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This is why I got into library work: How virtual reference IS the future of libraries


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Services like Maryland AskUsNow! are increasingly important in a world where budgets are shrinking and customers increasingly rely on technology to communicate. Through the use of virtual reference, we can “get back to basics” and provide additional access to our customers, whom we exist to serve. Julie Strange will discuss the importance of virtual reference in an era of expanding audiences and shrinking budgets. Stephanie Petruso will teach you how to grab the “teachable moment” with customers. Jessica Chaiken will focus on where special libraries fit in virtual reference. Kendra Frost will show how even “wacky” or seemingly inappropriate chatters can be engaged by librarians!

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This is why I got into library work: How virtual reference IS the future of libraries

  1. 1. This is Why I Got into Library Work: how virtual reference IS the future of libraries Julie Strange Jess Chaiken Stephanie Petruso Kendra Frost MLA 2009
  2. 2. getting back to basics Julie Strange | MLA 2009
  3. 3. people + community
  4. 4. “ ” This is stuff we used to dream about. It's just incredible
  5. 7. To: 246246 Msg: send AskALibrarian what are the library’s hours this weekend? AIM / SMS HACK!
  6. 11. SMSreference
  7. 14. library h3lp
  8. 16. Can people add content (comments) to your website?
  9. 17. Do you exist where people are? (like Facebook?)
  10. 22. jump right in
  11. 23. AUN and its Special Libraries Because some questions are… Jess Chaiken
  12. 24. Who knows what? <ul><li>Public and academic libraries are already a wealth of information, but some questions need expert help </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Legal questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Health questions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In-depth/subject specific research </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Unusual documents, rare books, hidden reports </li></ul></ul>
  13. 25. AskUsNow Special Libraries <ul><li>Maryland State Department of Natural Resources Library </li></ul><ul><li>Maryland State Law Library </li></ul><ul><li>Maryland State Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped </li></ul><ul><li>National Agricultural Library </li></ul><ul><li>National Rehabilitation Information Center </li></ul><ul><li>Pathfinders for Autism </li></ul>
  14. 26. We do things a little differently around here… <ul><li>With one exception, the special libraries do not use the chat queue. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Participating libraries use their own info request forms OR </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A hosted form on Question Point </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exception: MD Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped monitors the Public chat queue on Friday afternoon. </li></ul></ul>
  15. 27. MD Law Library <ul><li>Initially picked up 10 to 12 ?s per month, either referred directly or from shared follow-up. </li></ul><ul><li>Has seen dramatic decrease in referred questions as public and academic librarians become more confident and familiar with the subject. </li></ul>
  16. 28. Questions for NARIC <ul><li>Hi! I am a tenth grader and we are doing research papers now. the topic I picked is Prosthetics. I would like to know if you have any book available on the development of Prosthetics. please e-mail me back if you do. Thank you and have a good night! </li></ul><ul><li>I need information about endorphin deficiency syndrome </li></ul>
  17. 29. Special Libraries Need More Love <ul><li>As of April 09, special libraries receive very few requests through the service. AUN has a plan to increase visibility: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Each of the Special Library partners would create an email web form that would be hosted by QuestionPoint. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Libraries and community directories link to or embed these web forms in appropriate sections of their websites. For (a very basic) example: the Baltimore County Public Library website has a page on Health Resources that could provide a link to NARIC's email web form that would be answered directly by NARIC. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Visitors with specific questions can go directly to a reputable information source (not that our fabulous librarians aren’t reputable!). </li></ul></ul>
  18. 30. Then bring it back home <ul><li>At NARIC, we routinely refer our call-in patrons back to their local library as a great source. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Half of our callers say “Hey, I didn’t think of that! Thanks!” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The other go there regularly </li></ul></ul>
  19. 31. Teachable Moments Stephanie Petruso
  20. 32. What is the Teachable Moment? It’s the moment of educational opportunity: a time when a person, especially a child, is likely to be particularly disposed to learn something or particularly responsive to being taught or made aware of something. -MSN Encarta
  21. 33. Why is it Important? <ul><li>This may be a patron’s only interaction with a librarian. </li></ul><ul><li>They likely reached out to you because their own searching did not work. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Without judgment, tell them how they can do it better. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Most patrons and students want to learn. </li></ul>
  22. 34. Recognizing the Teachable Moment <ul><li>I already Googled it! </li></ul><ul><li>My teacher says we can’t use the internet. </li></ul><ul><li>There’s nothing on the internet about…! </li></ul>
  23. 36. Involve Them in the Process <ul><li>“Do you need a webpage, a book or a journal article?” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Let them know the choices that are available. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Tell them about the subscription databases their library offers. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>How to access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Why they’re better </li></ul></ul>
  24. 38. What Qualifies? <ul><li>Showing them how to log into a database and explaining why they would want to. </li></ul><ul><li>Giving a quick explanation of Boolean searching. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Don’t just send them search results. Tell them how you got there. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Explaining why something is an authoritative source. </li></ul>
  25. 40. Sneak Attack <ul><li>Hey, did you know…? </li></ul><ul><li>I found a really good site. This is why it’s better than the others… </li></ul><ul><li>Your library subscribes to some great resources that may be useful… </li></ul>
  26. 41. Be Succinct <ul><li>Chat environment usually means patrons want to save time. </li></ul><ul><li>If you try to teach too much, you’ll likely lose them. </li></ul><ul><li>Small amounts of carefully chosen info will have greater impact. </li></ul>
  27. 42. The Payback <ul><li>Patrons learn to come to you when they are overwhelmed or stymied by what’s on the internet. </li></ul><ul><li>Patrons become more capable of doing effective searching on their own. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They walk away from their computers with more than just the answer to a reference question. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Marketing your library and its services </li></ul>
  28. 43. Dancing in the Dark Kendra Frost
  29. 44. Suspicious Openers <ul><li>Suspicious Screen Names: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Ivana Humpalot/aominous/Haywood Jablowme </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Was thomas jefferson immortal? </li></ul><ul><li>Does Santa Clause exsist? </li></ul><ul><li>What is the point of life?  </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Is this confidential? Can you tell anyone. This is a huge secret. </li></ul><ul><li>How many arms can people have? </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Why are testicles round? </li></ul><ul><li>What is a dick? </li></ul>
  30. 45. Provider Behavior Guidelines <ul><li>Picking up promptly </li></ul><ul><li>Scripted greeting </li></ul><ul><li>Use customer’s name if given </li></ul><ul><li>Identify oneself </li></ul>
  31. 46. Demonstrate Interest <ul><li>Short responses </li></ul><ul><li>Use of break up longer thoughts and keep patron engaged </li></ul><ul><li>Encouraging comments  </li></ul>
  32. 47. Demonstrating Interest <ul><li>Patron: Does Santa Claus exsist? </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: hi - well, it's an interesting question </li></ul><ul><li>Patron: thanks </li></ul><ul><li>  </li></ul><ul><li>Patron: What is the point of life? </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: Who knows? </li></ul><ul><li>Patron: Oh that helps. Not </li></ul>
  33. 48. Listening | Answering | Inquiring <ul><li>Patron: Was thomas jefferson immortal? </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: I’m not sure what you mean by your question </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: One could say that he… </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: …is immortal but it’s a matter of opinion </li></ul><ul><li>Can you explain what you need to know please </li></ul><ul><li>Patron: does he have a big ol dick </li></ul><ul><li>Did he invent the lightbulb </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: If you have a question for us, please rephrase it again with more appropriate language. </li></ul>
  34. 49. Listening | Answering | Inquiring <ul><li>Patron: Is this confidential? Can you tell anyone. This is a huge secret. </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: Welcome to Maryland AskUsNow! This is confidential. But if public safety is involved we might need to tell someone. </li></ul><ul><li>Patron: o no no. my friend wants to know what would happen if you have sex with a dog. </li></ul><ul><li>Patron: or a horse </li></ul><ul><li>Librarian: Let me look for some information. </li></ul><ul><li>Are you asking about legal issues or diseases? </li></ul>
  35. 50. Strategies <ul><li>Approach the seemingly suspect question with an open mind, with the assumption that it is &quot;legitimate&quot; </li></ul><ul><li>Avoid the snappy comeback </li></ul><ul><li>Use open ended reference interview questions </li></ul><ul><li>Observe checklist behaviors </li></ul>
  36. 52. Questions? Julie Strange [email_address] Jessica Chaiken [email_address] Stephanie Petruso [email_address] Kendra Frost [email_address]
  37. 53. Photo Credits