Tips for busy times and multiple patrons

As we’re now in the busy part of the term, it may be helpful to review some tips and recommended procedures for busy times and handling multiple patrons on AskAway.

How long should a patron wait?

Patrons should ideally be left waiting no longer than 60 seconds. If left much longer, people start to give up — and they may not come back.

What if I’m busy, and others aren’t?

If you’re handling multiple patrons and other AskAwayers seem less busy, it may be tempting to leave new patrons for them to pick up — but remember that connection speeds aren’t consistent across sites, and your colleagues may simply have not noticed a new patron coming in. 

In that case, if the patron has waited 60 seconds or more, it’s recommended to pick the patron up, let them know that the service is busy (e.g. the “Begin – Multiple questions” script), and ask in Campfire if someone can take a transfer.

What if people aren’t logged into Campfire, or not responding?

Logging into and watching Campfire is a best practice that we hope everyone follows, but sometimes folks don’t see the messages. If you have patrons to transfer and nobody is responding, try the instant messaging feature in the chat monitor to reach a fellow AskAwayer directly.

Am I really taking all the chats?

Since institutional queues became widespread (20 out of 30 libraries now have one), more AskAwayers are picking up patrons from their own institutions without their colleagues knowing it. There are two ways to check up on how busy your colleagues are:

  • The Librarians tab in the chat monitor (not the All tab)
  • The Chat Monitoring Tool in My QuestionPoint

Both of these will tell you:

  • Who’s online
  • How many queues they’re logged into
  • How many patrons they’re currently handling

Remember, people logged into just one queue are not staffing AskAway — they’re just on their institutional queue.

If your library doesn’t have an institutional queue but you have questions or are interested in getting it set up, don’t hesitate to contact me.

Someone’s missing from my shift!

If someone hasn’t logged onto their shift (which you can confirm by checking the Librarians tab or the Chat Monitoring Tool against the staff schedule), please let me know as soon as possible! I will follow up with the institution in question and try to get someone online.

If you aren’t able to email me until after your shift, it is still important to let me know — this way I can follow up.

There are too many chats and not enough people!

If there are too many chats coming in, don’t hesitate to use the Swamped button! This will send an email to all your AskAway colleagues requesting help. Those who have some time to spare will log in and take some transfers to help lower the pressure till things settle down again.

Working with multiple patrons

Working with multiple patrons at once is a key AskAway competency. The Staff Portal and the Blog contain several tips for handling multiple patrons at once. Here’s a brief summary of the top tips:

  • Work with multiple windows and multiple tabs: 
    • A separate browser window for each patron, for all tabs related to that patron’s research
    • Keep your main AskAway windows (chat monitor, Campfire, etc.) open separately
      • Easier to refer to and watch while working
  • Pick up patrons from the same institution when possible! 
    • Less gear-shifting between patrons makes life easier.
  • Look at the questions as they come in — try to take similar questions if applicable
  • Let patrons know that you’re working with more than one person
    • Takes the pressure off; most patrons are understanding.
  • Use the reference interview as a stalling technique: 
    • Knowing more about their question always helps you
    • The time they take answering is time you can spend on your other patrons 
  • Refer local knowledge questions to the patron’s institution
  • Stay active in Campfire!
    • Colleagues can provide advice with tricky questions, or take transfers when needed
    • Offer to take transfers when you’re less busy — and others will do the same for you!

If you have any other tips you think your colleagues would benefit from, please send them in and I’ll post them here.



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