Text Messaging Update

Text Messaging was introduced by Ask a Librarian on October 25th with little fanfare for the users. While all of us, were training, creating scripts and otherwise preparing – we expected initial growth to be slow and did little promotion for this new service point, with the idea that the new year would hold new wisdom we’d gleaned from our first few months being live.

However- users are finding us!!!! We are so excited with our first month of service’s usage numbers. In November, we answered 566 text messages! Not bad for a new service. As one of the first statewide services offering collaborative Texting, you are really part of a historic step for libraries!

Best Practices Update

Last Friday, the SMS taskforce got together to discuss the first month. We realize there are a few bumps – but we are looking at how they can be fixed. One of the biggest issues seems to be “threading” – a user replying to a librarian and the answer being picked up by another librarian. When answering a user with a question or answer that would likely generate a response from the user, here are a few tips to help you:

  • Mark the reply “Follow-Up”, which is the check box just to the right of the Send button.  Follow-up questions and answers are located in a shared tab so others can see your history.  Follow-up includes not only what users texted but how librarians responded.
  • Be On the Lookout!  Many texters who return do so fairly soon, so watch the queue for your user returning by their phone number and/or library designation.
  • Be vocal when leaving the desk. If you have expectations or knowledge that may help others help a returning user, definitely share that. Letting others know the situation in the agent chat room may prevent confusion on a returning text and prevent other staff from reinventing the wheel.  Speaking up helps everyone, including the user.

More information on best practice patterns is emerging every day; in the meantime, these should definitely help us to acclimate to and excel in this exciting new world of text reference. The taskforce will be doing some in-depth analysis of texts and hopes to have additional best practices recommendations as we analyze the past month.

Do you have another tip or trick you have found useful? Please let us know!!

Promotion: Where are all these users coming from?

Ask a Librarian has added your local texting phone number to your customer portal page, widgets and mobile pages.


Libraries are also promoting texting to their users. Here are some examples, we have seen:

Another Effective Promotional Tool is a QR Code. Here are two examples codes. These codes are easily generated and can be used on everything from bookmarks to handouts to business cards.

There are several free QR code generators – I personally use http://qrcode.kaywa.com/

What are you planning at your library in 2011 to promote Ask a Librarian and Ask a Librarian Texting?

Announcement – Goodbye, ScreenSharing!

Because ScreenSharing – which we pay extra for – is so rarely utilized, and because page-pushing in the current InstantService software is so effective, ScreenSharing will be discontinued this Friday, October 1, 2010.   For us, this is great news, because not only does this move actively address one of the few software concerns you’ve had (and one of the more colorful in your staff surveys!), but it also allows everyone to focus on our exciting new texting service to be debuted to Ask a Librarian users on October 25.   We are excited to be moving forward in our journey to reach all Ask a Librarian users most effectively, and in their moments of need.

March Madness Customer Service Tips

We received great customer service tips and they mentioned – SCRIPTS and COMMUNICATION and utilizing the user’s library resources as the key to a successful session!

Renee Patterson, Alachua County Library District says:

My favorite tip is already in the FAQ, but it’s the one I find most helpful.
Use scripts!! I find them incredibly helpful in keeping the patron engaged while I’m off searching – and in helping me refine my searches as well.

From the FAQ:
Pre-scripted replies, or scripts, serve several purposes:
1. they promote consistency in customer service
2. they save you more time for up-front researching
3. they increase the patron’s view of staff interest and staff/patron interactivity – all of which make for a more patient patron.

Using scripts is easy – just click on the Text tab in the upper left corner of the Agent Console, click on a category to view available scripts for that topic, and double-click to insert the desired script into the text box below the transcript. From here, you can modify the wording, or just hit “Send”.
Answers to some common questions can be found in the scripts as well. For instance, if you have an Orange County patron wondering why a book is checked out to them, when they haven’t received it in the mail yet; there is already a script in the OCLS folder addressing this very question. J There’s no need to lose time searching through an unfamiliar library website when the answer is a simple click away. Or perhaps the patron wants to know how to save or print the chat – there’s a script with the answer!

So take a bit of time while you’re on the desk to familiarize yourself with the available scripts – and perhaps even add a few of your own.

Susan Smith, Hodges University says:

Don’t forget all your reference interview skills. Engage the patron, establish a connection, ask for clarification about his or her question. Follow up to see if the answer you’ve provided is what they were looking for, remind them they can come back later if they need more help or have other questions.

Use the script libraries—better yet, create your own personalized scripts.

Tell people what you are doing either as you do it or even before you do it—it helps in several ways—first, they know that you are interested and engaged, second they know you didn’t abandon them, and third, it can help teach them what to do in the future.

Tina Peak, Lake Wales says:

I give them guidance on getting to their home library’s database list. If they haven’t listed their home library on their entry question I always ask. There are a lot of Florida libraries who spend their precious dollars on good databases and their patrons don’t know how to use them. I refer customers to Florida Electronic Library, but I also encourage them to seek information on their own library’s website.

CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH RENEE, SUSAN AND TINA, they have won the March Madness Customer Service Tip Award!! Prizes are on the way!