libraryh3lp logo

LibraryH3lp Blog

LibraryH3lp is software used by libraries, educators, and non-profits for better customer service.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

2nd Generation Chat Box Coming to LibraryH3lp

Sunday, August 29, 2021

We hope everyone had a great summer. Fall is already upon us, and we wanted to share some big news: a next generation chat box is coming to LibraryH3lp packed with features you've been asking for. 

But wait. There's more! We also want to show off some neat new features in the admin dashboard and webclient for staffing.

We'll be rolling the new features described in this post to each of the regional servers soon. Here's the release status so far (and we'll update this section as rollouts happen):

  • Canada: August 29, 2021
  • Singapore: September 3, 2021
  • Europe: September 3, 2021
  • Main (North America): September 11, 2021

Easier Chat History search

It's now even easier to search chats in the Chat History page, which is common to both the admin dashboard and the webclient for staffing. As before, there's the area at the top of the page where you can search chats by date, transcript keywords, or most any bit of chat metadata either by typing you search parameters in the search box or by using the advanced search dropdown and filling out the search fields. 

But now there are two new features: one-click narrowing of search parameters and easy-to-remove-search facets.

When you visit the Chat History page, you'll see all the chats which match your current search criteria (this week's chats by default) in a table. We've added hyperlinks to the guest, protocol, queue, and operator fields in that table for each chat. Clicking on any of these links for a chat will automatically add the value of that field to your search so you can quickly narrow your search to a particular guest, protocol, queue, operator, or any combination of these metadata fields. You'll also see these fields added as facets to your search.

Here's an example of the new search features in action:

original search
Before narrowing search by clicking on an operator hyperlink

Clicking an operator name narrows the search to a particular operator and adds a facet

If you want to remove search criteria and widen your search, click the X beside a facet to remove it.

New Webclient Features

Today's chats with the guest

Each incoming guest chat over a queue now includes a history hyperlink as part of the chat metadata. Clicking that hyperlink lets you quickly view today's chats with that guest, which is especially handy for repeat guests who may have previously chatted with another operator or to refresh your memory on a prior chat with a guest.

New "History" metadata on chats within the webclient. Click to see today's chats for the guest.

Volume control for sound notifications

And there is now a volume control for notification sounds under preferences so you can control the volume of webclient notification sounds relative to other system sounds and even quickly mute webclient sound notifications by setting the volume to zero.

Volume control for webclient sound notifications

 2nd Generation Chat Box (Yay!)

Without further ado, we're excited to announce the second generation LibraryH3lp chat box packed with lots of great new features. Don't worry, we haven't gone crazy with the redesign and guests who have used your chat box before will still find it familiar.

Default 2nd generation chat box with no customized skin

Upgrading your existing chat box skins is super simple in many cases and literally just takes a couple clicks. Plus upgrades are FREE. That's right, it's included with every subscription.

Here are the new things that guests will see immediately after you upgrade:

  • more spacious typing area that auto-sizes based upon chat box dimensions
  • modernized icon set for chat features such as emailing transcripts
  • new icon to enable/disable visual notifications of new chat messages (pop-out and follow-me chat box styles only)
  • new icon to review and choose emojis to insert into the conversation
  • new icon to clear chat history which replaces the old 'Clear Chat History' button

After you've upgraded the chat skin, you can then take advantage of some new features and customization options which include:

  • Add an optional, customizable greeting message that appears in the transcript area at the beginning of a conversation. This is separate and different from the concierge auto-response in that this message is NOT part of the chat transcript per se and appears to the guest before a chat starts.
  • Create and present a chat policy to guests and optionally require guests to acknowledge your chat policy before chatting.
  • Customize the 'Type here to chat. Press ENTER to send.' typing instructions for the chat box.
  • Disable file uploads for guests if you do not want guests sharing files with operators.

NOTE: If you have a chat skin which is highly customized though advanced customizations in Wicked CSS Hacks, those customizations will be lost if you choose to upgrade through the default upgrade process. The reason that the contents of Wicked CSS Hacks are purposefully not preserved is because much of what is valid for a Generation 1 chat box is NOT valid for a Generation 2 chat box. That is, the old Wicked CSS Hacks content will likely just make your updated chat box look strange and is no longer needed. Please contact LibraryH3lp support if you'd like assistance upgrading any chat skin or have questions.

Updated Chat Box Skin Editor

Finally, we've redesigned the Chat Skin Editor in the admin dashboard. The new editor makes it easy to search your existing chat skins and see what each skin looks like at a glance.

In the redesigned editor, you'll see an "Upgrade skin to latest generation" button when you edit any of your first generation chat skins. You can use this button to upgrade each skin.

The redesigned Chat Skin Editor comes with some new, schnazzy features:
  • There are color pickers with built-in WCAG color contrast checkers to help you style your chat box skin while ensuring your skin meets color contrast accessibility standards.
  • Rich text editors are available for parts of the chat box where there is text content, like the title.
  • As before, you can see your changes to the chat box skin update in real-time. But now you can also click on the visualization of your skin to highlight the settings in the editor that are relevant to that portion of the skin.

Redesigned Chat Skin Editor

With the redesign, we've broken up the chat box skin settings into two groups -- Branding Basics and Additional Flair. The Branding Basics group represents the most commonly tweaked skin settings and Additional Flair is for other customizations which are less commonly tweaked.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

End to End Encryption (E2EE) for chats

Saturday, May 22, 2021

From the beginning, LibraryH3lp has been designed as a privacy-first application. Guests chat anonymously as there is no requirement or option for guests to enter any sort of identifying information such as email address or name to begin a chat. As a customer, you are the main custodian of your subscription data and control your internal users, queues, and transcript retention (which is an opt-in feature). In this vein, we are excited to offer a new optional feature for web-based chats -- end-to-end encryption.

Released as follows:

  • Canada: May 22, 2021
  • Europe: May 29, 2021
  • Singapore: May 29, 2021
  • Main (North America): June 20, 2021

What is end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and off the record messaging (OTR)?

End-to-end encryption (E2EE) means that only the two parties (ends) participating in a chat can read the messages. No one else (including LibraryH3lp support personnel) can read the messages because the messages are encrypted. The specific cryptographic protocol used to encrypt chat messages is Off the Record Messaging (OTR).

As a further proof against man-in-the-middle (MITM) eavesdropping, operators answering chats in the webclient for staffing can optionally provide the private key from a Digital Signature Algorithm (DSA) key pair so that the guest's chat box (which has the matching public key fingerprint) can confirm that the answering operator is authorized to communicate with the guest.

Note: E2EE/OTR is not available nor planned for SMS (texting) chats.

Wait. Aren't chats encrypted by default?

Yes. Even without setting up E2EE, guest chat boxes use HTTPS by default and the operator's webclient for staffing always uses HTTPS. With HTTPS, chat messages are encrypted in transit over the network. However unlike with E2EE chats, these chat transcripts can also be read by authenticated users that have appropriate permissions in Chat History while a chat is active, and also after a chat has ended if transcript storage has been enabled. Chat transcript retention provides the ability for later access and can be useful for things like training, data assessment/analysis, and personnel review.

Even though this OTR chat is active, its transcript cannot be seen in Chat History.

If my chats are already encrypted, why would I want to set up E2EE/OTR?

Actually we anticipate that most customers will not set up E2EE/OTR, since messages are encrypted in transit via HTTPS and the ability for later transcript review is an important part of quality assurance, assessment, and training for many organizations.  

However customers in countries with very strong data privacy regulations or any customer with stringent privacy requirements might be interested in E2EE. For example, if E2EE is configured, then there is no way for LibraryH3lp support staff to access chat transcripts, and that can be an important feature.

Generally how does OTR work?

The guest does not have to do anything special to initiate an OTR chat. Your local administrator sets up OTR ahead of time as part of the chat skin used for the chat box. When the guest sends a message to begin a chat, they'll see a brief "Connecting..." indicator which indicates the start of the OTR negotiation process which happens automatically and behind the scenes between the two ends of the conversation (the guest and the answering chat operator).

When the chat goes out to the operator(s) in the webclient, the operators see a note that the chat is OTR and, instead of plainly seeing the guest's initial message(s), the operator(s) must first claim the chat by clicking a button. Only after an operator claims the chat, will the operator actually see the guest's message(s). The operator can close the chat window if the operator does not want to claim the chat, leaving it open for another receiving operator to claim.

The chat operator cannot see the guest's messages until the operator claims the chat. Alternatively the operator can close the chat window, leaving the chat available for another receiving operator to claim.

How do I enable OTR for my chat box skins?

To get started, the local LibraryH3lp administrator generates a public key fingerprint / private key pairing for all chat box skins within the admin dashboard (US, CA, EU, SG) using the "Manage Off the Record Chat (E2EE)" button. We recommend regenerating the public key fingerprint and private key on a routine schedule as a best practice. Using keys for up to one month is generally considered safe, and the typical recommendation is to regenerate keys weekly.

Refer to our how-to guide that walks you through the process and has lots of extra details and screenshots.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Updates to the Chat Box for Guests

Friday, January 15, 2021

We recently announced a new emoji set for the chat box that guests use on your website and teased that there were more changes to come. We've made good on that promise with even more chat box improvements. 

These improvements are being rolled out progressively across our service regions.

  • released January 15, 2021
  • released January 29, 2021
  • released January 31, 2021
  • (main server): coming soon!

Simplified Mobile Experience

Previously, we offered two separate layouts for the chat box -- one layout was shown to guests chatting using a desktop or laptop and one layout that was shown to guests using smaller mobile devices like phones. Now guests will see the same chat box layout no matter what device they choose to use to chat with you.

The history behind the two layouts stems from the early days of mobile where there was spotty support for chat box features such as file upload and even reliably getting the Enter button to send a message. These days mobile devices are much more sophisticated and support for all the chat box features is commonplace.

Bug Fixes

1) The chat box should clearly identify the sender of an uploaded file or image. It used to be that the upload was always attributed to the operator. One caveat with this bug fix is that on occasion the guest may still encounter the original behavior within Chrome; we expect that Chrome will iron out that remaining wrinkle with a future update.

2) When a guest pops out the chat box on a web page (like you can do with our support chat box in the sidebar of this blog) into a separate window, the conversation will update in real time in both places. It used to be that only the operator's messages updated in real time in both places. Now the messages from the guest will also appear.

Embedded chat box screenshot showing the pop-out button

Even more to come!

One last thing... and we've saved the best for last! We are actively developing a next generation chat box. Its default view is sleek and sexy, has built-in offline contact handling, plus a whole bunch of new features that folks have been requesting. More details as well as how to upgrade (if you want to upgrade, no pressure) will follow closer to release. And don't worry, the upgrade won't cost you anything extra -- it's included as part of your base subscription.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Updates to Chat Box and Webclient for Staffing

Thursday, December 31, 2020

On the heels of recent updates to the webclient, 3mail, and admin dashboard, we're updating the chat box for guests too! We have more changes to the chat box in the works, but to kick things off we've modernized and expanded the emoji available to guests and operators during a chat. 

The new emoji set is being rolled out progressively across our service regions.

  • released December 31, 2020
  • released January 8, 2021
  • released January 8, 2021
  • (main server): January 16, 2021

Emoji for Chat Box

On the guest's side, the new emoji (as with the old emoji) can be inserted into a chat via shortcuts typed as part of a chat message.

Emoji in Webclient

On the operator's side, the new emoji (as with the old emoji) can be inserted into a chat via shortcuts typed as part of a chat message or via the emoji selector in the webclient for staffing (screenshots below).

emoji button
Screenshot of emoji button available for chats within the webclient

Screenshot of emoji selector dialog that appears when you click the emoji button

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Updates to the Webclient, 3mail, and Admin Dashboard

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Where is this update?

The updates outlined in this post are being rolled out progressively across our service regions.

  • Update live as of November 14, 2020.
  • Update live as of November 21, 2020.
  • Update live as of November 28, 2020.
  • (main server): Update live as of December 19, 2020.

IMPORTANT! With this kind of update, it's a great idea to clear your web browser's cache to ensure you have the latest release.

Webclient Updates

Initial Staffing Assignments dialog

When the box for a queue assignment is checked and you see the green "I'm staffing" indicator, you will receive incoming chats on that queue.  Otherwise, chats on that queue will not be routed to you (red "I'm NOT staffing"). In this way, you can control on which queues you receive guest chats. This is all unchanged, but the new feature is an alert.

Now if at least one of your queue assignments is unchecked (shows a red "I'm NOT staffing"), a warning will appear letting you know that you won't receive chats on that queue.

Alert if you're not opted into staffing a queue.

Updated canned message management page.

The big win in the new canned messages page is a spacious editor for composing personal canned messages which includes a link tool along with other common formatting tools.

Updated editor for canned messages includes formatting tools

Updated preferences page

  •  Webclient settings are now organized into groups and given headings.
  •  We've added a play button next to sounds so you can easily preview when choosing sounds.
  •  We've added an avatar gallery so you can easily replace the default avatar.

Updated webclient preferences page

3mail Updates

Our 3mail (shared email boxes) module gets a super handy update: integration with the FAQ module.  If you have a FAQ site, you can search your FAQ site for the answer to an email question and insert either a link to it, or insert the FAQ's content and then edit further.  

Plus the existing ability to use answer templates within 3mail remains.  The new FAQ integration is yet another way to re-use existing content to save time and avoid re-writing the same answer over and over.

Inserting an answer from your FAQ (searchable knowledgebase module)

Instantly search your FAQ for an answer to share

Insert either a link to a FAQ OR the FAQ content directly

Admin Dashboard Updates (for full administrators or mini-admins)

User Management: Beta

We're offering a new user management page for beta testing side-by-side with the familiar user management page. You can access the new user management page via a green banner at the top of the current user management page.

Navigation to BETA users management page

The new user management page aims to streamline the process of creating new users and managing existing users. In particular, here is a list of new features available exclusively through the new user management page:

  • User creation wizard which includes an option to set up a new user identically to an existing user (copy).
  • Search function to quickly locate users by username, chat status, queue assignment, permissions group, folder, or email address (if set for a user).
  • Integrated management of conference rooms, canned messages, and permissions groups!
  • Revised contact management tool to simplify setting up buddies for users.
Screenshot of cloning a user
Copying an existing user

Conference Rooms

The conference room management page features a refreshed design but no new features or settings.  

Updated interface for managing conference rooms

Shared Canned Messages (Pools)

The canned message management page also features a refreshed design. 

A noteworthy improvement is the addition of a super spacious editor which supports basic formatting constructs such as links, bold, underline, etc. 

Updated canned messages management with much improved editor.

NEW! RefTracker Integration

We are excited to offer a LibraryH3lp integration with Altarama's RefTracker platform. The integration connects LibraryH3lp's tag for follow-up feature with RefTracker's customizable forms so you can easily pull chat information from LibraryH3lp for later follow-up and tracking within RefTracker.

Permissions Groups

The permissions groups management also features a refreshed design, but there are no changes to the underlying permissions management options or new settings.

Subscription Management and SSO

The subscription management page has been updated and re-organized slightly.  

The BIGGEST addition is a section for setting up Single Sign On (SSO) which is labeled "Authentication." Initially, LibraryH3lp is offering SSO via Shibboleth as part of a beta program. 

If your organization supports SSO via Shibboleth, you would be able to use your organization's login credentials to log into LibraryH3lp. If you are interested in participating in the beta program, please contact support via email.

Once we have organizations using beta SSO via Shibboleth, you'll see two ways to login to the webclient, 3mail, or the admin dashboard. 
  • If you opt to participate in the beta program, you and your colleagues will use the "Sign in via your institution" option.
  • If you do NOT to participate in the beta program, you'll use the same "Sign in" option that you've always used where you provide your LibraryH3lp username and password to login.
login screen
Login screen showing regular "Sign in" option along with beta SSO login option via Shibboleth

Friday, July 31, 2020

Contactless Assistance Ideas for Re-opening

Friday, July 31, 2020
Are you and your colleagues brainstorming ideas on how to help guests while maintaining social distancing when your building re-opens?  LibraryH3lp can help with that! On the heels of curbside service initiatives, we've heard from lots of customers interested using in LibraryH3lp for contactless assistance within the building.  Here's what we've seen others do...

Leverage on-site public access computers

If you provide on-site public access computers or loan out laptops or similar devices, you can leverage them for contactless communication with your staff.

Draw Attention to Contactless Assistance with the Desktop Wallpaper
  • Advertise texting and/or regular phone numbers.
  • Advertise chat options. 
  • Draw the eye to a desktop shortcut that launches your chat service.
  • Try to place the shortcut someplace where the user is least likely to cover it up once they have  applications such as the web browser running on the computer.

Example desktop screenshot showing wallpaper for a library with contact information and a special chat shortcut.

Desktop Shortcuts that Launch a Browser

Detail of wallpaper and desktop shortcut to chat box

OK, so what web page do you send guest to with a desktop shortcut?  So many possibilities...

If you'd like to keep it simple, make a shortcut that launches your chat box directly, using a simple chat box URL, with or without an offline contact overlay.

If you happen to use Chrome on your public computers, you can make a special shortcut for Chrome that adds additional variables onto the shortcut's target and opens the chat box in a small window in a specific area of the screen.  If the guest has previously launched Chrome and activates the shortcut, Chrome will open the chat box the regular Chrome workspace as a new tab.  

Some places opt to create a dedicated web page for use from in-building computers, and they use this dedicated page as the default home page for web browsers on the public computers.  These special pages can feature contact information including the chat service.

Advertise QR Codes that Guests Scan on their Phones

Guests can chat with staff using their phones as as they wander around the building. No need for a desktop or laptop computer! Guests either text their question (if you have the LibraryH3lp SMS add-on module) or use the mobile-friendly LibraryH3lp chat box which doesn't require the SMS add-on module at all.

Now for the sprinkles on top! Make it super easy for guests to chat by providing a QR code that either launches the guest's texting app or links them to your your mobile-friendly chat box URL.  You'll want to print and post the QR code in strategic spots around the building. You can even include the QR code on computer desktop wallpaper as described above.

Example QR code for the
LibraryH3lp tech support chat box
Mobile-friendly chat box for phones

Something else?

If you have other ideas for including LibraryH3lp in your contactless workflow but aren't sure how to tackle, please contact LibraryH3lp has a flexible API and chances are that we can help make your vision a reality.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Curbside Pick-up and LibraryH3lp

Monday, May 11, 2020
Looking to add a curbside pick-up service? LibraryH3lp can help!  Here's how. 

Organizing Librarians

A good place to start for coordinating curbside pick-up at your library is to create a dedicated queue staffed by those folks dedicated to handling curbside pick-up. And if curbside pick-up chats should find their way into a different queue (via web or texting), operators can transfer those patrons to the operators staffing the dedicated curbside pick-up queue.

Giving each curbside pickup staff member a LibraryH3lp user account lets them chat with each other privately in LibraryH3lp for coordination of activities. And you can also create a conference room dedicated to curbside pickup for internal coordination; conference rooms provide an internal group chat area for staff.

Queues and user accounts are unlimited for both subscriptions and trials. Create as many queues and users as you'd like whenever you'd like.

Getting the Word Out to Patrons

If there's a page on your website dedicated to curbside pickup, then you'll want to create a new chat snippet that is attached to the dedicated curbside pickup queue and place its embed code on that page so that patrons can chat directly with curbside pickup folks. Just like queues and users, chat snippets are unlimited so you can create as many as you'd like and put them on as many web pages as you'd like.

If you'd like to advertise someplace you can't use a chat snippet, no worries! Chat boxes have direct URLs which you can share as links, and there is even a way to include email contact when chat is offline. This works great in emails, social media, and places where you're limited on what you can put on a web page.  


Consider adding and advertising a dedicated texting number just for curbside pick-up. Texts that patrons send to the curbside pick-up number could then go directly to your curbside pick-up staff. Text messages are handled in the same, familiar chat interface that staff use to answer web chats and come with some extra identifiers.

To initiate an OUTBOUND text message to a patron, such as to let them know their items are ready, you can do that using our 3mail module.  It is easy -- there is a "send SMS" button and the staff member enters the patron's phone number and composes their message.  If the patron responds, the rest of the conversation picks up through chat like usual.

And if you haven't tried the SMS add-on module yet for texting, we offer a no-risk trial. Contact support via email to get started today. If you opt to purchase the add-on after your texting trial, packages are inexpensive and start at just $50.