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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Building grassroots collaboratives with LibraryH3lp

Dr. S. R. Ranganathan proposed in 1931 that the library is a growing organism.  And librarians are a collaborative bunch, frequently corresponding with colleagues and building shared collections and services.  With hundreds of libraries using LibraryH3lp every day, there is a fantastic opportunity for collaboration and leveraging cross-institutional expertise to grow your virtual reference service.

Because LibraryH3lp was initially created to serve an after-hours cooperative chat and IM service for students at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Duke University, and North Carolina State University, the capability to collaborate has been built into LibraryH3lp from the very beginning. And because one of our core values is flexibility, collaboration comes in many flavors.

All options below are available even though you and your partnering institution maintain completely separate LibraryH3lp subscriptions. In this way, you can leverage your existing partnerships -- or forge new partnerships -- to extend your virtual reference service wherever possible while maintaining your own local service.

1) Chat with colleagues at other institutions.  You can buddy and directly chat with any other LibraryH3lp user (or queue) in the world.  Actually, they don't even have to use LibraryH3lp!  If your colleagues use chat through Gmail  or other XMPP-based services, you can buddy them to your LibraryH3lp account.  This is easy to do within your chat client; please refer to our FAQ for details.

2) Transfer patrons between institutions.  If your partner institution also uses LibraryH3lp and you often cross-refer patrons, we can can set up targeted cross-institution transfers for any or all of your queues.  To invoke another of Ranganathan's laws, save the time of your patrons! They won't need to start their questions over from scratch if you can immediately transfer them to the appropriate place, transcript in hand.

3) Staff a collaborative service using any service model or work flow you'd like. Perhaps you want something very simple, where all participating librarians receive all incoming questions on designated queues and the first librarian to respond wins the chat. Or maybe you are looking for something more nuanced, such as a "home team first" service rollover model.  With service rollover, you can serve your own patrons if you're available in the interest of the best, most expedient service possible; otherwise, your patrons are assisted by your trusted colleagues at your partner institution.

How much extra does this stuff cost?  Not one penny.  Everything is included in your paid annual subscription.  That's right, we'll wire up your shiny new collaborative service up for free.

How do I get started?  Contact and we'll do the necessary under-the-hood configuration needed to get your LibraryH3lp account talking to your partner institution's account.  We'll need to know your service goals (transfer only or shared, collaborative staffing), and we'll also need to hear from your partner institution(s) so that we can make sure all parties understand the new service model.

What if I'm interested in a partnership, but have no partner? A good place to start your quest for like minded librarians is the LibraryH3lp Google group.

Quick relevant plug.  Would you like to extend your virtual reference service hours, but you don't have a willing partner for staffing longer hours the grassroots way?  You can get after-hours coverage through ChatStaff!

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