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LibraryH3lp Blog

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

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.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Major Update to Sharing Tool: Screencasts & Slideshows

Sunday, June 9, 2019

We've released a major update to the Sharing Tool which includes a completely new way to share! Originally, you could send screenshots to the guest, and invite the guest to share their screen with you. Those original features remain (with a few neat upgrades), but now, you can also record your own screen to create silent screencasts which can then be transformed into simple, annotated slideshows.

Plus all of this sharing goodness is available within AND outside the context of a chat. If you use the LibraryH3lp 3mail module, you'll find that we've integrated snapshots so you can use the drawing tools to annotate images you’d like to insert into email drafts. And beyond LibraryH3lp, you can use snapshots, screencasts, and slideshows as standalone tools in your daily workflow for doing things like creating content for documentation, tutorials, and guides.

The technical requirements remain the same: You do not need to download or install anything and neither does your guest during a chat. Everything runs in the web browser, no extensions, downloads, plugins, or non-standard settings needed.

Before we dive in and instead of sticking this at the end of our post because it is important to us, we'd like to ask that you let us know what you think after giving things a whirl? We'd love to hear any suggestions you might have for improvement.

Now without further ado, here's a video overview of the updates and additional details are below.

Screencasts and Slideshows Overview

Screencasts are silent recordings of your own screen.  You can save and share the raw recording as a webm video. Or you can create and share a simple slideshow by selecting and optionally annotating frames from your recording to further emphasize the steps you're illustrating. Slideshows are saved as animated GIFs.

One potential issue you'll run into with screencasts is that support for webm, although pretty good across devices, is not universal. On the other hand, slideshows WILL work everywhere and on ANY device, regardless of its ability to play various kinds of true movie files.

Creating a Screencast

You can create a silent screencast during a chat or via direct link (by regional server):

To begin, you’ll start recording your screen. Your web browser will prompt you about what you want to “share” with the recording tool. If you are working within a chat, you probably want to avoid including the webclient’s screen, so you might want to only capture an individual browser tab.

Screencast screen prior to starting your recording
Then, you move through the steps you want to illustrate, and return to the sharing tool to stop your recording. You’ll have a movie player built in, and you can watch what you've captured and send it to the guest, save it to a local file, etc... This will generate a webm file, which many devices will play.

Screencast screen after recording is finished and showing built-in movie player

Creating a Slideshow from Your Screencast

Click the “Create Slideshow” button after you've recorded your screencast to begin selecting individual frames from your movie to compose a slideshow.

In the slideshow editor, there's a green slider along the track that you can use to navigate through frames.  Once you've found a frame you'd like to capture as a slide, click the "Add Slide" button. Slides can be annotated with editing tools (just like snapshots).

Slideshow editor with one annotated slide

You can do things like select nearly the same frame twice, and annotate the second one, in order to help draw the eye to the desired content.

After you've created all the slides you want, you are ready to send your slideshow to the guest, save it to a local file, etc... This will generate an animated GIF file.

There are a few settings you twiddle before saving your slideshow:
  • The time (in seconds) each slide will be displayed before moving to the next slide.
  • The color quality for the GIF. Lower quality renders the GIF file more quickly, but color conversions may not always be true. 
  • By default, a replay slide is included at the end of a slideshow. Since this is an animated GIF file, no movie player is required on the part of the viewer. If you’re sending one of these during a chat, the guest will view it in its own tab, and this replay slide at the end will help them understand that they can reload that tab to watch your slideshow again. However, if you are creating an animated GIF for use in elsewhere such as in a tutorial, you may not want that replay slide included.

Screencasting Limitations

We would love to tell you that screensharing, screencasts, and slideshows work in any web browser. But we simply cannot do that yet reliably given the current state of web browser technology.

Right now, you have to use Chrome 72+ or Firefox.

Edge should work once it becomes Chromium-compatible.

Safari might eventually work. Someday.

And sorry but Internet Explorer 11 will never work. As Dr. McCoy would say, "He's dead, Jim."

But there is a bit of good news!  Snapshots WILL work in any browser, including Internet Explorer 11.  And speaking of snapshots...

Updates to Snapshots

The functionality of snapshots remains largely unchanged, though there has been a little bit of reorganization.  Here's a rundown of new features:

  • Resize snapshots in pixels or by percentage.
  • The drawing tools are now located on the right side of the window and auto-collapse to give maximum screen real estate to the image being edited. But you can expand them if needed.
  • Two new color choices for drawing tools: blue and green

Snapshot editor with drawing tools collapsed

Snapshots now have a direct link (by regional server) which you can use outside the context of a chat or 3mail: