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LibAnswers (Ask Us!) Guide for Library Staff & Librarians: Getting Started

Getting Started on your Virtual Reference Shift

Please note, some of the information on these pages is for the old version of LibAnswers. It will be updated in an ongoing basis. Read through the information and take the quiz at the bottom.

Getting started on your virtual reference shift

Getting started on your VR (no, not that VR) shift...

cat meme "get ready"

1. Learn your shift. Check with your CTL or Library Director about when you are expected to be on chat. As of August 2021, LMT (Library Management Team) has implemented a new schedule for campus-based coverage. You will log in specific days of the week. If your staff is experiencing shortages and you are a librarian, you are expected to still log into chat as you are able. For every day of the week we are open, two libraries will offer coverage of chat for that day and their librarians will be available to answer tickets. 

You will need to sign in for your shift (it might be a good idea to bookmark the login page; or, you can always go to the public AskUs! page, scroll down to the bottom and find the login area). If you are already logged in and just need to get back, it will say "MyAdmin / Logout." Here is a demo of where to log in at the bottom:

how to sign in

2. Know the Dashboards -- yes, more than one! Once logged in, you should land on the LibAnswers Dashboard (or select it from the blue dropdown at the top). You should keep the LibAnswers Dashboard tab open while you are staffing Virtual Reference (VR). Do not confuse the LibAnswers Dashboard with your LibChat Dashboard. It's recommend you keep both Dashboards open. It is also recommend you keep the LibChat Dashboard in its own browser window as the only tab, so you can navigate quickly to it when a chat comes in. 


Pay attention to the Administrative Announcement box on the LibAnswers Dashboard -- important updates will be posted there! This is what the LibAnswers Dashboard looks like (may look a bit different depending on your account level). 

3. Look for tickets. Check the number next to the word "Dashboard" in the upper left - if it's zero/green there are no tickets waiting. Some part-time staff do not have the ability to answer tickets. Tickets are any questions that come in that are not chats, such as through text (SMS) or the website widget form. However, SMS are the only tickets that also show up on the LibChat Dashboard. We'll learn about that later! 

zero tickets

4.  Enable your "Stand-by Alerts" (if you see "Stand-By Alerts: ON" -- you're all set. Note: this works best in Chrome. It works in IE and Firefox if you're on the most up-to-date version. If it doesn't work for you, you'll have to pay attention to the Chat console or have your volume up.) This option is by the bell icon in screenshot #5. Learn more here.

stand-by alerts on

5. Sign in! To sign into the LibChat Dashboard, click the link to "Sign In" or use the LibChat drop down menu to select "Connect."

You are now completely "logged in" and are responsible (along with the rest of the team monitoring the system) for responding (as quick as possible!) to questions that come in via chat and tickets. Chats will "ding" repeatedly until picked up. Tickets will "blip" only once in the LibChat Dashboard, as they are not as time sensitive. You don't have to answer them in that Dashboard, however. More on that later! You are responsible for grabbing chat questions as soon as possible and, if you do not know the answer, for forwarding them (in either chat or ticket form) to the correct person who does.  How and when to do this is outlined later on in this guide in the other tabs. 

6. Make sure your Desktop Alerts are turned on. Once you're logged in, you might want to check this area. Moving computers or stations could reset some of these settings. Learn how to turn them on here.

Some campuses do not mind using sound to help them catch chats, and it is recommended. But those whose circulation desks are close to quiet areas may prefer staff use only Desktop Alerts. Ask your CTL if you can, but Amanda would like all staff to use sound notifications if possible. If we let phones ring, we can let chats ding!

There is a slight delay in desktop notifications compared to sound notifications. Make sure your browser is current and updated for them to work. The alerts will also appear at the bottom of the screen much like getting an Outlook "new email" alert. 

what it looks like

7. Use your "Set Away" button when you leave the desk to let other staff know that you are not available to answer chats as they come in and/or that they cannot transfer chats to you or chat with you through the system. This is also good to use if you are very busy at the desk or go on break. Your dot will turn to yellow when you use the "Set Away" feature.

set away check

8. Multi Chat Overlay in the new LibChat dashboard: Make the new LibChat interface look a bit more like the old one by going to your Settings > turn on "Multi Chat Overlay." Your chats will now pop up like this (see the right). Learn more here.

multi chat overlay

Learn more about internal chats on the new dashboard here.

Learn more about turning on sound and desktop alerts on the new dashboard here.

Learn all about the new chat dashboard in an overview here.

9. When you log into the LibChat dashboard, note who else is logged in. If there are not at least 2 people logged in, you should use the "Call for Backup" button/widget on the LibAnswers Dashboard (where you first logged in) to request more people to log on in case you need to step away. Options on this widget are subject to change.

Submitting one of the options on the form will send a mass email to library staff and librarians asking for a specific type of assistance. This will help make sure there are enough people on LibChat (ideally at least 4, because there are 4 campuses). The submissions are anonymous, so don't feel shy about using this and asking for help! However, check your email before sending your own alert out to make sure it wasn't just used (it is a good idea to always have your work email pulled up). Keeping chat staffed insures we won't miss any or leave someone waiting for a long time if we get caught up with in-person reference questions. See other tabs for more info! 

Take this tutorial!


After taking the above quiz, you are ready to grab questions! When done, move on to the next tab above to learn some best practices.

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