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SpringyNews - Easy Ask, Easy Answer!   Tags: news  

October, 2012
Last Updated: Jan 11, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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In This Issue


Your reference desk is mobbed. Your inbox is full. You are teaching class after class or workshop after workshop. Carts are overflowing with books waiting to be reshelved. It's 'Back to School' and your Academic/Public/K-12 library is busier than a gopher on a golf course!

Are you overloaded, overworked, and on the hunt for solutions to make things faster, better, easier? Are your users relying more and more on technology to ask questions? Do they try to text or IM questions, and wonder why they can't? The bottom line: your users want more; more virtual, more services, and they want it to be fast and easy.

On the horns of a dilemma?!

This edition of Springy News focuses on a solution to the aforementioned predicament: Easy Ask, Easy Answer. With the rollout of LibChat this summer, LibAnswers has become the complete virtual reference tool, allowing you to house all your virtual reference services and statistics under one roof (Email, Chat, SMS/Texting, FAQs, Twitter, Question Form, Reference Analytics). Check out our slideshow below to see how seven libraries are using LibAnswers.

Next up, our interview with the University of Alabama-Huntsville shows how they're using LibAnswers to simplify processes and workflows.

Rounding out this issue, we've got Springy Tips & Tricks that are all about creating and displaying your FAQs. And don't worry if you don't have LibAnswers, we still have tips for you!  Check out our latest Product Updates and see what's coming down the pike.

The Springshare Team 

Ready. Set. Ask!Back to Top

Reference (r)Evolution

What we call “reference questions” haven’t been confined to the reference desk for a long time. They haven’t even been confined to “what-we-call-’reference’,” have they? You probably answer more kinds of questions in more ways than ever before. But with so many paths to answers—in-person, on the phone, via e-mail, text, Twitter, chat, FAQs, and more—how do your patrons find you? And how do you keep track of them?

From the Simple to the Complex - and Back Again!

  • Samford University

    Location, Location, Location

    Samford University embeds a link to their LibChat inside their Link Resolver page. This way, students can get the help they need when they need it.

  • St. Joseph's University

    Multi-Channel Reference

    St. Joseph's University does a beautiful job advertising all the different ways students can ask questions via their LibAnswers system on their Library Website.

  • University of Alabama Huntsville

    Synchronous Chat

    University of Alabama Hunstville (check out SuperStar interview below) does a banner job advertising their LibChat service on their Library website.

  • Gettysburg College

    Fun With Widgets!

    Gettysburg College's pop-up widget floats on top of their webpage allowing users to scroll without losing access to their Ask Us button!

  • Gwinnett County Public Library

    Searchable FAQ

    Gwinnett County Public Library uses LibAnswers for all 15 of their branches. Branded AskGCPL they've created over 1,300 FAQs in their searchable knowledge base for remote users.

  • Lamar University Library

    Query Spy - Go James Bond

    Lamar University Library uses Query Spy to answer questions that students are afraid to ask. With the referring URL field - you can find out where they are and are *not* coming from!

  • NYIT Library

    Goodbye Inbox

    NYIT Library funnels their reference desk email right into LibAnswers! Llibrarians only have to navigate to their LibAnswers system to answer email & check stats.

New technologies and changes in user habits and expectations make answering questions both easier and more complicated at the same time. Easier because we have more channels than ever to connect with our patrons; more complicated because managing all those channels presents challenges way beyond how it was when it was all happening in one place.

Easy Ask! Easy Answer!

They-who-ask and they-who-answer may no longer congregate at the reference desk, but you can bring all of your divergent reference streams together with LibAnswers. For your patrons, that means finding more options in one easy-to-find location. For your staff, it means one system for managing all kinds of questions, no matter how they come in.  

"Command Central" for the New Age of Reference

With a fully-realized LibAnswers system, you and your staff can manage, respond to, share, and analyze queries from the common to the out-of-left-field. Plus, since LibAnswers can integrate beautifully with LibGuides and your library websites, there’s no limit to when and where you make “Ask Us!” not just a link, but an invitation to engage.

SuperStars: Univ. of Alabama - HuntsvilleBack to Top

We sat down with David, Doug and Sheeji from UAH to chat about their implementation of LibAnswers.

UAH Group Picture

Why did you choose LibAnswers as your virtual reference platform?

The ability to build up a knowledge bank is quite nice. While we get dozens of questions submitted, we see hundreds of people make use of the answers already there. This may include a percentage of patrons who would not be comfortable asking their question due to potential reference anxiety, and those patrons who may not want direct interaction are helped just as well as the ones who did submit a question.

Nice job advertising and integrating LibAnswers into your website!
We'd love to hear your marketing strategies that have proven to be the most effective.

One thing we have found to work is to put the service where the students can find it without having to abandon the task they are working on. If a student is on the Interlibary Loan page and getting an error, having a way to submit a question or to chat with us right there means they are more likely to feel comfortable sending us the question, and they don't have to feel like they are completely on their own.

The featured questions definitely inspire that type of spontaneous learning about the library and its various services.

We also try to keep the tone of our interactions consistently warm and mildly informal, a digital extension to the sort of experience a patron would have in-person at the reference desk. If they came up to us in real life, we would smile, say hello, talk to them about their reference needs, and then respond in a way that would encourage them to come back. We do the same thing online and our repeat users show a large level of encouragement by this.

What's your favorite LibChat feature?

Although the analytics part is very useful and helpful, the simple aspect of having our name  displayed is one of our favorite features. Many people who come to us with a question seem to open up more quickly because it helps them to attach a persona to the interaction. It is easy for chat reference to sound cold and robotic, even if that is not your intention. Having our name there, and allowing them to choose whether or not to include theirs, seems to break that up right from the start.

How has the response been from users?

This chat is a great feature. I'm going to recommend it to my students. - UAH User

The response to LibChat has been very positive, and one that we find growing by word-of-mouth everyday. One user wrote during a chat session, "This chat is a great feature. I'm going to recommend it to my students."  We also promote our LibAnswers and LibChat features during library instruction, and the students always seem surprised and relieved that there are ways to get help from librarians, outside of the traditional face-to-face sessions, directly from home.

LibAnswers allows for Email, SMS, Twitter, Chat and FAQ virtual reference; which service(s) have exploded at UAH?

Chat and email are our most active avenues of getting new questions, but the number of users using the Featured Questions on LibAnswers is far greater. Knowing that others have asked the question is a comfort, but more than that: seeing questions you might not have intended to ask but wanted to know can help to learn new things. The Featured Questions definitely inspires that type of spontaneous learning about the library and its various services.

How are staff integrating LibAnswers into their daily workflows?

There have been times when LibAnswers (including LibChat) has been handled by mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads.

We currently have two librarians who handle LibAnswers and we tend to be active most at the same time we are also actively at the reference desk, which helps to keep the mood of chats light and helpful. There have been times when LibAnswers (including LibChat) has been handled by mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads. Some thought has been given to using LibAnswers as a tool to better enable a roaming reference service, which is one of the advantages it provides.

We know Libraries are under a tremendous amount of scrutiny. How have you been using the feature to assess your virtual reference services?

In LibAnswers, seeing where people use the system successfully versus unsuccessfully helps us to tweak wording in our questions. Seeing how people get to LibAnswers and LibChat helps us to decide where else we need to embed it. Finding out that patrons prefer to chat right off the page they are on, for instance, has increased our desire to add the chat box to more pages.

We try to promote and encourage as much virtual reference as we can, and we find that the successful interactions allow for a positive word-of-mouth to spread about our friendliness and enthusiasm about the library and its services. Our library is known on-campus as having very friendly and helpful staff, and our virtual reference is just an extension of that level of service.

Springy Tips & TricksBack to Top

This issue of Springy Tips & Tricks is all about getting your Library FAQs out there - for fast and easy access. Easy Ask, Easy Answer!


Create FAQs that matches user queries.

Use Query Spy + Keywords to create a uniquely tailored database of FAQs that meets your users needs.


LibGuides - Build an FAQ box in your Guides!

Have LibAnswers? Use the LibAnswers Box Type.

  • Create a targeted list of FAQs right within your LibGuide using the LibAnswers Box
  • Navigate to your LibGuide > Add New Box > LibAnswers Box Type
  • Edit Box Settings:
    • Content: Display the LibAnswers Search Box, Question Form or a Single Q&A Pair OR;
    • Get topical! Display a list of Q&A's from a topic or a list of up to 10 questions
  • ExampleProvide easy in-context help!

    LibAnswers Box Type

Don't Have LibAnswers? Create Your Own FAQ Guide!

  • Create an 'About the Library' LibGuide  or 'Library FAQ' LibGuide 
  • Add content related to your Frequently Asked Questions > Publish It
    • Consider creating pages for specific topics within that guide:
    • MLA FAQs;
    • Overdrive FAQs;
    • etc.
  • Now LINK to that content within your own LibGuides!

Free Training


Embedding LibGuides/LibAnswers API in LibCal.

Now, you've got some FAQs either in your LibAnswers system or in your LibGuides. Let's get them in your LibCal system!

  • Login to your LibCal system
  • Admin Stuff > Look & Feel > Homepage Settings Tab;
  • Scroll down to the Info/Alert Homepage Content Box section
  • Open a new browser window > navigate to your LibAnswers or LibGuides site > Grab the API JavaScript Embed Code;
  • LibCal Info/Alert Box > Edit Text > HTML Icon
  • Paste in the LibAnswers or LibGuides API Code > Save > Close
  • Voila! You're displaying some dynamic FAQs right on your LibCal homepage!


  • Display library basic FAQs for new students next to your LibCal Orientation Workshops;
  • Display MLA/APA FAQs next to your LibCal Citation Help Series;
  • Display FAQs on E-Reserves next to your LibCal Course Instruction Events;
  • Display Overdrive/Kindle/eBook FAQs next to your LibCal eReader Workshops;
  • Display 'About the Library' FAQs next to your LibCal Library Hours Calendar:
    • Library Address;
    • Contact Information;
    • Directions.
  • LibCal Widget + LibAnswers API ExampleAdd a Calendar Widget and LibAnswers API code to your Info/Alert Box!

    LibCal API

LibAnalytics/Reference Analytics

You might be delving into your Reference Desk, Circulation Desk or Information Desk statistics for information on staffing the reference desk, what resources are  consulted or even to understand popular modes for asking questions. But have you thought to:pepperdine button

  • Identify the most popularly asked questions > add them to your LibAnswers system or FAQ LibGuide
    • Were you asked 22 times in September if the library has a copy machine? Time for an FAQ!
    • It's the 800th time you've been asked for a stapler in May. Time for more Swinglines!
  • Research the timeliness of questions > create signage:
    • Are you noticing that lots of students are asking about E-Reserves in September/October? Create signage for this time-period and post it in your most trafficked areas.
      • Add a Link to your LibGuides E-Reserves right on your Library Website 
    • Becoming walking signage! Create/Wear Buttons Advertising your FAQ skills!
  • Plan when *stuff* should display? Having the same events or signage displayed all the time can create 'blindness'. 
    • MLA/APA Citation Workshops on your LibCal calendar during peak times;
    • Publish/UnPublish LibGuides when they're no longer needed.

Product Updates | Coming SoonBack to Top

LibCal LogoLibCal Coming Attractions - November 2012

LibCal Free
  • Calendar Display Updates - The calendar's getting a major facelift!
    • Navigate easily between months/days;
    • Printer-Friendly Version;
    • New Agenda View
    • Auto-Resizing of Event Title and Day Slot to display full details.
  • Event Previews - Hovering over an event gives you a detailed preview.
  • Advanced Display Controls - AdiĆ³s CSS! Easy controls to quickly customize your calendar display.
  • Color Options - Customize calendar borders, text and headers with an easy to use color picker!
  • Advanced Public Display Filtering - Patrons can now filter on multiple categories, libraries, etc.

LibAnswers LogoLibAnswers Update - September Release

Timezone Improvements

Timezones have now been optimized to make use of real timezones rather than the previous offset method. Up to now, we've relied on a timezone offset method, where each site defined their local time in relation to our server's timezone. Now, with better timezone management it will be simpler to keep your LibAnswers time in line with your local time. 

Libanswers Multiple SMS

SMS Updates

  • Send Direct SMS Messages to multiple recipients - add multiple numbers separated by a semi-colon;
  • Auto-Responders & Discontinuous Times - if your 'available' service hours aren't continuous you can now add discontinuous times to your off-hours auto-responder.
    • Admin Stuff > SMS Settings

LibGuides LogoLibGuides Update

Faster than Ever! 

File Optimization - In our continuous efforts to ensure LibGuides pages load fast, we've been consolidating and optimizing files needed to serve up your LibGuides system so now pages load faster than ever before! For example, in September 2012 we handled 120 Million Page Views and had 4.8 Million Unique Visitors

Friendly URLs - End of October

Assign Friendly URLs to:

  • Individual pages in a guide;
  • Group homepages (LibGuides CMS only);
  • Subject category pages;
  • ...and more!

E-Reserves Module - End of October

LibGuides users can now subscribe to the E-Reserves module!


  • Integrate E-Reserves at point-of-need right within your guides;
  • Password/IP-Restrict E-Reserve materials;
  • Assign E-Reserves to Subject Categories for enhanced findability;
  • ...and more! Email for information.


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