January 16th, 2016 Brian Herzog
My library subscribes to OCLC's QuestionPoint service, which is a 24/7 chat reference resource our patrons can use anytime. We've had this for years, and it's been great - not only being able to offer patrons 24-hour assistance, but also the quality of the answers they get is just as good or better than they would have gotten from our staff.
Every month I total up our database usage stats, and also read the transcripts of the chat questions asked. Sometimes though, when the chat librarian can't answer the question for whatever reason, the chat librarian flags it as "followup by local library" and I'm notified by email that a patron needs more help.
One of these followup notification emails was waiting for me when I got to the library this past Monday morning, after a chat session on Sunday. I logged into QuestionPoint to see what the question was, and found,
I had just put up the blog post in question the previous week, with the link to the contest application. I didn't have an electronic copy of the application, so I had to scan one of the print forms and make my own PDF.
So I was surprised to read the patron say it didn't work, because I remember opening it to double-check the margins of the scan looked okay.
Knowing that it worked, and thinking the patron must just be doing something wrong, I kept reading the chat transcript - confident that the chat librarian would have my back and set the patron right. But then this happened...
What? Well, maybe something was actually wrong, if the chat librarian was seeing a blank page too.
So of course, I immediately go to the blog post and try the link again - and sure enough, it works just fine. So, I create a new PDF of the form, and email it directly to the patron (email is included in the chat transcript), apologizing for the problem and asking him to let me know if this one doesn't work.
The patron emailed back to say thanks, and a little more. After getting my message saying that it worked for me, the patron kept experimenting with the PDF link, and explained what he found:
OK - here's the scoop in case you get any others with this issue. This looks like a Google Chrome browser issue, and it may be unique to my computer, perhaps a settings problem. The PDF document opens fine in IE, Firefox, and Edge. It even opens fine in Chrome if I save the file first. But when I try to link to the file via the web it opens but with blank content. [...]
Thanks again for your follow up. I hope I haven't wasted too much of your time.
Wasted my time? You just did my job for me!
I'm glad it worked for him, but I was curious to see if this issue was just this one patron, or a Chrome thing. A quick search for Chrome blank PDF turned up a lot of relevant results, including some on Google forums. It seems like this is indeed a Chrome problem. And not exactly a new one at that, so I'm surprised that this is the first I was encountering it.
It also explains why the chat librarian had the same issue, while everything worked fine for me in Firefox.
It's not very often that I outsource my job, but in this one instance, I outsourced it twice - first to the chat librarian, and second to the patron.
March 15th, 2012 Brian Herzog
Integrating chat into your website
You put your info desk in the middle of your physical library, so put the chat reference link central to your website.
Placement = point of service, so put it everywhere, and be consistent (catalog, website, not just handouts and flyers)
Feb 2012 = 619 sessions (at Arlington Heights (IL) Library)
- Homepage: 135
- User account signup page: 133
- Catalog pages: 124
- These three pages are 63% of the total
- Top-right or top-left, make sure it's above the fold
- Talk to vendors: some will let you put chat widgets inside the databases
- Put it on other community websites (local newspaper, Town Hall, social service agencies, etc)
Use a promotion to boost usage and introduce the service to patrons
"Win a Nook" promotion at Anne Arundel County (MD) Public Library
- Promotion lasted one week, which was plenty long (especially for staff who had to keep promoting it)
- Pass out bookmarks, pins/badges, and flyers to tell people how to get to the chat
- This told patrons to mention the contest when they started their chat session, so they got entered to win the Nook)
- Promotion focused on staff/patron interaction, so patron had to also mention staff person's name (staff person could then with a Nook also)
- Results: 436 people tried chat that week - 632% increase; 899 sessions for the entire month - a 162% increase over previous year
- Lessons learned: easy promotion; chat sessions increased; public "got" the service by trying it out; people love winning free stuff
- Contact Betty Morganstern (email@example.com) for more details
Tags: 24/7, 24x7, chat, libraries, Library, oclc, pla, pla12, public, questionpoint, reference
April 19th, 2007 Brian Herzog
On the final day of cil2007, most of the workshops I attended ending up having a common theme – tailoring library services to patrons needs, based on patron input.
The first of these sessions was called “Catalogs/OPACs for the future,” led by Roy Tennant (California Digital Library) and Tim Spalding (LibraryThing.com). Tim followed up on points he made in yesterday’s presentation with some criteria that future library search systems will need:
- catalogs should be fun - patrons should enjoy searching for and finding books and information
- allow linking into the records - use permalinks so links to items will never expire or break
- link outwards - everything in the catalog should be links (titles, names, subjects, tags, keywords, etc). Participating in the wider web means our entries are not dead ends for patrons, but helps them flow through our catalog to the information they ultimately seek. Tim also encouraged linking to sites Amazon.com and Wikipedia - they offer lots of information, and our patrons use them anyway, so we should not position ourselves as a barrier
- dress up the catalog - this goes along with “catalogs should be fun,” and what he meant was that the catalog should be as visually-appealing as possible - loads of book covers, nice design and layout, useful widgets to display new books, recent searches, and even patron data (if they so choose)
Roy followed Tim, and also had general criteria for a catalog of the future
- do not call it an “opac” – even “catalog” is getting outdated, because they should provide access to more than just the library books we own
- searching should be simple – a single search box, placed strategically and logically on the page, should search in all available resources
- individual libraries could get rid of local catalogs and use Open WorldCat as a single union catalog for all libraries. This would promote comprehensive searching and resource sharing, and is also better because it includes articles and web resources indexed through WorldCat (in the Q&A session, one librarian pointed out that WorldCat has a few important shortcomings [they stand to benefit financially from this model, they do not include many small public libraries], and she got a round of applause)
- separate the ILS from the finding tool. The ILS will be smaller and just for staff use, and the finding tool will be an efficient and comprehensive search tool that sits draws together the ILS and other resources
- communicates well with other systems, so data can be shared freely and all available resources (books, databases, websites, etc) can be searched
- include sophisticated features, such as results ranking, faceted/cluster browsing, preference filtering, etc.
catalog, catalogs, Catalogs/OPACs for the Future, cil 2007, cil2007, libraries, library, library thing, librarything, librarything.com, oclc, opac, opacs, open worldcat, public libraries, public library, roy tennant, tim spaulding, worldcat, worldcat.org
Tags: catalog, catalogs, Catalogs/OPACs for the Future, cil 2007, cil2007, libraries, Library, library thing, librarything, librarything.com, oclc, opac, opacs, open worldcat, public libraries, public library, roy tennant, tim spaulding, worldcat, worldcat.org