Ask a Librarian Mentoring Program

You’ve already attended training – but you just haven’t had much opportunity to practice or staff the chat reference desk… sound familiar?

Are you trying to staff chat now, but still feeling a little like a fish out of water?

Would you like someone to help you apply your knowledge and skills to the exciting world of chat reference?


The Ask a Librarian Mentoring Program can help.
Since 2009, the Ask a Librarian Mentoring Program has helped library staff apply their in-house knowledge to the virtual setting. From live, one-on-one guidance during actual patron chats to anytime-emails of reassurance or feedback and support, your mentor will work with you to meet your individual goals in chat reference on Ask a Librarian.

What is an Ask a Librarian Mentor?
Ask a Librarian Mentors are librarians, just like you, who have experience working with real patrons in live chat through Ask a Librarian. Your mentor is there to share his or her knowledge, experiences, and wisdom in conducting chat reference and using the Ask a Librarian software. Your mentor’s foremost goal is to help you – to encourage your comfort, growth, and achievement in a warm, supportive environment.
Who can beat that?!

What will I learn?
Your mentor will help you to navigate successfully through the software (such as pushing nifty Web pages to patrons), to feel more comfortable utilizing online resources that help you – and your patron – during chats, tips on building and maintaining patron rapport from their own personal experiences, and more.

How does it work?
We’ll find you your very own ‘seasoned pro’. Your Ask a Librarian Mentor can work with you in pretend-patron practice sessions to gently guide you toward a level of increased comfort and performance during chat. Your mentor will work with you to establish a plan of action that best fits your needs and schedule. From emails and phone calls to practice sessions and real-time assistance during actual patron chats, your mentor is there to help you succeed!

Where do I start?
Interested? Just fill out this form to become a mentee. This will be private – just between you & your mentor. What do you have to lose, but maybe a little anxiety or fluttering stomach? Virtual reference experience builds your professional growth and your experience portfolio, so take advantage of your peers’ generosity and increase your skill & comfort levels in Ask a Librarian.

Questions? Just contact Traci Avet Hector, Ask a Librarian Virtual Reference Coordinator, at

Healthcare Update

Starting October 1, 2013, consumers in Florida will be able to choose new affordable health insurance options through a federally-facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace.

In the past few weeks, we have been hearing more and more about how public libraries will be involved in helping consumers apply through the new Marketplace. Although details are scarce but right now, there are several resources for libraries to help bring you up-to-date and answer a few of your questions:

  • – Primary tool for delivering information to Americans about their health coverage options. This site was updated at the end of June. For Spanish speaking consumers,  has also been updated.
  • The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will partner with libraries to connect patrons with information resources and community partners who are trained to assist with enrollment. IMLS has provided a grant to for this effort.
  • Navigators. These grant-funded individuals or organizations will be trained to help consumers, small businesses, and their employees as they look for health coverage options through the Marketplace, including completing eligibility and enrollment forms. The Navigators are required to be unbiased and their services are free to consumers. When open enrollment starts October 1, 2013, the Marketplace Help Center will assist in finding help for your patrons.
  • Call Center for Marketplace questions. Customer service representatives are available 24/7: 800.318.2596.
  • Online chat is also available 24/7. Look for the blue box on the lower right hand corner on most pages of the site. Customer service representatives will answer questions in online conversations.
  • Throughout July CMS is providing webinars on Health Insurance Marketplace 101.
  • Health Insurance Marketplace provides educational tools, including brochures, articles, training materials and presentations, and widgets. Materials are also available in Spanish.
  • MedlinePlus, administered by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, presents information on medicine and healthcare in easy-to-understand language. The Health Insurance page has links to information on the Affordable Care Act.


Basic Timeline:


Healthcare.govandCuidadoDeSalud.govupdatedConsumers canset up alogin Grants awardedfor NavigatorsConsumers canfind where to goto get helpOpen Enrollment
HHS Call CenterOpens800.318.2596Call Center openfor Small Business

Be sure to subscribe to the Workforce Recovery Update to receive additional information on the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Pam Thompson, E-Government Consultant
Bureau of Library Development
Division of Library and Information Services
R.A.Gray Building
500 South Bronough Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250

Questions about Ask a Librarian training opportunities? Contact Virtual Reference Coordinator Traci Avet Hector at

Participate in VR Research via Phone Interview!

Participate in VR Research via Phone Interview

Dear Virtual Reference Librarian:

Greetings! We are looking for people interested in taking part in an important study of virtual reference services (VRS). We are willing to pay you for your time.

We hope you will be interested in sharing your opinions and insights about live chat VRS in our grant-funded research project titled, “Cyber Synergy: Seeking Sustainability through Collaboration between Virtual Reference and Social Q&A Sites.” We need librarians willing to participate in a phone interview. Please access the following link to sign up for the survey:

The phone interview will take approximately 45 minutes and participants will receive $30 in compensation. All responses will be kept strictly confidential.

Prior to the interview, we will need a signed consent form. When you respond to this email by responding to the above URL and stating that you are willing to participate, we will send you a one page consent form for you to download, sign, and fax back to us. More instructions about this will follow to confirm your participation.

Cyber Synergy will evaluate sustainability of VRS and explore collaborative models for subject expertise among librarians and other experts systems, such as Social Q&A sites. This study is funded by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Rutgers University, and OCLC Online Computer Library Center, Inc.

We, the principal investigators of Cyber Synergy, thank you for your interest in the study.

Marie L. Radford, Ph.D., Associate Professor
Rutgers University

Lynn Silipigni Connaway, Ph.D., Senior Research Scientist
OCLC, Inc.

Chirag Shah, Ph.D.
Rutgers University, Assistant Professor

More information can be obtained at the project website:

Contact Alyssa Darden at

= = =

FEL Training from the State Library of Florida

This is just a friendly reminder that the State Library of Florida offers terrific on-demand and live webinar training opportunities (in-person by request) on Florida Electronic Library resources.

“The Florida Electronic Library—your gateway to superior electronic resources that offer access to comprehensive, accurate, and reliable information—offers a training program designed to meet the needs of all library staff. With its blended curriculum, you can take advantage of the training that best suits your learning style: on demand, live webinar, or on-site in your library.”

Register Today!

Check out these upcoming trainings:

The New Demographics Now: Sep 18, 2012 11:00 am
FEL Resources and the Common Core: Sep 19, 2012 8:30 am
Finding Online Resources For Library Programming: Sep 24, 2012 3:30 pm
FEL Homework Help Resources: Sep 25, 2012 12:00 pm
FEL Health Resources: Oct 1, 2012 1:00 pm
The New Demographics Now: Oct 17, 2012 1:00 pm

Hot Topics Webinar: Customer Service Excellence, or How to Win an Exemplary Reference Award


Hot Topics: Customer Service Excellence, or How to Win an Exemplary Reference Award 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012
2-3 pm ET

We all know the importance of customer service in reference, but the unique environment of chat reference sometimes presents a few unique challenges, too. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to ensure a helpful and efficient chat reference experience for you and your virtual patrons.
In this webinar, Susan Livingston of South Florida State College, who has won four Exemplary Reference Awards, will provide the tips and tricks she has developed for superior customer service. Pat Barbier of St. Petersburg College, co-chair of the Quality Assurance Workgroup, will provide valuable tips and insights from the QA perspective on how you can ensure excellent customer service for your patrons.
Let Susan and Pat give you all the tools you need to provide customer service excellence in the virtual reference environment. Register today!

Webinar: High Anxiety: Increasing your Comfort Level on the Statewide Desk

High Anxiety: Increasing your Comfort Level on the Statewide Desk
Wed., Aug. 22, 10-11 am ET

  • Does the idea of answering statewide chat questions make you feel hesitant and uncomfortable?
  • Do you feel a little like a fish out of water when you’re scheduled to cover the Collaborative or Academic Desk for your library?

If you feel anxiety while waiting to help statewide chat patrons, you are not alone. Even the most capable and confident of librarians can feel a reduced sense of comfort when answering collaborative chat questions on the statewide desk.

You bring a lot to the table. This webinar will offer the perspective you need to lasso the comfort you that you have in-house and draw that into the virtual reference environment.

Register Today! FEL on the Statewide Desk: A Staff Webinar Series

Introducing a series to help you help patrons on the statewide Ask a Librarian desks…

State library long logo

FEL on the Statewide Desk:  A Staff Webinar Series


FEL on the Statewide Desk: PowerSearch
Monday, August 27, 1-2p ET

Put that aspirin away! With Gale PowerSearch, you can instantly access periodical and reference content in multiple Gale resources from a single starting point, while also cross-searching eBooks in the Gale Virtual Reference Library. Discover the powerful features available to you and patrons across Florida in this informative webinar.

FEL on the Statewide Desk: Academic OneFile
Monday, September 10, 1-2p ET

Are you looking for peer-reviewed, full-text articles from the world’s leading journals and reference resources? With extensive coverage of all academic disciplines, Academic OneFile is authoritative and comprehensive – explore this incredible resource and find out how Academic OneFile can help you help patrons.

FEL on the Statewide Desk: Business Resources
Monday, September 17, 1-2p ET

Do you know how to access costly investment reports or sample business plans? Did you know that Demographics Now can help patrons decide where and what types of businesses are needed in your community, or that Gale Virtual Reference Library has a great selection of business/career e-books? This course will explain all those tools and more!

FEL on the Statewide Desk: Homework Help
Monday, September 24, 1-2p ET

Looking for a little help with those “homework help” questions? Look no further! Learn all about the best FEL resources to assist elementary, middle, and high school students with homework assignments. Attendees will be taught the most effective and efficient search strategies to obtain the best set of search results for student questions and research.

Register today, and let the Florida Electronic Library help you better serve our Florida state residents!