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I.M. Reference Best Practices

I.M. Reference Best Practices

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Complements IM and SMS Reference Services, by Amanda Bielskas and Kathleen M. Dreyer.
Complements IM and SMS Reference Services, by Amanda Bielskas and Kathleen M. Dreyer.

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Published by: American Library Association on Apr 25, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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IM Best Practices (adapt as appropriate)
IM is another point of contact. Staff can apply policies already established forhelping patrons in person, on the phone, or via email. For example, if it is your
library’s/unit’s/division’s policy to not provide statistical information over the
phone, e.g. the current GDP for the United States, but will send them the link tothe appropriate government website then follow the same policy when interactingwith a patron on IM.
For staff in private institutions that do not have a mandate to provide referenceservice to non-affiliates, staff may want to refer non-affiliates to their local publiclibrary [see canned message for this]. See chapter six for information aboutputting your service behind a log in screen so that only current affiliates can login.
Stress to staff that they can take their time to think and type - often patrons aremultitasking and do not expect an instantaneous response. If they need time towork on a question they can let the person know that you are still working on it,or can offer to get back to him or her [see canned messages for sample wording]
Staff do not need to give out their names. Most software does not reveal internalIM handles, patrons will only see that they are chatting with a librarian. Of course, if staff are comfortable giving out their name they should. If your softwarehas the ability to transfer questions to another librarian and you have decided toutilize this feature it is a good practice to provide the name of the librarian towhich you transferring the patron.
Often a concern of staff is that they will be expected to utilize the IM or textspeak that patrons utilize. Stress to staff that they are not expect to use theseconventions, as it is important to convey a professional image. But it is fine toadd smiley face now and then! ;)
Sometimes staff may have more patrons than they can handle [a sign of asuccessful service!]. Staff should feel comfortable informing a few patrons thatthey are with another patron and will get back to them shortly. [See the cannedmessages]
Software best practices (adapt as appropriate)
With some software more than one person can be logged in at a time. If youdecide to have multiple staff logged in at one time there are two possible ways tohandle this:
If you are scheduling staff for discrete hours only the person who isscheduled for that hour is responsible for answering questions; any anotherstaff logged in can be available on a referral basis.OR

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