Archive for October, 2010

Responding to Patrons in Crisis

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

On rare occasions, AskAway staff have had to deal with patrons in crisis — callers who may mention suicide, self harm, or abuse.

It can be hard to know how what to say to someone who appears to be in crisis, particularly in the online environment, where you are unable to see or hear the patron.

Sunni and I have created a set of guidelines and tips for dealing with these situations. You can read the guidelines on the Staff Portal Patrons in Crisis page.

If you have any further tips or ideas, please let us know.

– Kat Siddle


Different Way to Talk About Sources With Patrons

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

This could be an interesting and possibly more helpful way to discuss research sources with patrons.  Via Stephen Francoeur’s Digital Reference blog:

…an article from 2008 by Joseph Bizup from Rhetoric Review (volume 27, number 1) titled “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing”. Arguing convincingly that the traditional model of sources that we teach to students–primary, secondary, tertiary–is limiting and confusing, Bizup goes on to suggest that we instead teach students to think about the different way that we use sources in writing.Specifically, he recommends divvying up source types into four categories:

  1. Background: sources in which you want to assert that something is a fact and which can contextualize your claims
  2. Exhibits: sources that you offer an analysis or interpretation of
  3. Arguments: sources that are part of the discourse about your topic
  4. Method: sources that you use to delineate the method of analysis you will use or the terminology you will employ

Put more succinctly, Bizup wants us to teach students that “[w]riters rely on background sources, interpret of analyze exhibits, engage arguments, and follow methods” (76). As a mnemonic aid, the system is referred to as the BEAM model. Not only is this model useful in getting students to think about how they will use their sources in their paper and whether they have the right number from each category, but is also useful in teaching students how to analyze a source critically. In his classes, Bizup asks his students to read a source and, following the BEAM model, to indicate to what use each source is put.

– Sunni


Patron Typing Bug

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

We continue to have reports of patrons experiencing difficulty typing into some Qwidgets.  QP is continuing to investigate this issue, and has requested our help in identifying the issue.

If a patron reports difficulty typing during their chat session with you, please send me an email with the following information:

1. Time and date of the call
2. Patron’s institution
3. Whether the patron’s status indicator (beside their name in the My Active tab) is a green square, yellow triangle or red circle.
4. The About info:

  • right-click your mouse anywhere on the chat monitor
  • choose ‘QP About’
  • click ‘Copy to clipboard’
  • paste into the email

Thanks in advance for your help!


10 Tips for Picking Up Patrons

Friday, October 15th, 2010

Managing the patron queue can be difficult, particularly as AskAway gets busier. We’re all committed to providing the best patron experience possible and sometimes this means holding back a moment when a new question arrives to ensure it’s picked up by the librarian best suited to answer that question.  Here’s some tips compiled by Myfanwy Postgate, one of our BC ELN AskAway librarians…

10 Tips for Picking Up Patrons

1. Check the Librarians tab. Check which institutions your colleagues are from via the Librarians tab when you first login. These will often change each hour so check the tab again at regular intervals!

2. Hold-back a moment! When a new question appears check the institution it’s from and hold back a few seconds for the patron’s institutional librarian to pick-up… if one is available.

3. Transfer if needed. If they’re currently occupied or haven’t picked up within 30-60 seconds then go ahead and grab the question. You can always transfer it at the patron or librarian’s request.

TIP: Often a patron will ask outright during chat if you’re a librarian from their institution. Be honest! If an institutional librarian is available for transfer make the request. If not let the patron know that a librarian from their institution isn’t currently available but you are able to help with most questions and will refer them if you are unable to answer.

** Read the full post for additional tips. **

Mastering the Reference Interview

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

AskWA, the Washington State virtual reference service, offers Ref22 online sessions on a variety of topics of interest to virtual reference librarians.  The latest session was on Mastering The Reference Interview.

From the AskWA coordinator:

Thanks to everyone who attended our awesome Ref22 session this morning on mastering the reference interview.  Christa Werle from Sno-Isle Libraries handled the session very well, and we had a fun and interactive group of participants.

We enjoyed having a number of librarians attending from other states. Please feel free to come to future Ref22 sessions as well, invite your colleagues and, if you have a topic you’d like to cover, you can even present! I’m always looking for future Ref22 presenters, so if you’d like to try your hand at it, get in touch.

The archive of today’s session is available now at

Want to present in November? No one is lined up yet, so claim your spot before it’s gone, gone, gone!

Keep an eye on the Ref22 site for more info about future sessions: