Thursday, November 12, 2015

Join the Ask a Librarian App -- Now in Production!

About two months ago, we first announced the Ask a Librarian mobile app for Android and iOS.  A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the beta and provided feedback.  We've folded your feedback into the app and today we're excited to announce that the app is now out of beta and freely available to everyone, including patrons!

For those of you who missed the original announcement, the Ask a Librarian app helps patrons find libraries by location or name.  The app also remembers previously visited or favorite libraries so patrons can quickly pick up where they left off.  Patrons have easy access all available virtual references services like chat, texting, phone, email, and FAQs.  Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian for free! 

How can I download the production app to my mobile device?

I took part in the Beta. How do I promote the app to patrons?

Feel free to provide the direct links listed above to the app to patrons on your website or any other promotional materials you have.  And for one stop shopping, you can direct patrons to the Ask a Librarian website that contains the download links to the app plus screenshots and an overview of the app's functionality.

If you'd like to include the Ask a Librarian app logo in your promotion, you can download it here.

My library isn't listed in the app.  How do I get my library included?

Email us and we'll set you up with a default, unpublished listing.  Each library listing lets you list any available virtual reference services. These services may include real-time chat with librarians, text a librarian, phone a librarian, email a librarian, and frequently asked questions. Libraries can also include a customized avatar, a website link and additional free-form information such as operating hours.  Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian for free!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Become Part of the Ask a Librarian App

[Update Nov. 12, 2015: The Ask a Librarian App is now out of beta and in production!]

We'd like to invite all libraries to become part of the new Ask a Librarian App currently undergoing beta testing. Ask A Librarian is a mobile app that we've developed in conjunction with our back-up service partner, Chatstaff, that connects patrons to a library's reference services, including chat, texting, email, and frequently asked questions. Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian at no charge.

What does the Ask a Librarian app do?

When patrons aren't sure what libraries are nearby, they can use the browse function that locates nearby libraries or libraries around a particular  location. Patrons can also search for their favorite library by name.  The app remembers the libraries patrons have visited previously so they can quickly revisit those libraries and pick up where they left off. And patrons can favorite and revisit libraries later.

Each library listing summarizes available virtual reference services. These services may include real-time chat with librarians, text a librarian, phone a librarian, email a librarian, and frequently asked questions. Libraries can also include a customized avatar, a website link and additional free-form information such as operating hours.

How can I test drive the Ask a Librarian app?

For Android, use the Google Play beta link to download the app to your device.

For iOS, send us a request by email and then we'll be able can send you an emailed beta invite through Apple. The Ask a Librarian app itself works with iOS 6 and higher.  But while the app is in beta testing, it is only available through Test Flight which requires iOS 8 and higher.

How can my library be included in the Ask a Librarian app?

Send us email indicating your interest and we'll set you up with a default, unpublished listing.  From there, you can edit the listing to suit and publish it when you're ready. Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian at no charge.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Adding a 'Click to Chat' or 'Ask a Librarian' tab to your Web Page

Chat tabs are a handy option for consistent chat help placement, especially when page real estate is dear. With LibraryH3lp, you can easily create a tab with customized wording that opens a chat widget when a guest clicks it. You also control the offline appearance of the tab and can direct guests to email, an email contact form, or your FAQ when your service is unavailable.

It only takes a bit of extra styling to transform your LibraryH3lp service into a tab. And no worries if you don't know anything about CSS or HTML. Our step-by-step tab guide walks you through it.  You need only cut and paste the styles.

LibraryH3lp website 'Click to Chat' tab

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Easy-to-Update Public Announcements for any Web Page

Need a quick and easy way to manage announcements on a web page? You know, something that non-technical staff could use to update content on high-profile web pages without needing to touch the web page itself. Happily, your LibraryH3lp-powered FAQ lets you do just that.

Simply add a question to your FAQ site whose answer is the announcement content you wish to embed.  Then use the answer-only embed option to auto-magically include the announcement content within your web page.  From there, you and your colleagues need only update the answer content to keep your web page up-to-date with the latest information.

You can use your FAQ for all sorts of announcements...
  • General announcements or updates
  • Library news items
  • Database, catalog, or any other statuses, including outages and planned maintenance
  • Weather-related closings or hours changes
  • Emergency situations and directions
How are you using your FAQ?  We'd love to hear about it!  Please add a comment below or e-mail us.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

New FAQ customization options

FAQ sites received an update this weekend.  This update brings the ability to customize the wording for everything that shows up for users viewing your FAQ.  This is especially important because it means that the public view of a FAQ in a non-English language can be fully translated now, with no pesky English-language default system components in view. And of course, if your FAQ is in English, you can now fully customize all of the default labels.

These new customizations build on functionality previously available within FAQ templates. Specifically:
  1. To customize the 'Not finding what you need? Contact us' phrase, add this to your base.html template somewhere within the BODY element:

    <div id="contact-us" style="display:none">Custom text</div>
  2. To customize the 'Ask Us!' button in the instant search results, add this to your base.html template somewhere within the BODY element:

    <div id="ask-us" style="display:none">Custom text</div>
  3. To customize the 'All' topic in the search.html template, you'll need to update the 'All' wording in the #current-topic element then you'll need add the following to the base.html template:

    <div id="all-topics" style="display:none">Customization</div>
New to LibraryH3lp FAQs? The LibraryH3lp FAQ module lets you create your own custom external or internal (password-protected) searchable, browseable knowledgebase. You get unlimited independent FAQ sites with your LibraryH3lp subscription. FAQs are simple to build and if you have an existing FAQ outside of LibraryH3lp, we can help you import it. 

Want to see what others have done with the LibraryH3lp FAQ module? Check out our Pinterest board showcasing super neat FAQ customizations. And let us know if you have a FAQ you'd like to see included in the Pinterest board.  We'd love to add it!

Monday, July 27, 2015

New Webclient Auto-Logout Feature

Big news!  You can now set a duration for your webclient login.  This way, if you forget to logout at the end of a shift, you won't leave your chat service falsely online for a long period of time.

The auto-logout option appears at the bottom of the "Choose Staffing Assignments" dialog that appears when you log into the webclient for staffing.

After the login duration is reached, you'll be alerted and given a chance to extend and/or modify the timeout.  If you don't respond within a minute (because you are actually gone for the day or maybe you've wandered away while helping a patron), the webclient will log you out.

What if you don't enable auto-logout and accidentally leave yourself signed in?

If you realize you've left yourself logged into the webclient on a computer you cannot physically access, you can opt yourself out of your queues. Sign into the webclient from another location and opt yourself out using the regular queue selection box. This will opt you out of your queues from all locations no matter what software client you are using. Phew! Then, logout as usual. You'll be able to opt yourself back in when it's time for your next shift.

An administrator can also opt users out of queues. In the users management page (US, CA, EU, SG), select the user in question and uncheck the boxes next to the queue assignments to temporarily unassign users as operators on a queue.

What if you use another software client to staff your LibraryH3lp service?  

If you staff your service through another XMPP (Jabber) client such as Pidgin or Adium, no worries. Locally installed desktop clients usually have great support for automatic setting of Away status based on keyboard/mouse idle time. So with these clients, you can prevent yourself from falsely holding the service online easily.

But if you happen to not have auto-away enabled, or if the trigger is a long way off, you can still use the admin dashboard or webclient to opt out of your queues. Just follow the steps in the section right above this one.

Concierge auto-replies

One related note. You can also have automated replies based on a lengthy wait time for your guests. This helps cover things not only if your service has been left online accidentally, but also in case your operators can't respond as quickly as usual for any other reason.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Maximize Your Ask a Librarian Coverage

In the last post, we shared a checklist designed to whip your Ask a Librarian service into shape.  We included tips and strategies for maximizing and invigorating chat, texting, knowledge base, and email services.  In this post, we wanted to focus on personal interactions between librarians and patrons and share some ideas on how you can most strategically maximize Ask a Librarian coverage.

When you boil it down, expanding real-time Ask a Librarian coverage means people.  And once you start talking about adding people, everyone starts talking about budget.  The good news is that there are ways to maximize coverage without breaking the bank, and a little bit of ingenuity can go a long way.

Make sure the busiest hours are covered

Before spending a dime on more, why not make sure you are squeezing every last bit of benefit from what you have now? Sometimes you can assist more patrons just by experimenting with schedule.

Let me introduce you to the LibraryH3lp Chats per Hour report.  It contains everything you need to make the perfect Ask a Librarian staffing schedule.  Here's a sample Chats per Hour report using the LibraryH3lp support chat queue as an example:

The report covers each day of the week and shows which hours are busiest.  Either Pam or I are usually available on our customer support chat line from 8am to 5pm on weekdays (and, yes, sometimes later and on weekends).  But we'd still get pretty good bang for the buck by only covering 11am to 4pm Monday through Friday.  This makes sense, because our customers are library staff and primarily work on managing their LH3 services during regular business hours.

The situation with students and other patrons using library resources is a different matter, of course! With library patrons, you certainly have much longer useful service hours since libraries are all about research and education, and students of all sorts often work late into the night.

Also remember that this Chats Per Hour analysis can only show you traffic trends for when you service is actually online and open for business.  Well, then, how are you supposed to tell which hours you are NOT currently covering would be appreciated by your patrons?  We have you covered. It turns out that this data is pretty consistent.

We looked at some aggregate Chats Per Hour data for a few true 24/7 services on LibraryH3lp, corrected for time zone, and you can see the general trends in this chart:

Chats-per-hour for several academic libraries with 24/7 LH3 services.

This basic pattern is typical for per-hour chat activity when the service is available at all times.  You can look at this and see if you'd like to extend your hours beyond those that you are able to cover in-house.  For example, if you close up shop at 5pm, you will certainly make a lot of people happy by adding a few more hours and staying available until 8, 9, 10, 11pm, etc...  And Sunday coverage is a huge win.

To run the Chats per Hour report on your own service: just pick your server's region - US, CA, EU, SG. You might find that resources currently being used for chat are better applied at different times or even elsewhere. If you are already dealing with limited chat hours, try keeping your busiest hours staffed and experiment by reinvesting the lower-traffic hours at new time slots.

Hire backup staffing

Let's assume you want to extend your chat service hours, but your existing staff are stretched to the max already, and it's not worth it to hire dedicated after-hours staff just for your own library. What now? One excellent option is Chatstaff. You can be up and running quickly, plus the service quality is extremely high, with wait times currently averaging less than 15 seconds (yes, you read that right!). All of the Chatstaff librarians have MLS degrees.

And, about that budget: with Chatstaff, you can be brutally efficient by homing in on the specific hours of coverage you'd like to have.  So if you only want a few hours hours here and there, Chatstaff can do that.  Or if you wanted the whole 24/7 enchilada, Chatstaff can do that too.  And pricing is fair: those very low-traffic times in the wee hours of the morning are not priced the same as busier hours.  So you will probably be pleasantly surprised at your return on investment for substantially increasing your service hours.

If you'd like, Chatstaff can even be available as your secret weapon during the day, to cover those times when all of your own librarians are busy, in meetings, a whole ton of chats just came in at once, a lot of people are out sick, etc... You can email Chatstaff directly for a quote.

Find a partner

Collaboration is another great way to expand Ask a Librarian staffing. Partner libraries can work together to provide longer combined coverage than each could provide individually. LibraryH3lp makes collaboration easy on the budget since there is no additional software cost beyond your current subscription.  And all the tools you'd use for your in-house service are also available for the collaboration, including transfer between partner libraries.  If you are interested in learning a bit more, check out our earlier blog post on grassroots collaboration and our latest doc showing how to join separate LibraryH3lp accounts.