Texting Enhancement for the Local Desk

We have a new enhancement available for libraries utilizing the text messaging feature and the local desk in AAL.

If you staff your local desk daily, all incoming text messages can be set up to go straight to your local desk interface. If you choose to implement this option, you will no longer have to log into texting to answer text messages from your patrons or students. Everything will come right to your local desk interface.

This means only your staff will be answering your students/patrons texts. It also means that if you are not staffing your local desk, the text messages will be waiting for you in the Mail Queue until the next time you log in.

If you are interested in implementing this feature, please let me know. A big thank you to New College of Florida, University of Central Florida, and Florida State University who were the first libraries to help us roll out this new implementation.

If you have any questions, please let Jessie know.

Ask a Librarian Mobile Chat

Ask a Librarian Mobile Chat

Do you hate coming to a website that doesn’t have a mobile friendly interface? We certainly do!

When you try to type on the small screen,  does it become difficult to type because the keyboard hides the rest of the screen?

Well Guess What??? On February 15, we will be launching an enhanced mobile site that allows you to chat directly with a librarian!

You will be able to chat with a statewide librarian or scroll down and find your local library right from your mobile device! Once you select your library, it will allow you to chat, e-mail, or text.

  • If you select chat, it will open in a new screen, and allow you to enter your name, email, and question. Once you select chat, the new mobile interface will open and you will be chatting live with a librarian!
  • You also have the option to text message directly from the new interface. Once you select this option you can click on the phone number, and your phone will open to your texting screen. Don’t forget to enter your 3 letter code.
  • If you decide to send an email, your new screen will easily allow you to enter your name, email, subject, and question and send that email!
Ask a Librarian Mobile Chat
Ask a Librarian Mobile Chat

Using QR Codes to Market Ask a Librarian

QR codes are an excellent way to promote Ask a Librarian to your users.   A QR code is a 2-D barcode that can connect the physical and online world! Sounds complicated but its not.

A QR code is placed on a book, a poster, a bib record, a shelf, a name tag – you name it, a QR Code can be placed on it.   A user sees the QR code and uses their smart phone to capture the image.  The image is then read and the user is taken to a website, prompt a user to send a text message or given your contact information.

These might be new – but use is growing fast.  They can be seen in Best Buy, Sears and Sunglass Huts ads.  They can be seen in magazines like Wired and Lucky.  They are on billboards and movie ads.   Libraries too are using them to tie physical collections to the web.

The great thing about a QR Code is they are FREE and SIMPLE to CREATE and they are FREE and SIMPLE to use.

A QR code can be created at several free online generators. Personally, I use Kaywa and Google.  The generators allow you to type in the URL, phone number, contact info you want the QR Code to point to and hit “generate.”

A user reads a QR Code via a smart phone- androids, blackberries, iphones and itouches all have apps to read QR Codes.     I have an iphone and use BeeTagg.   A user just launches the app and points their phone – the reader does the rest!

Why are we talking about QR Codes?

QR Codes are a great way to promote Ask a Librarian’s new texting service.    Creating a custom QR Code can point users to your Ask a Librarian Mobile Page or provide them the info (including your keyword) on how to send a text message right to their phone!!!

We are planning to order stickers with QR Codes for interested libraries.  For more information about QR Code stickers, please contact us (askalibrarian – @- tblc.org).

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?

Ask a Librarian Debuts Texting Today!!

We are live on text messaging today.

It should be somewhat quiet in the queue with our soft launch but please remember:

– If you are scheduled for either the collaborative desk or the academic desk, you must staff the texting queue as well.
– Texts will enter the system in the ‘Mail Queue’ for the texting department.
– If you are staffing locally, texting is optional but you are welcome to staff the queue as well.
– Each text reply must start with a “!”
– Use the SMS Helper and Scripts, they are there to help you.

Some Additional Resources:

We will be rolling out local numbers onto local Ask a Librarian Portal pages and widgets this week with more PR to follow.
Please continue to contact us with questions, comments & experiences with texting.  This is new to all of us and only if we work together will this be a success.    We are tweaking settings, policies and training based upon your feedback!