Archive for January, 2009

Authentication Problems – a quick troubleshooting guide

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Some AskAwayers have been wondering: what do we do when patrons get an error when trying to login to library resources? Here are some questions to pinpoint the problem:
1. Have they ever logged in before? How recently was it?
Some institutions require that the students activate their accounts (in-person or online). Sometimes they have to re-activate their accounts with each new term.
2. Do they get any error messages? What are they?
These can help determine if it is a problem with their account or with the library website or the database itself
If the problem only began after the patron entered the AskAway chat session, ask them if they can open the database in a new window. This usually solves the problem, especially if the error is: “this is cookie.htm from the docs subdirectory” or “loginbu.htm from the docs subdirectory”. It even sometimes works if the error something like: “your account is invalid”!
3. Are they able to login to a different database?
Ask them if they are able to open a database that is provided by a different vendor. E.g. if they were trying to get into Academic Search Premier, ask them if they can get into Canadian Newsstand or Art Index
4. Are they currently registered in any courses? Do they have any library fines or overdues?
Check their library’s policies to see if they freeze accounts that have fines, or don’t allow access to those who are not currently registered.
5. Are they using an unusual browser or OS?
If the patron has access to another browser, see if they can get in through that browser. This is especially important if they are using Safari (try Firefox instead).
6. Did they notice that the pages of the library website were loading slowly?
This might indicate a problem with the library’s server.
7. Is there more than one way to login?
If there is more than one way to login, get them to try the other. Some institutions allow patrons to login via their library card barcode OR the login they use to access their email or register for classes. If the patron is from UBC, ask them if they have tried the proxy or rewriting proxy instead of the VPN (especially if they have never logged in before).
8. Are you (the service provider) able to login to the database? Do you notice any unusual behaviour of the patron’s library website?
If you can’t login either, it might be a problem with the library’s website or with the database itself. If you can login, it is probably a problem with the patron’s account. Note that this test is only useful if both you and the patron are logging in from off-campus (or both from on-campus).
9. Are they logging into Refworks?
Some patrons do not realise that they have to first login with their library account, and then create a separate Refworks account. You may have to tell them several times, and in several different ways, that they have to login twice – once with their library account, to access the Refworks login page, and then again to access a personal Refworks account.
10. Are they affiliated with the institution that they are trying to access?
This sounds like a silly question, but sometimes patrons insist that someone told them that they could use their “Obscure Remote Library” card to access resources at one of our libraries. Other times, they don’t realise that they’ve clicked off of their own library’s website onto someone else’s. In some cases, post-secondary students from other universities ask for access, not realising that their own libraries provide access to the same databases.
How far do we go?
If the above information doesn’t solve the problem, what then?
If the problem seems to be due to the patron’s account:
Provide them with contact information for circulation or IT services at their local library. Let the patron know that circ staff will have access to their account information and can check to see if there is a problem.
If the problem seems to be due to the library website or specific database:
Provide them with contact information for the Electronic Resources librarian, librarian in charge of that database, or reference librarian, as appropriate. If the patron is reporting the problem by email, urge them to include as many details as possible, or you may wish to send your own email explaining anything you think the patron might not have thought to include. Alternatively, you may wish to report the problem yourself, and suggest that the patron check to see if they can login in [X] hours.
In all cases:
If it is an evening or weekend, be sure that the contact information that you have provided will actually connect them with a live person, if at all possible. E.g. you might provide them with contact information for the Electronic Resources librarian AND for a reference or circulation desk which you know to be open at the current time.
Lastly, suggest alternatives, such as another database on the same topic (perhaps a free one), a google scholar search, an authoritative website on their topic, or, if appropriate, suggest they check if their public library has access to any academic databases. They may find something useful to start out with while they are waiting for the problem to be solved.

AskAway Update: January 12th

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

AA News:
New Improved Service Provider Experience

On November 23, QuestionPoint installed a software update that changed the look and feel of the chat monitor. The new version improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the service provider experience, giving SPs more ability to customise the layout of information in the chat monitor. The new version requires your computer to have the latest version of Flash. For more information about this exciting
upgrade, see New Look For the Chat Monitor.

Qwidgets Are Here

QP recently launched the Qwidget, a mini chat box that can be placed on any library website page, allowing patrons to access AskAway at point-of-need. Six AskAway libraries have now placed Qwidgets on their library websites: BCIT, Douglas College, North Island College, UBC, Okanagan College, and University of the Fraser Valley. Implementations are underway at several other AskAway libraries. Preliminary results from the pilot project run in the fall have shown patron requests can double or even triple with just 4-5 placements of the Qwidget on the library website. Learn more about the Qwidget
on the Portal.

Sustainability Survey Results Available

Results of the Sustainability Survey that AskAway administrators filled out in September are available on the Portal. Results are being used to create an AskAway Adds Value Toolkit, available soon.

Marie Radford coming to the BC Library Conference!

We are pleased to confirm that Marie Radford will be presenting a pre-conference session and a conference session at the 2009 BC Library Conference. Marie is a professor at SCILS, Rutgers University and is co-principal investigator of the international study Seeking Synchronicity: Evaluating Virtual Reference Services from User, Non-user, and Librarian Perspectives. Don’t miss your opportunity to hear this internationally renowned and engaging speaker. The pre-conference session, aimed at both f2f and VR reference practitioners, will “challenge you to consider the possibility of outstanding and personalized service to every library user,” inspiring you and reaffirming excellent service as a core library value. Learn more on the BC Library Conference website.

Patron Exit Survey Results Now Available by Institution

We’ve been able to add a question to our patron exit survey asking which institution the patron attends. This allows us to sort our patron survey responses by institution. Have a look at what YOUR patrons are saying about AskAway: Patron Exit Survey Results

Firefox or Internet Explorer?

If you will not be cobrowsing with patrons, feel free to use Firefox as your browser when staffing AskAway. Everything in the chat monitor will work as normal except for co-browse. QP has not as yet provided any documentation for using QP in Firefox, so our ability to provide technical support is limited, but we’ll do our best!

If you do wish to co-browse with patrons, remember that you need to be using Internet Explorer as your browser. The necessary IE settings are detailed here: Check Settings Handout

In December, Microsoft issued a critical security patch for IE which you must have installed in order to cobrowse with a patron; find out more here: IE Security Patch

Cobrowse will not work with the latest Sun Java update (JRE 1.6.0_11), so refrain from updating Java if you wish to continue cobrowsing with patrons. Find out more here: Java Update

How do I…Review My Own Transcripts?

  1. Login to your QP account.
  2. In the top right-hand corner, in the Select Service menu, choose Ask.
  3. Under the Questions tab, click on All in the blue navigation bar.
  4. In the right-hand corner, under Limit To, choose your name to view all of your transcripts from the past 90 days
  5. Transcripts from more than 90 days ago will appear under the Service History tab.

Questions about transcripts? Contact Sunni

AA Stats

Patron calls to AskAway are up! From September – December 2007 we averaged 42.8 calls per day; September – December 2008 we averaged 49.5 calls per day. The increase in calls was shown even before October 15, when the Qwidget began to show up on library websites.

Of the AskAway patrons that responded to the exit survey:

  • 65% indicated they have never used AskAway before
  • 59% indicated that they chose to use AskAway because they were searching for online resources; 33% indicated it was because they preferred online services
  • 53% indicated that they chose to use AskAway because of their distance from the library
  • 85% found out about AskAway via the link on their library’s website
  • 98% indicated that they would use AskAway again

For more exit survey results, and for statistics up to and including December 2008, see the For Local Administrators tab of the Portal.

Have questions about statistics? Ask Sunni:

Absolutely Amazing Patron Feedback

“Wonderful service, very helpful in finding ways to search that I could not think of.”

“Great service. A valuable tool in the fight against distance-based educational restraints. Keep up the good work!”

“I never knew about this service, but I’m glad I found it. I was completely lost looking for online resources and this helped a lot! Even though some Librarians weren’t able to answer my question, they gave a lot of options for me to explore and were completely dedicated to helping me find some answers!”

“I wish I had discovered this service sooner, then I wouldn’t have wasted so much time searching in the wrong place. I was nervous as I have very little experience with on-line chat, but she was very nice.”

“I’ve used askAway for a little while now and librarians are awesome!
Nice, polite, friendly and efficient. I love it!”

“This service is amazing. I am so pleased I was told about it. I am extremely happy with the help I received, and will recommend this to other students.”

In answer to the question “Why did you choose to use AskAway,” patrons

  • “I wanted to try it out and I hoped my questions would have relatively easy answers”
  • “its right there on the page!”
  • “easier than phoning”
  • “I needed answers right away!”
  • “The librarians were all busy and didn’t answer the phone.”
  • “I wanted to try it for first time.”
  • “wanted authoritative help quickly”
  • “convenience and minimize unnecessary travel time”
  • “I thought it might be more easily understood in writing.”
  • “I couldn’t leave my stuff unattended for too long and it’s not easy to find a space”
  • “I like the chat format as it gives a written reference”
  • “i wanted a quick answer and didnt want to go to the desk”
  • “also studying at home–have young family–difficult to get to library”

Want to know what YOUR patrons are saying about AskAway? Results from
the Patron Exit Survey are available on the Portal, sorted by
institution: Patron Exit Survey Results

Questions about this update or suggestions for future ones? Let
me know!

– Sunni