Thursday, May 8, 2008

Reaching Out to Users Wherever They Are: Keeping Up-To-Date with QuestionPoint

Reaching Out to Users Wherever They Are: Keeping Up-To-Date with QuestionPoint
Speaker: Susan McGlamery, Global Product Manager, OCLC's QuestionPoint
Thursday, 8:30-10:30am

I like to start many of my blogs with links so that readers may get some background info on the presentation. I included links here assuming many of you might be interested in QuestionPoint, but are not sure where to begin looking.

Here are a couple of links:

Susan McGlamery is responsible for setting up the 24/7 reference cooperative in 2000, known as 24/7 Reference. 24/7 Reference was acquired by OCLC in 2004, now called QuestionPoint.

The goal, or challenge, is to bring the power of librarians into the convenient format of the computer. The reference service set out to meet the user's needs by being user centric and format independent. QuestionPoint meets user needs at the point of need that combines with the cooperative aspect--meaning that many libraries participate in responding to patron questions.

The cooperative offers 24 hour service to every member who chooses to participate. Libraries don't need to staff their reference desks at all hours.
The biggest public cooperative is Mass Answers here in Massachusetts; the biggest academic cooperative is the BLC, also here in Massachusetts.

The link to the reference service can appear on the library web page, library OPAC, library databases, elearning integration, or Open WorldCat. The linking feature offers a chat widget, called "qwidget." However, the qwidget is not available to all in the cooperative while QuestionPoint is still working out the kinks. Qwidget sessions appear in the QuestionPoint chat monitor. Arlington Heights Library has an example of a qwidget. Check it out here:

QuestionPoint also offers enhancement features, such as a spam eliminator by including a CAPTCHA after a patron posts a question online. QP also developed a "Chat 2" by placing the chat frame on the left-hand side, eliminating a lot of the coding, and making the interface easier to read, especially for people with screen readers--equity for QuestionPoint, especially for the visually impaired. QP also offers a knowledge base that allows patrons to search an FAQ database.

QP offers chat transcript, emails, and qwidgets, which are all distinguishable on the library's side when receiving patron inquiries. QP also offers a report feature. The reports are available for institutional supporters of QP, which can access Institutional Reports based on patron usage, including time of day questions, and still links to transcripts.

QP had about 350,000 chat requests received by the Coop. The Coop librarians picked up 195, 761 (59.15%). The rest is picked up by back-up staff. The number picked up by Coop librarians is a little more than half since it represents time librarians are working, which does not reflect questions being asked and answered at 3:00 am.

The QP presentation was pretty straight forward. There seemed to be some concern about the reference service expanding into a larger consortium for academic libraries. As it exists right now, many academic libraries are linked to a regional public library 24/7 reference service, such as MassAnswers. I'd like to hear what you use in your library for 24/7 reference and get your input on developing collaboratives for libraries to be a part of such a coop.

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