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LibAnswers (Ask Us!) Guide for Library Staff & Librarians: Answering Questions

Getting Started on your Virtual Reference Shift

Read over this information and take the quiz at the bottom of this page. 

You may need to use headphones for this portion if you are working out at the desk.

Answering Chat Questions - Scenario 1

here we go cat meme

Chats should be prioritized first over tickets (patron is expecting “Instant Messaging” so please respond promptly. Even just saying "Hi" or "I am searching for you" quickly is good customer service). The rule is: pick it up before it dings 4 times. Just like pick up phones quickly, we pick up chats quickly. 

Very busy? Reuse answers to save time. Use the FAQ to answer questions by simply linking to the answer. NOTE: Be sure to send them the link to the public view of the FAQ, not an FAQ from the backend of LibAnswers (applicable mainly to full-timers). It is recommended you DO send links to people so that they can learn where to find information next time. 

You also have the ability to use system canned messages within the chat session. Or, you can set up your own personal canned messages if you have common phrases or links you like to send. You can learn how to do this here.

To answer the chat question you have claimed: 

  • You can simply type the answer if you know it
  • You are encouraged to link to answers in the FAQ and/or link to the Research Guides and/or TCC Website links and other resources TCC has in place to educate the user. Linking to info will help them learn!
  • You are encouraged to use the LibAnswers tiered reference to refer the question to the appropriate CTL or librarian if you cannot answer or find the answer – it’s the same as working at the desk. Tell the patron something like “I am not sure I am the best person to answer that. I’m finding someone who can help you.” Or, turn the chat into a ticket if you cannot find someone. Please see next tab for more on LibAnswers tiered reference. 

Right click image to open in new tab for expanded view:

chat into ticket

When the chat is done, add it to Ref. Analytics so that we can collect data on what kind of questions are coming into LibAnswers. You can get back to the popup if you accidentally close out or need more information about the patron before logging the question by selecting the graph icon before closing your chat window.ref analtyics popup

patron info tab

Don't leave Ref. Anlytics fields blank if you don't know the data/they didn't enter in anything. Instead, select "Unknown." This will save time when cleaning up entries at the end of each semester and will make for consistent data collection. You are responsible for cleaning up your entries. The LibAnswers Admin will remind you to check these periodically, however you are free to delete or go back and cleanup fields at any time under the "View/Edit Transaction" option.

If you accidentally close out of your chat or ticket completely before entering in the data (or if the system glitches and doesn't allow you to log it), you can go back to the "Ref. Analytics" tab on the LibAnswers Dashboard and select "Add Transaction." See screenshot below. You can even find the transcript of the interaction to pull from by going to LibAnswers Dashboard > LibChat > Transcripts. The transcripts are not the same data as Ref. Analytics, but it could be helpful. However, just entering the gist of the interaction is fine. What is important are the selections. You do not have to remember the whole conversation. 

If any library employee gets email questions to their personal emails from patrons (it does happen! We do show up in the employee directories!), please manually log those using this same method unless they are research consultations. They still count as "virtual" reference. You can just give a generalized version of what the question was about. You don't have to copy and paste everything. 

There is a guide Jamie made on how to clean up Ref. Analytics here. You will encounter it again in the next tab.  

Answering Tickets (SMS & Emails & System) - Scenario 2

Learn about answering tickets from Springshare here.

Right click on images to "open in new tab" to view enlarged versions of screenshots

SMS Tickets will ding constantly like chats and appear in chat tab as well (new as of 2020 - we cannot change this). 

SMS option on chat dash

Note: As of 2020, if you notice the ticket is an SMS text message, you can claim it on the LibChat dashboard but it is probably better to actually respond on the LibAnswers Dashboard as shown below (it will present you with that option):

view option

This is because, while the LibChat dashboard will let you send your response there, it will also generate an email for each and every time you hit enter. Those emails go to the ticket monitors (as of 2020 - fix might be in the works?). No big deal if it happens, though! Using the LibAnswers Dashboard will keep you more aware of what you are submitting each time and the character limit for texts: 

You can submit you answer as either "open" or "closed." Open means you are pretty sure they are going to respond again. This may be helpful if you only want to log analytics on the question once. Otherwise, it is best to submit it as closed so that it doesn't just sit on the Dashboard:

And you're done!

Other tickets will pop up on the LibChat Dashboard too, but once you claim them they will automatically open in the LibAnswers Dashboard in a new tab.

If the patron replies back to you, you’ll see it on the LibChat dashboard too.

You will also receive an email notifying you that the patron has replied back. Here's an example:

FYI: A "System" ticket is basically an email ticket, but came in through a specific point or widget.

Reusing Answers

For tickets:

You can use the search feature (shown above) built into the back end of the system to search for FAQ if you have access. 

By clicking on the eyeball, you will land here on the public answer page, and then you can copy & paste the URL or any part of the answer into the ticket's reply box.


There may be times when contacting the library on the patron's behalf is the best option.

You can also use FAQ answers in chats. It is recommended you copy and paste the URL so that the patron learns we have an FAQ! 

For chats: 

You can also rely on canned messages. Canned messages can save you from having to type a lot out, save you and the patron on time, and help you phrase things just right. You can set up your own personal canned messages, and/or use system canned messages the admin has set up

You can edit the canned message before hitting enter/send too, to makes sure the answer flows with the conversation. 



Transferring Tickets

Refer (Assign/Transfer) the question to someone else.

You should only assign a question to someone specifically if they are the only one who can answer, such as a CSA or specific librarian. Otherwise, assigning it to the general queue for the next available person to grab is best. 

These steps are illustrated above.

1.  Type your message, fill in Reference Analytics (if necessary)

2.  Submit as Open.

3.  Find the ticket on the Dashboard and open it back up.  

4.  Assign/Transfer to another employee

5.  Use the Pull down menu to select “Do not add to Analytics Dataset”

6.  Submit as Open again.  (This time it won't send a reply to the patron because there wasn't one.  It will keep the ticket open since it requires further action from someone else on our staff).

(!) Keep These Things in Mind (!)

  • When entering statistical data (for "Ref. Analytics"), it's all about the question & the patron. For example, for the campus field, enter the home campus of the patron asking the question, not the campus where you are working. You may not know this from the interaction or the information they supplied to start the chat. If you do not know, select UNKNOWN. Don't leave it blank. If you accidentally leave something blank, you can go in and edit your transaction under Ref. Analytics. 

  • Never give personal information during a chat transaction. For example, you cannot provide a patron's T#...nor a list of what they have checked out. We have no way of verifying who is on the other end and need to respect patron confidentiality/FERPA. For unknown T#s, refer them to the Student Support Center (formerly Call 2000) at 918-595-2000; you can renew their books for them, but you cannot tell them how many items, nor the titles of what they have checked out. They will need to come in and show ID to get that info. 

  • All questions coming into the system are called tickets EXCEPT if they are chats. To make things more confusing, SMS (text messages) tickets now appear in the chat area and ding constantly like chats, even though they appear in the LibAnswers Dashboard ticket areas too. The contents of a chat can be turned into a ticket if:

    • it requires follow up (you can refer it to the general queue OR transfer to a specific user. If you select this option, be sure to inform the patron you are chatting with beforehand that you are turning their chat into a ticket because someone else can answer it better. Only use this option IF you have followed the steps outlined in the Tiered Reference document. Another option is to give out contact information to them so they can contact the person who can best help them, rather than leave their issue open on the Dashboard.) OR

    • you think that information should be in the FAQ database (refer it to the general queue with an internal note saying you are recommending it for the FAQ database). There is a way to turn tickets into FAQ templates. This option is not currently utilized well as of 11/10/20. All questions coming into the system and answers provided are meant to be PRIVATE replies. Eventually the question & answer set may be edited for style and patron privacy, and then turned into an FAQ to be PUBLISHED. Full-time staff should be the only ones publishing FAQ, though FAQ can be suggested by any staff. The LibAnswers Admin currently recommends creating FAQ manually, not through this method. 

  • Pre-pandemic: Staff do not have to be logged into chat the last hour of their shift, so they can focus on closing duties at their campus. There is an auto-logoff set by the Admin an hour before the last library closes. If your director tells you that you can log off at a certain time before closing, default to that. 

Training Quiz! This one is more difficult. Grab some headphones and view the video.

Now you are ready to learn about tiered reference and how staff and librarians have different roles on chat. Go on to the next tab at the top!

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