Virtual Reference: Bringing the Library to Your Living Room

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by Gwen Exner and Holly Mabry, NCknows Online Reference Librarians
Part of the NCLA's RASS/DLIG "Current Trends in Reference" online conference March 14, 2013

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  • We’ll be introduced by Amy or Beth – I think-- We still need to say who we are, so they know which voice is whose.---------------
  • Holly – read through this definition--- I’d recommend reading the first sentence, but glossing over the second.------------------------------------------- There’s no need to have words in different colors /and/ animations, so I removed the animations.----------
  • Holly – read through this definition--- I’d recommend reading the first sentence, but glossing over the second.------------------------------------------- There’s no need to have words in different colors /and/ animations, so I removed the animations.----------
  • Holly – Virtual reference services require at least one computer, one staff member, and access to online databases, journals, and other electronic resources either through an individual library, or through a statewide online resource consortium such as NC LIVE. Depending on what type of virtual reference service offered, there are a wide variety of software and web client options. - Moving on to the next slide with the examples…
  • ---I generally like the tone of this. It’s better than what I came up with. It did inspire me to write an alternate version – we may want to combine the best of both no matter who says it.-------------Holly – List of common paid, optional, and free software options to get started with virtual reference services. Paid services enable libraries to provide more comprehensive virtual reference services through IM, web chat, and text, includes server maintenance and knowledge base options, and allows multiple staff members to monitor the service at once. In Second Life, libraries can buy land and build a virtual library or reference service space for a fee. Second Life sucks up a lot of bandwidth and has a somewhat steep learning curve, but the environment is a lot more interactive than chat or text on their own.Optional fee services can be set up for free, but additional features such as tweet scheduling, multiple account monitoring, and international calls are fee-based. Free options are available for libraries looking to get started with virtual reference and haven’t decided what services they may need, or for libraries on a tight budget.
  • Holly – One-on-one virtual reference services: video, instant messenger or chat, text, and emailPublic social network forums: Facebook page and Twitter discussionsVirtual World: Second Life, AETZone, specific to Appalachian State University, 3D online environment where personalized avatars interact via voice or text.---I’d actively like this one – I have things to say about the chart that aren’t inherently conveyed in it. If anyone has any questions as to what these things are, they can ask during q&a.--------------------
  • Holly – PII: Personally Identifiable Information (Need to review the ALA guidelines for this section), or Gwen do you want this slide?
  • Gwen
  • Gwen
  • Gwen
  • Gwen
  • Gwen? – training and staff schedule sections
  • ----Question: is this /everything/ you plan to say? If so, I highly recommend animations so that they know which line bullet item you’re talking about.---------------------------------------------------------------------------Holly – Quick hello, what can I help you with? Put them at ease, sometimes even a smiley face might be appropriate. Even in online reference interactions, patrons might be worried about bothering you, or are unsure of what to expect when they send their question.K-12 uses different resource than colleges and univerisities.Guide them through the resource along with you if possible, and confirm that you are on the “same page”.Stay in contact with the patron to assure them you’re still looking, and make sure they’re still there as you search
  • People have short attention spans when it comes to reading online information. Show that you are there and eager to help.Don’t assume patrons are familiar with library resources or internet searching. Check to see what they know before proceeding.Some questions are too in depth or requires interaction beyond what virtual reference can provide at this point, send for follow upVirtual reference offers a veil of anonymity that face-to-face reference doesn’t. It can make patrons more comfortable asking questions, and sometimes, it leads to inappropriate ones. Move on to next slide for more on problem patrons.
  • Holly
  • Gwen
  • Gwen
  • Holly, or split this one up?
  • Virtual Reference: Bringing the Library to Your Living Room

    1. 1. Gwen Exner and Holly Mabry NCknows Online Reference LibrariansBringing the Library to Your Living Room 3/19/2013
    2. 2. What is virtual reference? “Virtual reference is a reference service initiated electronically where patrons employ computers or other technology to communicate with public services staff without being physically present.” RUSA Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual3/19/2013 Reference Services: http://bit.ly/zn6MM0
    3. 3. What is virtual reference? Communication channels used frequently in virtual reference include:  Chat  Videoconferencing  Voice-over-IP  Co-browsing  E-mail  Instant messaging. RUSA Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual3/19/2013 Reference Services: http://bit.ly/zn6MM0
    4. 4. Technology Requirements All types of virtual reference will require at least:  one computer,  one staff member, and  access to online reference materials There are a wide variety of software and web client options, depending on what sort of virtual reference you’re offering.3/19/2013
    5. 5. Common Software Options Paid Optional Fee Free QuestionPoint Facebook ChiliFresh LibraryH3lp Twitter Zoho Chat LibChat Trillian Digsby Mosio Skype Pidgin RefChatter Google Talk Second Life3/19/2013
    6. 6. Real-time AsynchronousPrivate Video Texting Chat Email Virtual World Second Life, AETZone (ASU) Forums Public Facebook Twitter3/19/2013 Clip art from http://www.clker.com/
    7. 7. Best Practices: Privacy Develop a chat privacy policy that addresses the following concerns:  Records: How long are session transcripts saved, and who can access them? How long is metadata saved?  Patrons: Are patrons required to log in to use the service? If yes, is the log-in connected in any way to PII?  Librarians: Should librarian data be anonymized?  Contents: What should be done if the patron volunteers PII? ALA Guidelines for Developing a Library Privacy Policy:3/19/2013 http://bit.ly/YEbrJX
    8. 8. Scheduling Staff: Rule 1 Virtual reference is still reference• Answering questions does not take less time just because it’s typed instead of spoken.• Reference interviews take longer, and require more effort from patrons, because patrons can’t just show you their supporting documents (homework, error msg, etc.).• Walking patrons through a process without co-browsing takes longer, & patrons may not realize/say they’re lost.• Good customer service means meeting patrons’ expectations of responsiveness for their venue. The Internet is expected to be very fast.3/19/2013
    9. 9. Scheduling Staff: Rule 2 Two real-time reference methods which are invisible to each other should not be staffed simultaneously by 1 person. Examples: F2F patrons can’t see chat, & so expect service now Chat patrons can’t see F2F ones, & expect service now Invisible and both real-time: Asking for trouble3/19/2013
    10. 10. Scheduling Staff: Rule 2 Two real-time reference methods which are invisible to each other should not be staffed simultaneously by 1 person. Examples: F2F patrons can see phone Phone patrons can be told if there’s people waiting Both real-time, but not invisible: OK3/19/2013
    11. 11. Scheduling Staff: Rule 2 Two real-time reference methods which are invisible to each other should not be staffed simultaneously by 1 person. Examples: Chat patrons can’t see email, & expect service now Email patrons can’t see chat, & expect service eventually Invisible, but not both real-time: OK3/19/2013
    12. 12. Training & Preparation There are a number of ways to prepare for virtual reference. • Libraries: Prepare correct and thorough online fact sheets and FAQ. https://www.lib.ncsu.edu/faq/ is a great example. • Librarians who are new to the library, including consortium members: Bookmark online fact sheets, FAQ, & critical pages • Librarians who are new to a given virtual environment: Practice with the software, both as patron & librarian. Try some past questions. • Experienced virtual librarians: Analyze past transcripts of other librarians – it will make you think of new resources to use. • Everyone: Practice with e-resources, especially unfamiliar ones.3/19/2013
    13. 13. Best Practices: During a chat Best practices for F2F reference translate well to virtual, but there are some notable additions:  Be a person. Remember, they can’t see you - Introduce yourself, express enthusiasm & empathy.  Be fast. A quick “hello” is better than a slower, more complete greeting. Store, copy, & paste common phrases.  Find out age/grade. Remember, you can’t see them - History is not the same in college & grade school.  Ask for confirmation. Check after every step to make sure they’re where you think they are. (cont)3/19/2013
    14. 14. Best Practices: During a chat (cont)  Stay in contact. Say something frequently to let them know you’re still there. Ask if they’re still there.  Limit your jargon. You can’t see them look blank, and they won’t tell you they don’t understand your terms.  Limit your time. Most sessions should be <= 20 minutes. Longer questions can be referred, or shifted to email. Idle patrons can be ignored until they come back.  Don’t put up with abuse. It’s very easy to try to shrug off cussing, sexual “joking”, etc. because “it can’t be threatening if they’re not really here.” Don’t.3/19/2013
    15. 15. Best Practices: Problem patrons Problem patrons in an online environment tend to be more over the top than in F2F.  Using names is a best practice, but consider whether or not to use real names. Note: Female names attract more harassment.  Remember that putting up with harassment means you or another librarian will face it again. Correcting/banning saves trouble for everyone. Note: Putting the window to the side and ignoring it usually works, if banning isn’t possible.3/19/2013
    16. 16. Current Usage: Session Length Analysis of how long questions take to answer has quite similar results for both academic and public libraries. For both types: Question completion time 30% 28% are done in <1 minute. 25% 52% take 3 minutes or less. % Completed 20% 75% take 9 minutes or less. 15% 93% take 20 minutes or less. 10% 5% 0% Only 7% of questions take 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 more than 20 minutes to Minutes complete.3/19/2013 Based on stats from NCknows from 08-2011 through 07-2012
    17. 17. Current Usage: Activity Patterns Analysis of when questions arrive reveals minor differences in when academic and public library patrons use virtual reference. Hourly Activity Pattern Public Academic 10% 8% 6% 4% 2% 0% 8 AM – 5 PM 6 PM – 11 PM 12 AM – 7 AM Public 67% 29% 4% Academic 57% 33% 10%3/19/2013 Based on stats from NCknows from 08-2011 through 07-2012
    18. 18. Virtual reference in the future…  Video chat reference  Mobile reference  Split local/consortium service3/19/2013
    19. 19. Virtual reference in the future…  Video chat reference: Some libraries are already experimenting with this, and as bandwidth increases & webcams become more common, it becomes more feasible. Scheduled video reference sessions are more likely than open reference in most libraries, due to the high requirements on availability and attention.  Mobile reference  Split local/consortium service3/19/2013
    20. 20. Virtual reference in the future…  Video chat reference  Mobile: Virtual reference through mobile devices is already a common practice on the patron’s end. Virtual reference services and online resources will continue to adapt for the mobile platform, literally providing library access for librarians and patrons anytime, any place.  Split local/consortium service3/19/2013
    21. 21. Virtual reference in the future… Video chat reference Mobile Split local/consortium service: No external librarian will know a library’s resources & environment as well as locals do, and few libraries can afford to pay local librarians for 24/7 coverage. The future is likely to bring an increase in libraries which staff their own queues during open hours, and contract with others to staff them after hours.3/19/2013
    22. 22. Thank you Questions?3/19/2013

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