Category Archives: Collaborative Text Messaging Reference

Virtual Reference – When to Collaborate


The spirit of sharing and cooperation is perfectly at home in the Library world. The most traditional form of collaboration is Interlibrary Loan, but libraries have also found some more unique ways to collaborate, including through shared virtual reference services. There are several things to keep in mind when establishing collaboration on virtual reference service. Consider your goals.

Think about subject matter. Partnering with libraries with similar focus and clientele will ensure a consistency of service, but searching for libraries with a different focus could broaden the type of reference queries you can answer through virtual reference. Think about your patron base. Who are they and what type of questions are they most likely to ask?

Think about location. Local libraries may ensure ease in the collaboration process, but reaching out to libraries in other regions can increase the hours of availability for your virtual reference services. Collaboration between Universities from different time zones could mean available reference service in the wee hours of the morning, when students might be finishing up that paper, but the library isn’t open.

When entering into collaboration you want to make sure that all institutions are on the same page. Everyone should be willing to commit roughly the same amount of effort and time. No one institution should be unduly burdened. Once your virtual reference collaboration is off and running you’ll want to keep careful statistics. Keep record of when the queries are coming in, who is answering them, and the basic subject matter. Use these numbers to continue ensuring that the workload is evenly distributed, and to think about areas where you might need to broaden your individual collection and services.

Collaboration doesn’t make sense for every library. Your individual institution will need to decide what is right for them. However, it is worth investigating and thinking about how it can improve your virtual references services and the customer experience. After all, it’s all about the patron.


Library Thought Leaders Q&A: Aaron Tay

Today’s Library Thought Leader is Aaron Tay, Reference Librarian with the National University of Singapore.

As you know, the theme of this Q&A series is “Patron Relationship Management” or PRM. What areas of PRM are you seeing where libraries can benefit the most?
To me Patron Relationship Management refers to tracking, managing of customer/patron needs and requests. Relationship Management also includes communicating with users in the way they prefer, with the right information they want to know. Libraries should be responsive to the needs of their users to be aware of user needs, ideally the library should be able to learn from users to improve their services in real time..

What is a great example of how a library has done a great job with “customer/patron service” recently?
One of the things our library does is to embed chat boxes on every FAQ and guide page. We correlate the chat queries that come through the chat boxes with each page. This has been very useful to help us improve the content and design of each specific page. What confuses our users? What information are they looking for that the FAQ they are on lacks? Studying the chat questions, they sent from these pages has helped improve our services by putting information they looking for and rewording confusing text so our patrons can find what they looking for.

This is a great idea, you’re essentially targeting the “pain point” for patrons when (and where) they’re experiencing it.

Roles technology plays in managing patron relationships?
Technology allows automation of many tasks that would not be possible manually. For example, while users do contact us when they have a question or issue, a large number do not. They would tweet, blog, post on Facebook status and otherwise post on the internet comments about the library whether positive or negative. What we do here at NUS Libraries is setup an automated scan of the internet using tools such as Google alerts and Twitter search scans to be alerted what our users say about the library. Depending on the type of comment we find, we may respond and help if we can or take note of the comment if necessary. A free online webinar talk I gave at Library 2.0 describes the tools I use to scan comprehensively for Tweets , the type of tweets I found while scanning proactively, and the reactions of users when we intervene and help. In general, users are delighted when we unexpectedly chime in to provide help.

I read about that on your blog, the “listening” to social media for sentiment, mentions, etc. Taking a page out of the book of the world’s leading companies. Great idea. Companies compete with other companies for customer’s attention, but they also compete for a patron’s attention.

What is an innovative new technology you’ve seen and is there a way libraries can use it?
Many libraries including ours are using QRcodes but I think that in the long run the future lies with applications like Aurasma, Kooaba’s Shortcut or Google goggles and other augmented reality apps, which use image recognition so that users can just point their smartphones at a book cover, or any image and the object would be recognised and some action would be taken on their phones. One could for example use this for book covers, such that pointing a phone camera at it, would show links to book reviews, ratings and other relevant data.

What tools or resources do you have for libraries looking to improve patron experiences and service?
Look to use tools like Google analytics to track user behavior. Like many libraries we have systems spread across many diverse systems from the library catalogue (classic, next generation, discovery), web portal, Libguides/LibAnswers etc , we embed Google analytics whenever possible across all these systems so as to have a consistent way of comparing usage across these systems. This combined with close study of user search queries, analysis of email and chat transcripts, internet scans of mentions of the library, coupled with occasional surveys and focus groups help us keep on top of user needs and help us decide what are the important issues to focus on to improve patron experience. It’s good to study each source in combination rather than in isolation. Sometimes while one data source say chat transcriptions might show only isolated feedback on a certain topic, looking at the full picture with web analytics might help uncover that it is not an isolated issue.

Thanks Aaron, have a great day!
Thank you.

About Aaron (in his own words):
I am a reference librarian with the National University of Singapore. Since joining in 2007, I have worked on library projects to extend our digital reach, launching chat reference, Social Media projects, led teams to redesign our FAQ and Library Guides using LibAnswers and LibGuides platforms and have recently starting using web conferencing software to conduct library tutorials such as EndNote classes. I have served on various library committees including Portal Redesign, LibQual+, Cited Reference and Web Discovery teams.. I was awarded LAS (Library Association of Singapore) best Speaker at Libraries for Tomorrow seminar and recently LAS Outstanding Newcomer and was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker 2011.

Contact Aaron:
Twitter: @aarontay

New Text a Librarian Feature – Automatic Generator

Text a Librarian’s Linke Auto-Generator: More Links With Less Characters

We have a handful of new features coming up over the next month, but wanted to quickly let you know about our generator, suggested by our customers as a “great to have” feature. is a handy URL shortening technology that makes it easier to crunch long urls into less characters. Now with Text a Librarian, you can paste a long URL, check the box and it will shorten it for you.

After librarians send the message, if they mouse over the bitly link, it’ll show them what the real URL looks like, see below for an illustration.

More features and exciting updates coming soon!


The Text a Librarian Team

New TaL Feature: Holiday Auto Responders

Holiday Auto Responders…you can use them for anything, not just holidays!

In preparation for the upcoming holidays, the Mosio development team has been hard at work improving the Text a Librarian experience. Today we’d like to introduce a simple but helpful new feature: Holiday/One-time Auto Responders.

Everything is explained below as well as in your Text a Librarian microboard (click on New Features in your Quick Links module on the right side).

Text a Librarian Holiday/One-time Auto Responders


Holiday/One-time Auto Responders enable you to set up auto responders for any days that differ from your normal weekly hours (holidays, special events, etc).

There is a screen shot below showing you the auto responder creator screen; setting them up is incredibly simple. Note: You must be an Admin to add/edit Auto Responders.

Here’s how you set them:

1. Log in to Text a Librarian
2. Click on Auto Responder in the Microboard Administration Module on the right
3. Next click on the New Holiday Auto Responder link
4. From here, you can enter your message, along with the starting date/time, and ending date/time

You’re done! There’s no need to disable any of your regular auto responders since the holiday responder will take priority.

Screen shot…

Let us know if you have any questions.

Best regards and Happy Thanksgiving!

The Text a Librarian Team


Text a Librarian
Text Messaging Reference Simplified

Answer Text Message Questions With QuestionPoint

Today Mosio’s Text a Librarian goes live with OCLC’s QuestionPoint.  Libraries who are customers of both can choose to have text message questions show up and be answered in QuestionPoint.

Librarians who are staffing QuestionPoint will be able to immediately answer text questions, noticeable by a “TXT MSG” prefix and a new answering interface.

Text message questions and answers will be included in QuestionPoint’s reporting.

Of course, all of your Text a Librarian functionality still works too.  Patrons can still text for instructions, autoresponders will be sent when the library is closed, and message footers will be added to promote library events.  Messages will be threaded inside of QuestionPoint as they are in Text a Librarian, so you can easily carry out a full conversation.

TAL marketing materials are still available from your login, so be sure to promote your service!

As lead developer at Mosio, I want to send a big thank you to OCLC’s team for helping us make this happen. They were all a pleasure to work with.

If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for our weekly webinars.

Text a Librarian’s Post to Twitter Button and Why It’s Great: User Generated Marketing for Libraries

Post Your Library’s Questions and Answers to Twitter

A “Post to Twitter” button on websites isn’t a new functionality, but after giving it some thought, we decided to add it to Text a Librarian. The reason? It’s User Generated Content that engages patrons and markets your library services.

SEO + Social Marketing + Patron Engagement
People searching online often type out an entire question in the search box, rather than just a few keywords, to see what results come up. Tweets are indexed by search engines like Google, Bing and soon Yahoo and when an individual searches online by typing out a question, your reference Q&A can appear in search results (aka helpful service + free marketing).

Here’s an excellent example of how the New York Public Library’s AskNYPL tweet of the question “What is the wingspan of a swallow?” is now indexed on Google, marketing their reference services.

Tweeting user generated content of funny, interesting and helpful questions and answers also engages Twitter-following patrons (and their followers through re-tweets) and informs them about your library’s reference services. We’ve seen great uses of Twitter by libraries engaging patrons with reference trivia and daily fun facts.

Spreading Love for Your Library
Many libraries are using Text a Librarian beyond questions and answers as a virtual suggestion box and for patron ideas and opinions about library services (questions, comments and feedback). When a patron texts good ideas and positive feedback, you can use the post to Twitter button to spread the love.

How Do I Start Using It? (for existing Text a Librarian customers):
The Post to Twitter button is an optional function of your service, controlled by your library’s Admin. Please visit the New Features section of your Text a Librarian microboard for details on how to turn it on.

Text a Librarian Video – Text Messaging Reference Software for Libraries

Facts and Figures: Mobile Text Messaging Usage in the U.S. (An Opportunity for Libraries)

We <3 Mobile

We hear a lot of feedback regarding text messaging from both ends of the spectrum. Some understand and are part of the mobile messaging explosion in the U.S. and others need a little more convincing.

While we don’t send 470 text messages per day (we have plenty of work to do around here), we love text messaging, understand that it might be better to provide some industry facts regarding text messaging usage and show why we’re seeing more and more libraries embrace the mobile channel as an effective addition to reference services. We’ve compiled a quick list for you with links to the reports where possible, will add more as we find them and if you have any, please let us know or post them in the comments section.

  • On average, Americans send and receive twice as many text messages as phone calls per month. (Nielsen Mobile)
  • U.S. Teens (ages 13-17) sent and received an average of 1,742 text messages per month in Q2 2008 (Nielsen Mobile)
  • In 2008, teens and twenty-somethings were by far the largest users of texting, coming in at 85%. In 2009, this continued to be true with teens at 94% and 20-somethings at 87%, but usage also increased for older age groups. Among those in their 40s, usage jumped from 56% to 64%, and for those in their 50s it jumped from 38% to 46%. (The Vlingo Consumer Mobile Messaging Habits Report, May 20, 2009)
  • A new online survey of mobile users (sample size not disclosed) conducted in January, 2008 by Amplitude Research has found the following features and considerations to be most important among cell phone buyers:
    * Text messaging: 73%
    * Camera: 67%
    * Ability to access the mobile Internet: 61%
    * Music features: 34%
    * Video: 33%
  • Medical and Policy Experts Agree Wireless Technology Makes Healthcare More Efficient, Effective, and Patient-focused (CTIA Wireless Association)

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