librarian available
  • We Need Your Input!
  • Last Week’s AA Stats
  • AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
  • Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week: “Help! I’m the only librarian on!”
  • How Do I…Make a Warm Referral?
  • Neat New Stuff
  • Coming Soon…

AA News
Launch: Although it is officially hush-hush, we wanted to give you a heads-up that AskAway is going to be launched to the public and the media on Tuesday morning, so look for new patrons (and possibly members of the media) trying out the service this week. This is nothing to worry about – you are all doing an AA (Absolutely Amazing) job of helping patrons with their questions – keep it up!
Staffing: Recognizing that staffing is an issue for all of you, we have hired an on-call librarian who can be available to pick up shifts that can’t be covered by existing staff. Jeff Davis is working as a contractor for ELN on another project, but has previous experience staffing the virtual reference service at U of A using QuestionPoint. Just to be clear, Jeff is only available for back-up if you have put out a call for a shift switch on the servprov listserv but no one on the list is able to cover it for you, or if you have a last minute emergency and can’t make a shift. In that case, please contact Jeff Davis to see if he is able to take the shift: jeffd@eln.bc.ca. We will add this info into the Service Guidelines document on the portal, and Jeff’s contact info will also be added to the Contacts page.
We Need Your Input!
Training Needs: Now that things are well underway, we are looking at future training and/or online professional development sessions. With some hours of service under your belts you may have a better idea of existing training needs. Please let Sunni know if you have suggestions for how to improve training, or suggestions for professional development sessions: sunnin@eln.bc.ca.
BCLA Session: Although it is a little late in the game, we are trying to get a proposal in for a BCLA session. If anyone has any ideas for what they would like to see in an AskAway session, please let Sunni know sunnin@eln.bc.ca. Some ideas are: roundtable discussion; Q&A; service update; speakers from other VR initiatives; panel discussion….??
Last Week’s AA Stats
The following numbers are for all chat sessions acepted by a librarian, excluding those sessions coded Practise.
Stats for 11 AM on Tuesday October 10, 2006 [Service closed Monday Oct 9] – 5 PM on Sunday October 15, 2006

  • Total number of calls accepted: ~260
  • Busiest day: Tuesday (~ 60 calls)
  • Slowest day: Thursday (~ 34 calls) We had several reports of technical difficulties on Thursday, so this may account for the low number.

BTW, our apologies for not getting back to anyone this week about technical difficulties – Gordon and I were both away at meetings/conferences. Please keep letting us know when you’re having issues.
AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
“This the first time I use library on-line, I felt excellent. English is my second language. I am very shied to write or speak it since I am afraid that people would not understand me. The Librarian [name removed] is very competent, I definitely would visit again.”
Although comments such as the one above from the patron exit survey are great, we’re also looking for stories from you and user comments from within transactions! If you have any stories about particularly grateful patrons (“AskAway has saved my life!”) that you’d like to share, please let me know (of course, all identifying info would be stripped out). The folks that fund us are really interested in knowing how we are impacting lives…!
Gordon’s Technical Tip of the Week
“The librarian tab is showing only one librarian logged in right now. Help! Isn’t someone else supposed to be on with me?”
The known technical issue with the librarian monitor was supposed to be fixed in the last install a week ago, but if you are still experiencing this issue, try the following:
1. Wait a moment to see if it changes. If you’ve just logged in, it may take a moment for the current data to appear.
2. Other librarians may be logged on and answering questions, but not showing up on your screen. To check if this is the case, go back to the MyQuestionPoint screen (that’s the first screen you see when you log into QP). Below the Launch Chat button is the Chat Monitoring Tool. Click it, and you should see an accurate picture of who is logged in. Note that the Chat Monitoring Tool is a static display; it does not refresh, so it only shows who’s on at the moment you click it.
3. It could be that another librarian has missed a shift due to illness or for some other reason, and has not been able to find someone else to cover it. If you’re very busy, do your best to help all the patrons, and deploy all the tricks in your bag for handling multiple patrons (e.g. be honest about how busy you are, try to refer them to email reference, etc. etc.)
If you have time, please use the Staffing Schedule (available in the Portal) to determine which other library is supposed to be covering the shift. Then phone the Local Admin person at that library and politely inquire. On the weekends or if you cannot get a response at that library, please contact Sunni sunnin@eln.bc.ca or Gordon gordonc@eln.bc.ca.
4. If you haven’t already done so, whenever you get a chance after your shift, please let Gordon or Sunni know that you have experienced this problem. We need to know if it is happening in order to sort out if it is a technical or staffing issue.
This information is also available in the Tech Troubleshooting manual on the Portal: http://www.eln.bc.ca/vr_portal/techtroubles.html
How Do I… Make a Warm Referral?
When you need to refer a patron to another institution, service point or librarian, make your referral as ‘warm’ as possible by giving the patron as much specific information as you can. If you have it, give them the email and phone number of the specific service point or person at the institution, hours of probable availability, webpage address for further information, etc.. Remember, the patron will likely receive the transcript of the session, and will be able to refer back to the information you give them.
Neat New Stuff
Askaway.org , the website address on all our forth-coming PR materials, is sporting a spiffy new look: http://askaway.org This page will route patrons to the academic or public library queues, so you can use it when referring members of the general public to the public library AskAway service.
Coming Soon…
Revised guest logins info: several institutions have sent me new guest logins, and we’re checking into a few technical glitches, but will have the revised spreadsheet out ASAP.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sunni Nishimura
BC ELN Virtual Reference Coordinator
Email: sunnin@eln.bc.ca
Phone: (604) 268-6937
Fax: (604) 291-3023
AskAway is coordinated by the BC Electronic Library Network.

AskAway Update for October 9, 2006

Monday, October 9th, 2006

Welcome to the AskAway Update! This is a weekly email to keep all of you who are working on the AskAway project up-to-date on how the service is doing. The update is also a way for us to push you technical tips, feedback and stats without inundating your inbox with emails! Please let Sunni know if you have any suggestions for future content: sunnin@eln.bc.ca.
Sections:

  • Last Week’s AA Stats
  • AA (Absolutely Astonishing) Question of the Week
  • AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
  • Gord’s Technical Tip of the Week
  • How Do I…create my own scripts?
  • Neat New Stuff
  • Coming Soon…

Last Week’s AA Stats
The following numbers are for all chat sessions accepted by a librarian, excluding those sessions coded Practise.
From 11 AM Monday October 2 to 5 PM Saturday October 7, 2006 (Service closed Sunday Oct 8)

  • Total # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted: ~ 270
  • Average # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted per day: ~ 44

AA (Absolutely Astonishing) Question of the Week
“I am having difficulty finding periodical articles related to a study exploring the relationship between intrusion and territoriality in the context of a parking lot.” !!!!
AA (Absolutely Amazing) User Feedback of the Week
“The Reference Librarian in the library always seems to be busy, so it’s hard to get questions answered… this was faster, easy to use and had very satisfying results. THANK YOU!!!”
“This is an awesome service. I am in the North West Territories and was not able to connect by phone so this service is wonderful. It is quick and efficient!! Keep this service going, it is a much needed one!”
“This was a wonderful service, the person helping me was precise and very accommodating.”
Gordon’s Technical Tips of the Week
“The librarian I’m trying to IM isn’t responding…”
At present, there is no notification when a librarian you are IM’ing with has sent you a new message – this can be problematic if you are toggling back and forth between patron chat and IM. The only way to get the librarian’s attention is to close the IM session and then re-initiate a new IM session with them – then they’ll get a notification (either a pop-up or a ping).
How Do I…
…Create my own scripts?
You have the option of creating personal scripts that will only be visible to you in the chat monitor. These will save you time and make dealing with multiple patrons easier, especially if you find yourself typing the same thing over and over to patrons.
To create your personal scripts:
1. Log on to QP.
2. Choose the Ask module from the drop-down menu in the top right-hand corner of your screen.
3. Choose the Settings tab.
4. Choose My Scripts.
5. Enter your scripts, giving them a short script name (less then 100 characters) that will allow you to easily identify them. Scripts will be displayed alphabetically.
6. Click Add.
You can add up to 25 scripts. Personal scripts will show up in the My Library window of the Scripts tab in the chat monitor. You can add your own URL’s in the same way, using the My URLs tab.
For more details, see the QP documentation: http://www.questionpoint.org/crs/html/help/en/ask/ask_process_scripts.html
Neat New Stuff
The Troubleshooting Manual is up on the portal! http://www.eln.bc.ca/vr_portal/techtroubles.html
Remember to keep Gordon posted about any tech troubles you experience that don’t show up in the manual and that you think others might benefit from knowing about.
Gordon has created a page listing all email reference contact points: http://www.eln.bc.ca/vr_portal/email_ref.html. The link shows up on the patron question form (viewport page) and the Librarian’s Portal. Information about email reference contact points should also be included on your library policy page, if it isn’t there already.
System-wide scripts added/edited:
TechTrouble – Contact us by email You are not responding, and I’m wondering if you’re having technical difficulties. One alternative is to send us your question by email. Contact information for your library is on this page: http://www.eln.bc.ca/vr_portal/email_ref.html
Privacy – Brief We’re not permitted to collect personal information (such as your name, email address, etc.) because transcripts of our sessions are stored on servers outside of Canada.
Privacy – Detailed The BC Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act states that personal information may not be stored on servers located in the United States without your permission. This is because information stored in the U.S. may be accessible to authorities under the USA Patriot Act “warrant-less searches” provisions. Transcripts of our sessions are stored on servers in the U.S. Therefore, to comply with the BC law, we’re not permitted to collect personal information such as your name, email address, etc.
Close – Goodbye & Survey Thank you for using AskAway. Please come back again if you have more questions. After you exit our session, I encourage you to take a moment to fill out the brief survey. AskAway is a new service, and your feedback is essential to ensure its continuation.
Please remember to use the scripts to help you deal with multiple patrons and to ensure we maintain consistent service standards.
Coming Soon…
Service statistics: Sunni is working on getting service-wide statistics up on the portal, and on instructions for collecting your institution’s statistics.
We’ re working on a PR Toolkit for the institutions which will include materials to hand out at service points, flyers, boilerplates for your internal PR, etc..
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sunni Nishimura
BC ELN Virtual Reference Coordinator
Email: sunnin@eln.bc.ca
Phone: (604) 268-6937
Fax: (604) 291-3023
AskAway is coordinated by the BC Electronic Library Network.

AskAway Update for October 5, 2006

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

This update was originally emailed to all AskAwayers. It is being re-posted here for ease of access.
Welcome to the first issue of the AskAway Update! This will be a weekly email to keep all of you who are working on the AskAway project up-to-date on how the service is doing. The update will also be a way for us to push you technical tips, feedback and stats without inundating your inbox with emails. Please let Sunni know if you have any suggestions for future content: sunnin@eln.bc.ca.
Sections:
* Last Week’s AA Stats
* AA (Absolutely Amazing) Patron Feedback of the Week
* AA (Absolutely Amazing) Librarian Feedback of the Week
* Gord’s Technical Tip of the Week
* How Do I…?
* Neat New Stuff
* Holiday Closures
* Coming Soon…
Last Week’s AA Stats
The following numbers are for all chat sessions accepted by a librarian, excluding those sessions coded Practise.
From 11 AM Monday September 25 to 9 PM Sunday October 1, 2006:
Total # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted: ~ 400
Average # of ‘real’ chat sessions accepted per day: ~ 57
Congratulations to everyone for your hard work answering questions – we’re hopping!
AA (Absolutely Amazing) Patron Feedback of the Week
Every time a patron that you have worked with fills out a survey form, you should get an email version of their response. Here are some randomly chosen (unedited) responses from last week:
“(The librarian) was incredible helpful, she did everything to help me out as much as possible, even pull up the floor plans for the library. This was a great experience!”
“This was awesome – allowed me to figure out where to go and what to look for at school instead of wandering around! I will definitely use this again. Thanks”
“was surprised at how quicky I received help. I will use this service again! thanks !”
AA (Absolutely Amazing) Librarian Feedback of the Week
“…had a great time during my first VR hour! My only regret is that I have to wait two weeks to do it again…”
“It was great fun! – once we got some of the wrinkles sorted out. … Can’t wait for next week!”
“Also, in my 2 hour shift last night I only managed to pick up 1 call – and not for want of trying. I clicked as fast as I could, but someone always got there first…”
Gordon’s Technical Tips of the Week
“I’m waiting but am not getting any calls…”
Some librarians have been experiencing a situation where they think they are monitoring the service, but find out later that they were in fact ‘frozen’ and not able to pick up the calls. To prevent this from happening, keep an eye on the ‘Updated’ clock at the top of the chat monitor; it should update every few seconds. If it seems to be frozen and doesn’t show the right time, restart your browser and try re-logging in to QuestionPoint.
“My screen is refreshing so fast I can’t type…” or “I can’t make the pop-up notifications go away…”
Hitting the refresh button on your browser seems to solve these issues
How Do I … Review My Own Transcripts?
Log on to QP. In the Select Service drop-down menu in the top right-hand corner, choose Ask. Click on the My Questions tab to view your transcripts. For more details on viewing transcripts, see the QuestionPoint Overview .
Neat New Stuff
We’ve added a Quick Reference Resources section to the Librarian’s Portal .
If there are any other links you would find useful to have on the Resources page (or anywhere else on the portal), please let us know: sunnin@eln.bc.ca or gordonc@eln.bc.ca
Important Dates
Thanksgiving:
AskAway will be closed Thanksgiving Sunday October 8th and Thanksgiving Monday October 9th.
Coming Soon…
Guest logins: We’re working on getting the list of guest logins up on the portal behind a password.
AskAway Blog: Hopefully this will take over from the serv prov listserv.