Archive for October, 2011

New Descriptive Codes!

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Many of you make vigilant use of the resolution and descriptive codes as you end your AskAway sessions.  Up until now use of the descriptive codes has been fairly random, as we didn’t have control over the list of available codes.  QuestionPoint has recently provided the ability to customise codes, so we’ve identified and defined a new, MUCH SHORTER list of AskAway descriptive codes to make your job easier.  Read on to learn more….

What are the new descriptive codes?

A complete list of the AskAway descriptive codes and their definitions can be found here:

The codes have been selected to capture evaluative information on use of the AskAway service as a whole.  We tried to keep the list as brief as possible, and attempted to capture data that might not otherwise surface (i.e. via keyword search of transcripts).

How do I decide which descriptive codes to use?

Given the definitions provided, use your own judgement when deciding if a descriptive code is an appropriate description for your session or not. Up to four descriptive codes may be applied to each session.  Any suggestions for additions/deletions/clarifications are welcome – let me know.

How do I assign descriptive codes to my AskAway session?

At the end of your session, after you click End Session, you’ll be asked to apply a Resolution code (Answered, Lost Call, or Practise).  Then click on Add Description, and you’ll be given the option to apply up to four descriptive codes to your call – click Add after each one.  Then click on Close to completely close your session.  For detailed instructions, refer to the Software Manual on the Portal: <>

Why are there no subject-based descriptive codes?

Subject-based descriptor codes have not been included because key-word searching of transcripts is available and will provide more nuanced data than subject codes.

What kinds of data can we get from descriptive codes?

Descriptive codes will allow us to gain a better understanding of how our patrons are using the service.  For example, they’ll tell us how many questions are in-depth reference versus ready reference, directional, circulation, citation or e-resource access questions.  They’ll help us track usage from unaffiliated patrons, first-time users, and pranksters.   They’ll also help us identify turn-aways and give us better data on the impacts of high traffic.

Questions?  Concerns?  Let me know!


QuestionPoint Announces Materials for LIS Schools

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

Library schools can obtain a free QuestionPoint account, which will allow faculty members and students to use the QuestionPoint virtual reference software.
For more information, see the QuestionPoint Blog.

Revelations and Recommendations for Virtual Reference

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

“by transforming virtual reference (VR) service encounters into relationship-building opportunities, librarians can better leverage the positive feelings people have for libraries”
– OCLC news release

OCLC recently released “Seeking Synchronicity: Revelations and Recommendations for Virtual Reference,” a research report which demonstrates that virtual reference users are looking for ongoing partnerships in learning, rather than simple answers to questions. One of the primary authors, Marie L. Radford, presented two sessions sponsored by AskAway at the BC Library Conference in 2009.

The report addresses topics such as what can be learned from VR transcripts, building interpersonal relationships in VR and generational differences relating to reference interactions. The press release and report are available here.

— Reece, BC ELN

Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes & Coordinator’s Report

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

The minutes from the October 3 Advisory Committee meeting are now available here.

Also available is the Coordinator’s Report.

Positive Changes from Constructive Feedback

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

AskAway receives many comments from users who fill out the exit survey, the vast majority overwhelmingly positive about the service. From time to time, though, we do receive some constructive feedback on how to further improve AskAway. Often even this type of feedback follows high praise for AskAway, for example, “The online service has worked perfectly for me, I’ve used it a few times and have always encountered friendly helpful people on the other end. What a great idea! The only thing I would suggest is to perhaps spread the word more.”

This entry focuses on our method for taking constructive feedback and suggestions into consideration, and gives examples of our responses.

Process for Addressing Feedback

When an AskAway user submits a suggestion for the service, we initially look at how pervasive the issue or concern is and work to improve the service accordingly. Next, we determine the root of the issue; is it a technical problem? An issue that could be resolved with training? A desired new feature? A lack of accessibility? We address each type of issue appropriately. For example, if it is a software problem, we work with QuestionPoint to resolve it; if it is a training issue, we integrate it into our AskAway training, use the listserv and blog to communicate about it and look into changing policies or procedures if relevant. Finally, we evaluate the outcome of our solution(s).

Sample Positive Changes

Here are some examples of positive changes that have come about in response to patron feedback.

Constructive Feedback: AskAway sometimes lags, types out-of-sync, freezes my screen or disconnects without warning.
Diagnosis: Software issue
Positive Change: AskAway informed QuestionPoint of software glitches. QuestionPoint improved software, greatly reducing technical issues.

Constructive Feedback: AskAwayers hang up on me before I expect the call to be over.
Diagnosis: Training issue
Positive Change: AskAway training was altered to emphasize the importance of asking users if they have any more questions, and have all the information they need. There is also emphasis on using a closing script. If there are technical issues which require an AskAwayer to close the session, or it seems like the patron has left, AskAwayers are trained to send a script explaining why they are closing the session. There was messaging about this issue over the listserv as well.

Constructive Feedback: AskAway is difficult to access, unattractive and sometimes hard to read.
Diagnosis: Accessibility issue/new feature would address issue
Positive Change: The AskAway Qwidget is more easily identifiable as chat to new users and is more likely to be featured in several areas of a library’s site, making it more accessible in some cases. Both the Qwidget and the newer version of the full-screen interface have a current look and feel. AskAway has encouraged libraries to provide Qwidgets or links to AskAway on various relevant pages on their website.

Constructive Feedback: The person I talked to on AskAway was not from my library.
Diagnosis: Not necessarily an issue in itself, but situation could be smoothed with training
Positive Change: Messaging to AskAwayers using the listserv and this entry of the AskAway blog  about helping users from other institutions, including letting them know you can assist them, assisting them as thoroughly as possible, how to let them know you are from another institution if the information seems relevant, and matching students up with same-institution librarians when those librarians are staffing AskAway.

Constructive Feedback: Please promote AskAway more; I wish I had heard about it two years ago.
Diagnosis: Accessibility Issue
Positive Change: AskAway has produced promotional sticky-note pads and book marks available to libraries. The Qwidget has made the service more visible, particularly to new users. AskAway is devising a new communications strategy, and encourages libraries to promote the service within their institutions.

Constructive Feedback: I would like to access AskAway on my smartphone.
Diagnosis: New feature requested
Positive Change: Launched mobile site.

Constructive Feedback: I can’t tell if the librarian is writing me an answer or not. Could you add a feature that says when the librarian is typing?
Diagnosis: New feature requested
Positive Change: AskAway worked with Question Point to add a new feature to let users know that the AskAwayer is currently typing.

Thoughts or comments? Let us know!

–Reece, BC ELN