New LibraryH3lp Feature: FAQ Module

Recently, our library has been studying ways to improve the quality of our instant messaging reference service. While we’re thrilled the popularity of IM reference has continued to grow (according to our data, the number of questions we answered nearly quintupled during the two year period from 2008-2010!), increasing popularity can also lead to not-so-fun growing pains.

Once such instance is when, typically during evenings or weekends, our reference services are single-staffed. Juggling multiple in-person and virtual reference interactions can make it difficult for one person to provide prompt service, leading to frustrations from librarians and students alike.

As we have been looking for ways to alleviate such situations, I was happy to see LibraryH3lp debut their new Frequently Asked Questions (long-time readers might remember we discussed using LibraryH3lp to address previous IM conundrums). Although I’ve see other examples of FAQ’s on various libraries’ websites, LibraryH3lp makes it easy to create a searchable (and mobile friendly!) FAQ site you can build to supplement other reference service resources.



Building the FAQ site is relatively straightforward. LibraryH3lp users can start right away using the “FAQ” tab in their admin site.

First, check out the “Questions” tab where you can add questions and answers. You can also assign each question to any number of topics, which will then be browse-able on your live FAQ site. You can also visit the “Questions” tab after your page is set up to view usage statistics like the number of views and likes or dislikes per question.

Adding a question to LibraryH3lp FAQ

The “Pages” tab allows you to customize specific features of your FAQ page. Here, you can specify the URL, assign a theme, enter additional contact information, and customize how the LibraryH3lp chat widget appears on the FAQ page. Additionally, you can customize any section of the page with standard HTML and/or your own CSS through using the “Templates.”

Pages tab in LibraryH3lp FAQ module

Pages tab in LibraryH3lp FAQ module

For more specific details about setting up and configuring your own FAQ module, see the LibraryH3lp documentation. And check out Library H3lp’s own FAQ page for an example.

We’re hoping that sending our chat users a quick “Hello, we’ll be right with you!” message along link to a more in-depth, searchable FAQ page while they are waiting for further assistance will help improve the responsiveness of our IM reference services. While this certainly does not provide the same depth and level of service their eventual chat with librarian will, it is quick and simple to set up and could be a good resource for users who have a commonly asked question or just need to be pointed to some quick facts about the library.

We’re just starting to get our FAQ page set-up, and I will provide updates to this post as we progress and finalize our page.  In the mean time, does your library have a similar FAQ resource you’ve found successful?  We’d love to see it!

LibraryH3lp for your I.M. Reference Services

Our Instant Message Reference Service is popular! It is so popular, we are facing several problems trying to keep up with it. The problems:wood

  • While our current IM aggregator allows multiple librarians to be signed in simultaneously, it doesn’t allow librarian1 to field a question without librarin2 seeing it and vice versa. Confusion often ensues when answers are typed into the wrong IM conversation. For example, I might answer the question “What floor are the MLs on?” with something like, “It’s open 9-4 Mon-Fri” and my colleague might answer “What are the Writing Lab’s hours?” with “They’re on the 5th floor”. Meanwhile the students are left to wonder…”Huh?!”
  • Currently, all IM questions are handled by the librarian(s) at the reference desk and often, to avoid the problem described above, only one signs in during a given shift. We’d like to have ALL available librarians signed in to field questions at their convenience whether they are at the service desk or in their offices.
  • In order to provide point of need access to IM Reference Service we have embedded chat box widgets in several library web pages. The boxes appear 24-7 with a small message that reads “tucookchat is offline” during our off hours. We’d like to make it more obvious when service is or is not available, and list alternative contact information for hours in which IM Reference is unavailable.
  • A large percentage of our IM traffic comes from “guests” using our chat box widgets. Unlike patrons contacting us from their personal IM accounts (such as AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and Google Talk), we are unable to capture chat transcript from our guest users, which can be useful for training, research, and annual reports.
  • And for all transactions, from guests or otherwise, we currently have to manually track statistics.
  • Oh, and did I mention that our IM aggregator is free and our budget it small?

However, do not dismay, I’ve found a possible solution to these and other problems. LibraryH3lp to the rescue.

Created by Eric and Pam Sessoms, the dynamic duo of programmer and librarian, LibraryH3lp is a hosted Instant Messaging service that could solve our problems in the following ways:

  • It allows multiple simultaneous operators, but only connects the patron to the librarian who first responds. Once this connection is made, LibraryH3lp notifies your colleagues that the question has been answered.
  • answered

  • If you find you need backup, LibraryH3lp allows you to transfer questions to other operators within your institution. You’ll be able to see who is signed in and available, IM them to make sure they have time to help, and transfer questions to colleagues with special knowledge and/or shorter lines.
  • LibraryH3lp offers a helpful tool for creating widgets that appear as chat boxes when operators are available and display a customized message when no one is logged on.
  • Unlike our current aggregator, LibraryH3lp captures chat transcripts from patrons accessing the service through chat box widgets in addition to those accessing the service though popular IM providers such as AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, and Google Talk.
  • Transcripts and statistical information is gathered on the LibraryH3lp server and can be downloaded to a local server and/or deleted at any time.
  • While not free, LibraryH3lp is very affordable. They charge an annual fee based on the size of your institution.