6 Steps to Change Up Chat Reference | Virtual Reference Software Tips

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When it comes to virtual services, chat reference provides a quick, reliable, and direct way to answer questions and resolve problems. The benefits are numerous: librarians can perform an efficient reference interview, quotes and links can be exchanged seamlessly between participants, conversations can be archived by the customer (especially helpful for complex information that they’ll need again), and most of all, it’s naturally conversational, just like an in-person or telephone inquiry. Chat reference is an essential part of the suite of information services offered by libraries, and until this week, many libraries relied on Meebo to provide an easy, cost-effective, widget-based virtual reference solution. However, after over five years as a leading chat reference platform, Meebo’s messenger product closed shop this week for good. When news of Meebo’s acquisition by Google hit the presses in early June, the library community mobilized to identify alternative products to sustain existing chat reference services. Popular choices include: Mosio’s Text a Librarian, Springshare’s LibChat, ZohoChat, and LibraryH3lp.

Change is constant in the tech market, and likewise in libraries, as we utilize information and communications technologies to deliver top-quality service to our customers. So what better way to embrace the transition from an outgoing product, like Meebo’s, to a shiny new chat reference tool, like Mosio’s? It’s time to change up chat reference and make it your star service once again.

1. Refresh & Redesign
New product? New marketing! Refresh existing flyers, have a contest to come up with a new slogan or logo, update posters, newsletters, and digital marketing, and get the word out about the new product. Share the excitement with your community and don’t hesitate to let them know that you’re learning through the transition.

2. Document & Share
Whether you maintain print training manuals, cheat sheets, wikis, intranet pages, Libguides, or another type of internal documentation at your library, be sure that everyone gets to see it. Better yet, post the documentation online and share via Creative Commons license.

3. Assign an Ambassador
A local ambassador talks with colleagues on site and beyond about the new product, rounds up best practices, and tunes into conversations via Twitter and social media channels about how to optimize use at your library.

4. Clean House
Out with the old! Discard any documents, guides, coding, references, flyers, handouts, footers or memos referring to the old tool. Don’t forget to check info racks, bathrooms, bulletin boards, local community centers, and all around campus.

5. Plan Ahead
Start a file with a review of what worked with the outgoing product and what you like about the new product. Make a wish list of features you’d like to see included in future products. And as new products hit the market, keep note of them in the file for the next time things change.

6. Throw a Change Party
New tech keeps us nimble and learning and keeps our libraries current and engaged with community needs. Celebrate! Make the change; mark the accomplishment.

Lisa Carlucci Thomas is the Director and Founder of Design Think Do, providing innovation and technology consulting to libraries, publishers, and information partners. Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisacarlucci

Learn more about Mosio’s Text a librarian

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