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David Lee King

Ask-a-Librarian Services Need a Reboot



Hippie discriminationWhat would you say if I told you that some libraries discriminate against a certain type of customer? That some customers, because of the way they asked a question, were purposefully pushed to the back of the line, told to wait 2-3 days for an answer, and that they couldn’t get an answer to some of their burning questions … because they’re “that kind” of customer?

You’d be furious, right?

Well … believe it or not, many libraries are doing that RIGHT NOW – today, in fact. Take a peek at these email and chat reference policies for a sec, then come back and let’s talk:

  • Note – not picking on any particular library – there are MANY MORE examples out there…
  • New York Public Library: “We will make every effort to respond to your question within two working days
  • San Francisco Public Library: “In depth questions will be forwarded in e-mail format to subject specialists, who will try to get back to you within 2 days.” Their IM service – “The IM reference service works best for answering brief, factual questions.”
  • Hennepin County Library: “We can provide brief answers to questions or suggest locations and sources to answer your question. We will respond within 48 hours.”
  • San Diego Public Library: “If you are in a Library building, we highly recommend working with Library staff before using these online services” … “Library staff is able to provide short, factual answers.”
  • County of Los Angeles Public Library: “Send us an email or fill out the form below. Reference staff will respond to your question within 48 hours (excluding weekends and holidays).
  • Houston Public Library: “You should get a response to your e-mail within 48-72 hours, excluding weekends and holidays … If you are working against a deadline, you may get a faster response by visiting or calling your local library …”
  • Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh: “Every reasonable attempt will be made by library staff to respond to reference questions within 48 hours.” … E-mail Reference Questions should be limited to those that have concise, factual answers … Individuals are limited to three Electronic Mail Reference Questions each week.” (check out this update)
  • Kansas City Public Library: “Questions sent to the Library by using this form will be answered by e-mail within 48 hours excluding holidays and weekends.” Their chat service – “AskNow! is a live, online reference service for questions that require only short, factual answers that can be found in online resources.”

Ouch! Now, let me ask you this. If I walked into any of these libraries and asked the same question in person:

  • Would I have to wait 48-72 hours for a response? No.
  • Could I ask the same question on a weekend? Most likely, assuming the library was open.
  • Would they limit my questions to THREE A WEEK??? I sure hope not!
  • Would I be limited to asking ONLY questions “that require only short, factual answers that can be found in online resources” as KCPL mentions? No.

Is this REALLY how you want to treat your customers? Especially that growing group of customers who are already using your digital branch and are taking advantage of your digital services? Please don’t tell me that you can somehow only serve those customers who actually walk into the library and up to your physical reference desk, but can’t get to the customers who call or email or IM or txt you in a timely fashion. I’m not buying that.

The problem isn’t the volume or the format of the question, but the way your reference services are arranged. Rearrange it. Now. Please.

In essence, you ARE discriminating. Discriminating against a growing, younger, web-savvy customer base. Customers who *almost* have all the tools in place to simply ignore you and your grad-degreed, professional information-retrieval services. Especially if they are treated like second class customers when they ask a question using their preferred, and handy, means of communication.

Does this make sense? Do you really want to be “that guy?” I think not. The libraries I mention above all want to do a great job, I’m sure, as do you. So let’s work on improving our online services … like now already!

******

To be fair, I checked out my library’s ask page too (and crossed my fingers, and said a little prayer before I clicked :-). We did great! Here’s what we do:

  • We mention how good we are (“provide quick, accurate answers”)
  • We mention that the phone is the fastest way to get a response, rather than forcing customers to visit in-person (“If you want to talk with someone immediately about a question you can call us…”)
  • Instead of giving some outlandish timeframe for a response (i.e., 24-48-72 hours), we say “We will help you as quickly as we can.”

And my personal favorite – for more complex questions, we direct customers … not to the physical desk, but to email! We don’t even mention the desk or having to visit the library in person on our Ask Us page.

Why? Because those customers are already in the library, using our Digital Branch. They need to get the same treatment as any other customer with any other question.

photo by Neubie

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • C. Adams

    Why does every question have to be answered right NOW? Honestly, if you need an answer right away, there’s this lovely invention called a telephone. They’re even available without wires nowadays. If you can’t wait 2 days for a response to a long-winded, detailed question, then try picking up the phone and explaining it…in my experience, most questions do NOT take 2 days to answer, but isn’t it better to give a max time in the event that a question needs more thorough research? Librarians actually DO have other things to do with their time after all.

  • C. Adams

    Why does every question have to be answered right NOW? Honestly, if you need an answer right away, there’s this lovely invention called a telephone. They’re even available without wires nowadays. If you can’t wait 2 days for a response to a long-winded, detailed question, then try picking up the phone and explaining it…in my experience, most questions do NOT take 2 days to answer, but isn’t it better to give a max time in the event that a question needs more thorough research? Librarians actually DO have other things to do with their time after all.

  • http://luvgardenias.blogspot.com/ luvgardenias

    Something about this discussion was nagging at me, and I just realized what it was this morning. In my library’s case, I think what we need to change might be the language that describes our e-reference-type services rather than the services themselves. We are responding to these questions very quickly already.

    More importantly, I believe what limits the type of questions we can handle via phone or e-reference is not the written policy but the nature of the questions themselves. It seems to me that some needs just can’t be met as well from a distance. If someone is doing a research paper, unless they want only online resources, they will need to visit a library and look at some books. Does that make sense?

  • http://luvgardenias.blogspot.com luvgardenias

    Something about this discussion was nagging at me, and I just realized what it was this morning. In my library’s case, I think what we need to change might be the language that describes our e-reference-type services rather than the services themselves. We are responding to these questions very quickly already.

    More importantly, I believe what limits the type of questions we can handle via phone or e-reference is not the written policy but the nature of the questions themselves. It seems to me that some needs just can’t be met as well from a distance. If someone is doing a research paper, unless they want only online resources, they will need to visit a library and look at some books. Does that make sense?

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  • http://blogs.secstate.wa.gov/libdev/ Ahniwa

    Hi David,

    I have to disagree with the basic idea that it is the “Ask-a-Librarian” services that need a reboot, and say that, instead, it is reference services in general that should be reconfigured. And I think that they are, slowly, doing just that.

    The reference desk model is ineffective. Chat questions take twice as long to answer? That extra time is countered by the fact that you don’t have to sit at a public desk, waiting, just to be visible in case someone comes up with a question. Chat questions can come from a patron who is anywhere (a plus for them) and can find you anywhere (mostly, a plus for you). I know librarians that have answered questions for their patrons while in the airport waiting to travel to/from some conference or another.

    Reference services should be ubiquitous and they should be available at the point of need. And the point of need is often NOT in the library, but in student dorm rooms, people’s houses and workplaces, even on the road and while out shopping. If we as librarians reconfigure our reference priorities to de-emphasize “the desk”, we’ll have more resources to increase coverage and improve services virtually. Obviously we can’t get rid of the desk; face-to-face communication is still and always will be the most effective in most cases, but we can change from an 80%desk/20%virtual model to a 20%desk/80%virtual model and our patrons will come out ahead.

    So I guess maybe I agree with you, David, in the end, though I think it’s the idea of reference service in general that needs a change, and that will in turn affect a change in the online reference services that you’re talking about.

    A quick note: All of the libraries you listed (except Kansas City) offer 24/7 access to a reference librarian through a cooperative of some sort (mostly QuestionPoint, it looks like). In this sense, we’re discriminating not against our virtual patrons, but against our physical patrons, who don’t get to ask a questions whenever they want. Both services have pros and cons, both are needed: it’s the balancing act between them that’s interesting.

  • http://blogs.secstate.wa.gov/libdev/ Ahniwa

    Hi David,

    I have to disagree with the basic idea that it is the “Ask-a-Librarian” services that need a reboot, and say that, instead, it is reference services in general that should be reconfigured. And I think that they are, slowly, doing just that.

    The reference desk model is ineffective. Chat questions take twice as long to answer? That extra time is countered by the fact that you don’t have to sit at a public desk, waiting, just to be visible in case someone comes up with a question. Chat questions can come from a patron who is anywhere (a plus for them) and can find you anywhere (mostly, a plus for you). I know librarians that have answered questions for their patrons while in the airport waiting to travel to/from some conference or another.

    Reference services should be ubiquitous and they should be available at the point of need. And the point of need is often NOT in the library, but in student dorm rooms, people’s houses and workplaces, even on the road and while out shopping. If we as librarians reconfigure our reference priorities to de-emphasize “the desk”, we’ll have more resources to increase coverage and improve services virtually. Obviously we can’t get rid of the desk; face-to-face communication is still and always will be the most effective in most cases, but we can change from an 80%desk/20%virtual model to a 20%desk/80%virtual model and our patrons will come out ahead.

    So I guess maybe I agree with you, David, in the end, though I think it’s the idea of reference service in general that needs a change, and that will in turn affect a change in the online reference services that you’re talking about.

    A quick note: All of the libraries you listed (except Kansas City) offer 24/7 access to a reference librarian through a cooperative of some sort (mostly QuestionPoint, it looks like). In this sense, we’re discriminating not against our virtual patrons, but against our physical patrons, who don’t get to ask a questions whenever they want. Both services have pros and cons, both are needed: it’s the balancing act between them that’s interesting.

  • http://readspace.net/ Susan

    Your post motivated me to look at the ask a site for Florida–a state wide electronic reference service–staffed by librarians from libraries across the state, we all take turns covering the hours…

    http://www.askalibrarian.org/

    The only things I see are there to give patrons some guidance about what to expect–
    “We will respond to your question as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience! E-mail assistance is available 24/7.”

    “While all of our librarians are glad to assist you, they may not have access to your personal library record, which means they may not be able to tell you if you have overdue materials or owe fees.”

    This year we also got a new online system to interface with patrons, and so far it seems to be working great–one feature it offers is screen sharing during a chat…makes quick work of those sessions where the patron just isn’t getting where to go/click/look for things.

  • http://readspace.net Susan

    Your post motivated me to look at the ask a site for Florida–a state wide electronic reference service–staffed by librarians from libraries across the state, we all take turns covering the hours…

    http://www.askalibrarian.org/

    The only things I see are there to give patrons some guidance about what to expect–
    “We will respond to your question as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience! E-mail assistance is available 24/7.”

    “While all of our librarians are glad to assist you, they may not have access to your personal library record, which means they may not be able to tell you if you have overdue materials or owe fees.”

    This year we also got a new online system to interface with patrons, and so far it seems to be working great–one feature it offers is screen sharing during a chat…makes quick work of those sessions where the patron just isn’t getting where to go/click/look for things.

  • davidleeking

    C. Adams – “Why does every question have to be answered right NOW?” You’re right… so let me ask you this – do you have a sign at your reference desk stating that questions asked there will be responded to within 24-48 hours? [ok - I'm obviously being obviously obtuse here to make a point]. I seriously doubt it…

    You also said: “Librarians actually DO have other things to do with their time after all.” Really? Then what should they be doing besides answering questions, since that takes up a large part of a public services librarian’s day?

    Again, I’m just taking what was said at face value here… OF course they have other job duties. But that’s not really the issue… As I said before – a question is a question is a question. The problem’s not format – the problem is how we treat different formats of questions.

    Ahniwa – yes. I whole-heartedly agree with you! It’s ultimately the same job – just done in a different way, to meet the needs of a growing customer base. Simply good business.

  • davidleeking

    C. Adams – “Why does every question have to be answered right NOW?” You’re right… so let me ask you this – do you have a sign at your reference desk stating that questions asked there will be responded to within 24-48 hours? [ok - I'm obviously being obviously obtuse here to make a point]. I seriously doubt it…

    You also said: “Librarians actually DO have other things to do with their time after all.” Really? Then what should they be doing besides answering questions, since that takes up a large part of a public services librarian’s day?

    Again, I’m just taking what was said at face value here… OF course they have other job duties. But that’s not really the issue… As I said before – a question is a question is a question. The problem’s not format – the problem is how we treat different formats of questions.

    Ahniwa – yes. I whole-heartedly agree with you! It’s ultimately the same job – just done in a different way, to meet the needs of a growing customer base. Simply good business.

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  • http://www.tulsalibrary.org/askus/ tim

    This is the perfect opportunity to UNshamelessly plug the Tulsa City-County Library’s reference features that provide email & phone reference for every hour they’re open along with IM chat support 50 hours per week.

  • http://www.tulsalibrary.org/askus/ tim

    This is the perfect opportunity to UNshamelessly plug the Tulsa City-County Library’s reference features that provide email & phone reference for every hour they’re open along with IM chat support 50 hours per week.

  • http://www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/reference/ Richard

    At least no one can say we’re recalcitrant blockheads. Semantics noted and changed. http://www.carnegielibrary.org/research/ask/

  • http://www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/reference/ Richard

    At least no one can say we’re recalcitrant blockheads. Semantics noted and changed. http://www.carnegielibrary.org/research/ask/

  • davidleeking

    Richard – wow! You guys rock.

  • davidleeking

    Richard – wow! You guys rock.

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  • Geri

    So, what’s your turnaround time on your questions? Does it beat the “48 hours” commitment from another library. If a library is closed on Sundays and a email is sent Saturday night and many of us don’t have the luxury of having sufficient staff or other services to provide 24-7 reference service. I don’t believe providing a honest expectation of response is discriminating against those patrons. Test the waters – tell the next person standing in front of you at the reference desk – sorry I can’t help you until I finish responding to this email question and see how that’s viewed.

    You raise some good points and some issues that should be considered.

    It would be interesting to look at turnaround times for the libraries that say “as soon as possible” vs. the libraries that state 24 hours or 48 hours…I bet there’s little difference.

  • Geri

    So, what’s your turnaround time on your questions? Does it beat the “48 hours” commitment from another library. If a library is closed on Sundays and a email is sent Saturday night and many of us don’t have the luxury of having sufficient staff or other services to provide 24-7 reference service. I don’t believe providing a honest expectation of response is discriminating against those patrons. Test the waters – tell the next person standing in front of you at the reference desk – sorry I can’t help you until I finish responding to this email question and see how that’s viewed.

    You raise some good points and some issues that should be considered.

    It would be interesting to look at turnaround times for the libraries that say “as soon as possible” vs. the libraries that state 24 hours or 48 hours…I bet there’s little difference.

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  • Jude

    The biggest problem with email reference is that you can’t do a reference interview. I wouldn’t offer email reference for that reason alone. Virtual chat reference is superior (as long as the software works well).

  • Jude

    The biggest problem with email reference is that you can’t do a reference interview. I wouldn’t offer email reference for that reason alone. Virtual chat reference is superior (as long as the software works well).

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  • Todd

    After scanning the points made in this discussion, it seems that one idea may have been left unspoken: librarians fear that if we do not clearly put the in-person patron first, it undermines the reason for the library’s brick-and-mortar presence, and may provide additional justification for closing them. Taking the fear another step, librarians would then be relegated to 24/7 “library call centers,” where we answer reference questions, or synchronously teach virtual patrons how to search our databases, or check out e-books online.
    As a regular patron of our local public library, I expect to be given priority treatment when I am in-person, as opposed to on the phone or IM. Yet there are those who cannot come to a library for a variety of reasons (disability, etc.), and deserve the same respect and prompt service. I will think on this more, since I will complete my MLS in May.

  • Todd

    After scanning the points made in this discussion, it seems that one idea may have been left unspoken: librarians fear that if we do not clearly put the in-person patron first, it undermines the reason for the library’s brick-and-mortar presence, and may provide additional justification for closing them. Taking the fear another step, librarians would then be relegated to 24/7 “library call centers,” where we answer reference questions, or synchronously teach virtual patrons how to search our databases, or check out e-books online.
    As a regular patron of our local public library, I expect to be given priority treatment when I am in-person, as opposed to on the phone or IM. Yet there are those who cannot come to a library for a variety of reasons (disability, etc.), and deserve the same respect and prompt service. I will think on this more, since I will complete my MLS in May.

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  • http://bpl.org/ Scot Colford

    Nice. Before I was a librarian, I sold books in a couple of the nations best independent bookstores. My favorite, which has since unfortunately been gobbled up by a national chain, had an awesome training program that involved explicit instruction in the values of the company from the smallest interactions to the largest. In the training, one important thing we emphasized to new hires was to never put a phone caller on hold for longer than two minutes at a time. Even if you had to go across the huge store and scour several shelves to find an item, be sure to check in with the customer every two minutes. Customers in the store can see that you’re busy and that there are many things that demand your attention. Those who are not physically with you can’t see that at all. In fact, when you are not “with them”, they are effectively abandoned in limbo.

    I hope that this message reaches “Jill” and other librarians like her.

    Scot Colford
    Web Services Manager
    Boston Public Library

  • http://bpl.org Scot Colford

    Nice. Before I was a librarian, I sold books in a couple of the nations best independent bookstores. My favorite, which has since unfortunately been gobbled up by a national chain, had an awesome training program that involved explicit instruction in the values of the company from the smallest interactions to the largest. In the training, one important thing we emphasized to new hires was to never put a phone caller on hold for longer than two minutes at a time. Even if you had to go across the huge store and scour several shelves to find an item, be sure to check in with the customer every two minutes. Customers in the store can see that you’re busy and that there are many things that demand your attention. Those who are not physically with you can’t see that at all. In fact, when you are not “with them”, they are effectively abandoned in limbo.

    I hope that this message reaches “Jill” and other librarians like her.

    Scot Colford
    Web Services Manager
    Boston Public Library

  • davidleeking

    Jude, you said “The biggest problem with email reference is that you can’t do a reference interview.”

    Why? I certainly have done it successfully, as well as helped plan talks, conferences, and even discussed edits on my book via email.

    Businesses run via email.

    All the “reference interview” is … is a back and forth email discussion, clarifying and expanding the question – and of course that can be done via email, chat, phone, IM, txt … oh yeah. In-person, too.

  • davidleeking

    Jude, you said “The biggest problem with email reference is that you can’t do a reference interview.”

    Why? I certainly have done it successfully, as well as helped plan talks, conferences, and even discussed edits on my book via email.

    Businesses run via email.

    All the “reference interview” is … is a back and forth email discussion, clarifying and expanding the question – and of course that can be done via email, chat, phone, IM, txt … oh yeah. In-person, too.

  • Meg

    To be honest, while I don’t like just bluntly stating “We’ll get back to you within 48 hours,” I dislike even more when a business or entity says, “We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” That often means I never get a response. I prefer to have an honest timeframe within which I can expect an answer, so if I do not receive one, I know something is wrong.

    As soon as possible? That can be five months from now. I want transparency in my library services. I’d prefer it say “as soon as possible, but may take up to…” with an honest estimate.

    Also, I don’t know about you, but the questions we sometimes get via e-mail are not things we do for people if they come in in person. We’ll show them how to research something, but sometimes we get genealogy requests via email where someone wants us to research something, scan it in as a pdf, and mail them back the results. This can take hours and is not an effective use of staff time. In those cases, we generally do a quick search to see what we can find and explain that if they come in, they can do the search and we would be glad to assist them in any or all of those steps, but we simply cannot provide such an in-depth service for them electronically.

    I also admit I’ve told people to come in and I’ll show them how to use a database, though that is always after at least 15 minutes on the phone with them attempting to walk them through something they are not understanding. Some things just need to be done in person for certain patrons, because no matter how many times you say, “Okay, now do you see the words ‘XYZ’ at the top of the page?”, they just won’t see them, even though they are there. Granted, most of these people would not qualify as digital natives, but they are certainly trying to be, and I respect that. However, I have to have a certain efficiency to my interactions if I’m going to get all my patrons served.

    So while I see what you’re getting at, I also think that people need to have some reasonable standards for what they ask for electronically and what work it involves on our end. Just as I cannot spend 30 minutes with one patronn in person when the reference desk is busy, I cannot spend 30 minutes with that person via e-mail.

    And yes, I do generally prioritize based on how people use the library–in person, phone, email. It is bad customer service to pick up a ringing phone in front of someone standing there waiting to be served unless it is to politely inform the caller that you have a patron and would they please hold. (Although if someone approaches the desk after said patron, I will either ring for help or ask the second in-person patron to wait as “I’ve had a patron on hold for several minutes.” Generally they understand.) The e-mail person may well have sent their question and logged off, so that gets done in between other questions. Seldom have I sent a question back and had an immediate response.

    We don’t offer IM currently. We were going to, but the county experiment with it failed miserably as few people used it for anything other than “Hey, let’s offensively and anonymously spam the librarian at the other end!” So the implementation of that is currently being rethought. I can’t even imagine throwing that into the pot at the reference desk, which sometimes counts as completely insane as it is. Someone in an office would have to be assigned to handle that, I think.

  • Meg

    To be honest, while I don’t like just bluntly stating “We’ll get back to you within 48 hours,” I dislike even more when a business or entity says, “We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.” That often means I never get a response. I prefer to have an honest timeframe within which I can expect an answer, so if I do not receive one, I know something is wrong.

    As soon as possible? That can be five months from now. I want transparency in my library services. I’d prefer it say “as soon as possible, but may take up to…” with an honest estimate.

    Also, I don’t know about you, but the questions we sometimes get via e-mail are not things we do for people if they come in in person. We’ll show them how to research something, but sometimes we get genealogy requests via email where someone wants us to research something, scan it in as a pdf, and mail them back the results. This can take hours and is not an effective use of staff time. In those cases, we generally do a quick search to see what we can find and explain that if they come in, they can do the search and we would be glad to assist them in any or all of those steps, but we simply cannot provide such an in-depth service for them electronically.

    I also admit I’ve told people to come in and I’ll show them how to use a database, though that is always after at least 15 minutes on the phone with them attempting to walk them through something they are not understanding. Some things just need to be done in person for certain patrons, because no matter how many times you say, “Okay, now do you see the words ‘XYZ’ at the top of the page?”, they just won’t see them, even though they are there. Granted, most of these people would not qualify as digital natives, but they are certainly trying to be, and I respect that. However, I have to have a certain efficiency to my interactions if I’m going to get all my patrons served.

    So while I see what you’re getting at, I also think that people need to have some reasonable standards for what they ask for electronically and what work it involves on our end. Just as I cannot spend 30 minutes with one patronn in person when the reference desk is busy, I cannot spend 30 minutes with that person via e-mail.

    And yes, I do generally prioritize based on how people use the library–in person, phone, email. It is bad customer service to pick up a ringing phone in front of someone standing there waiting to be served unless it is to politely inform the caller that you have a patron and would they please hold. (Although if someone approaches the desk after said patron, I will either ring for help or ask the second in-person patron to wait as “I’ve had a patron on hold for several minutes.” Generally they understand.) The e-mail person may well have sent their question and logged off, so that gets done in between other questions. Seldom have I sent a question back and had an immediate response.

    We don’t offer IM currently. We were going to, but the county experiment with it failed miserably as few people used it for anything other than “Hey, let’s offensively and anonymously spam the librarian at the other end!” So the implementation of that is currently being rethought. I can’t even imagine throwing that into the pot at the reference desk, which sometimes counts as completely insane as it is. Someone in an office would have to be assigned to handle that, I think.

  • http://library.chemeketa.edu/about/staff/kathleen.htm Kathleen

    I think I agree with everybody. :-) I agree with David and the other contributors who say that posting long turnaround times and limiting reference questions is lousy customer service, but I also agree with those who say that they would rather see a realistic timeframe than none at all. (I guess the best we can do is be polite and welcoming in our description of response times, and at least take a stab at answering every question that comes our way, in whatever form it comes.)

    The single most important thing we can do, in person, on our web pages, or in other interactions, is to make the patron feel respected. Obviously there will be times when we won’t be able to provide an answer instantly, or even find the information at all, but I hope that we can make the patron understand that we believe that s/he is worthy of our attention. We should keep asking ourselves, “How would I feel if somebody said this to me?”

  • http://library.chemeketa.edu/about/staff/kathleen.htm Kathleen

    I think I agree with everybody. :-) I agree with David and the other contributors who say that posting long turnaround times and limiting reference questions is lousy customer service, but I also agree with those who say that they would rather see a realistic timeframe than none at all. (I guess the best we can do is be polite and welcoming in our description of response times, and at least take a stab at answering every question that comes our way, in whatever form it comes.)

    The single most important thing we can do, in person, on our web pages, or in other interactions, is to make the patron feel respected. Obviously there will be times when we won’t be able to provide an answer instantly, or even find the information at all, but I hope that we can make the patron understand that we believe that s/he is worthy of our attention. We should keep asking ourselves, “How would I feel if somebody said this to me?”

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  • Otis Rundell

    What a bunch of clueless morons.

    The bare facts is that the librarians you see manninig the desk are the same librarians who have had online reference service piled on top of thier workload. You can’t have it both ways. If you want that librarian to be dedicated to serving online, then take them off the desk and vice versa.

    You can’t get blood from a stone.

  • Otis Rundell

    What a bunch of clueless morons.

    The bare facts is that the librarians you see manninig the desk are the same librarians who have had online reference service piled on top of thier workload. You can’t have it both ways. If you want that librarian to be dedicated to serving online, then take them off the desk and vice versa.

    You can’t get blood from a stone.

  • davidleeking

    Everyone – here’s what I emailed to “Otis” –

    You’re certainly welcome to comment here – but this type of attack “What a bunch of clueless morons” needs to stop. I won’t tolerate name calling on my site.

    And an fyi – “Otis” gave a fake email address (and I’m guessing a fake name, too)… his email came from memphislibrary.org …

    And to answer your complaint, “Otis” – yes, you CAN have it both ways. Many libraries are successfully doing email/IM/in-person reference from the same desk. It’s just one of many models.

  • davidleeking

    Everyone – here’s what I emailed to “Otis” –

    You’re certainly welcome to comment here – but this type of attack “What a bunch of clueless morons” needs to stop. I won’t tolerate name calling on my site.

    And an fyi – “Otis” gave a fake email address (and I’m guessing a fake name, too)… his email came from memphislibrary.org …

    And to answer your complaint, “Otis” – yes, you CAN have it both ways. Many libraries are successfully doing email/IM/in-person reference from the same desk. It’s just one of many models.

  • madlibrarian

    Have you ever worked as a virtual reference librarian answering guestions? No, just like I thought. Some of the questions that are asked are not questions that you should ask during a virtual reference session nor in person at a reference desk. The questions do not tend to be the same. You can not answer the in depth research question that patrons want to ask on line. And patrons don’t have the nerve to look you in the eye and ask you the same stupid yes, I said stupid questions when they are standing in front of you. So before you speak take a survey of the questions that are getting that I will get back to you in 24-48 and see if you get those at the reference desk.

  • madlibrarian

    Have you ever worked as a virtual reference librarian answering guestions? No, just like I thought. Some of the questions that are asked are not questions that you should ask during a virtual reference session nor in person at a reference desk. The questions do not tend to be the same. You can not answer the in depth research question that patrons want to ask on line. And patrons don’t have the nerve to look you in the eye and ask you the same stupid yes, I said stupid questions when they are standing in front of you. So before you speak take a survey of the questions that are getting that I will get back to you in 24-48 and see if you get those at the reference desk.

  • http://www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/reference/ Richard

    Madlibrarian,

    I disagree with you, and we do all the above. We get as many (or as few) inappropriate questions (whatever that means) via VR or e-mail as we do in person. The reality today is I get more questions in the same hour via VR than I do on the telephone. Whatever the cause of your anger or resentment, I don’t think it needs to be directed at the blog owner.

    Richard
    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

  • http://www.carnegielibrary.org/locations/reference/ Richard

    Madlibrarian,

    I disagree with you, and we do all the above. We get as many (or as few) inappropriate questions (whatever that means) via VR or e-mail as we do in person. The reality today is I get more questions in the same hour via VR than I do on the telephone. Whatever the cause of your anger or resentment, I don’t think it needs to be directed at the blog owner.

    Richard
    Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

  • madlibrarian

    What I think needs to happen is that libraries just need to be honest with their patrons and let them know the limitations of their virtual reference service. “Reference” does not mean to give the answer to an indepth research project. Reference simply means to refer.

    Libraries need to stop being afraid to tell patrons what the service is meant for. Being that it is an online service you have to be very frank with patrons. When patrons walk into a library and stand at a desk they get answers from looking at a librarian and they know just how far to push with trying to get the librarian to do their research for them.

    Remember its the librarian job to provide reference and assist a patron with finding information but that does not mean you have to answer all research questions but doing the research for the patron, I think this is what causes the problem. “Refer”

    My theroy is don’t ask me any question online that you would not ask me at the reference desk. Live by this and you will not have to use the 24-48 hour line.

  • madlibrarian

    What I think needs to happen is that libraries just need to be honest with their patrons and let them know the limitations of their virtual reference service. “Reference” does not mean to give the answer to an indepth research project. Reference simply means to refer.

    Libraries need to stop being afraid to tell patrons what the service is meant for. Being that it is an online service you have to be very frank with patrons. When patrons walk into a library and stand at a desk they get answers from looking at a librarian and they know just how far to push with trying to get the librarian to do their research for them.

    Remember its the librarian job to provide reference and assist a patron with finding information but that does not mean you have to answer all research questions but doing the research for the patron, I think this is what causes the problem. “Refer”

    My theroy is don’t ask me any question online that you would not ask me at the reference desk. Live by this and you will not have to use the 24-48 hour line.

  • madlibrarian

    Richard,

    Hold up a minute there who said anything about “Whatever the cause of your anger or resentment, I don’t think it needs to be directed at the blog owner”. I’m not angry or resenting anything.

    As a person who has been working in virtual reference since 2001, I think I have an expert opinion. I have conducted many survey’s of the types of quesitions and what I said is very true.

    Please don’t speak for me, I not angry at anyone and I accept your apology for thinking so.