Category Archives: Virtual Reference Software

Library Thought Leaders Q&A: Mary-Carol Lindbloom (Executive Director South Central Regional Library Council)

Today’s library thought leader is Mary-Carol Lindbloom, the Executive Director for the South Central Regional Library Council in New York state.

When did you get started in reference, and more specifically virtual reference?

In the summer of 1999, when a group of us, including Tom Peters, Lori Bell, and Ginny McCoy, met in person at Eureka College (IL) to brainstorm a grant for an academic virtual reference collaborative. Eureka, indeed! Initially, as we thought about the grant, we planned to staff the virtual desk afternoons only. But it was a grant—why not experiment and use that opportunity to explore 24/7 virtual reference? Would students and others really use the service in the middle of the night? The grant application was successful, so we used that opportunity to find out. I was the project director for the grant and Bernie Sloan was the evaluator who analyzed such areas as time of day, days of week, questions, etc. I have only been involved with virtual reference in a collaborative environment—the service was planned, implemented, and delivered collaboratively. That project was called Ready for Reference; a year later we combined with a public library virtual reference service to form My Web Librarian; eventually MWL merged with AskAwayIllinois.

How did you come up with the idea for My Info Quest?

I personally didn’t! Many of us had been working with virtual reference for over a decade at that point, and Lori Bell, who worked at the Alliance Library System in Peoria in 2009, raised the question about SMS texting as a service platform for the 21st century. She was able to secure funding to test this; when the funding ended, the project continued as a library/library system-sustained program. SCRLC had been involved in MIQ from the get-go, so we took over some of the leadership after the Illinois library systems merged.

If you were to start it again, what would you do differently?

I would have a business plan from the get-go. Several virtual reference cooperatives have started with grant funding, and find it very challenging to move from grant funding to library-sustained. I might explore grant funding to study certain aspects of the service, but at the core, there has to be a committed group of libraries willing to pay for the service. There also has to be ample funding for a project coordinator/director and marketing—marketing to two difference audiences (librarians and library users).

What advice do you have to anyone looking to manage a cooperative?

This advice pertains to a virtual reference cooperative! Ensure you have adequate time and funding to devote to the process, including time to evaluate and analyze. If you do not have a general business plan or strategic plan, get with your group and develop one—include goals and objectives. As with all library positions in the 21st century (and all centuries, for that matter!), there are multiple components to manage within a virtual reference cooperative. Be comfortable with ambiguity and change—it is cliché but those are the constants—especially change. In addition to time spent on the actual desk answering questions, in MIQ there are scheduling, marketing, best practices, standards/policies, recruitment, training, and sustainability. Ensure that training is interactive, even at a distance. Sharon Kim, our current coordinator, has used Google Neighborhood and GoToMeeting to train librarians and students (we have student librarians in this service, as well). She developed practice questions that also lead trainees through the service’s best practices. Set up a Google Group to communicate (this is used to sent pointers, meeting notices, participants request temporary desk shift changes, other information, etc.). Try to meet virtually on a regular basis (we have monthly meetings for those who can tune in). Develop working groups, as needed—one wonderful aspect of being part of a collaborative service is that we don’t have to go it alone! MIQ has a culture where participants feel safe and comfortable in expressing and contributing their ideas.

What does virtual reference look like in the future?

Most libraries reachable to their users via virtual reference services! The number of libraries that are not reachable via virtual reference, i.e., SMS text and web-based chat, is amazing to me. In point-of-need service, which many of us try to provide, users/members/patrons must be able to walk in, phone, email, text, or chat up the reference desk. If I recall, according to one of the Pew studies, 31% of texters prefer texting to talking—and that was a study that included young adults but not teens. If we are to stay relevant to future users, we absolutely have to be reachable to users in all ways. I would like to see libraries rival the commercial chat services, e.g., ChaCha—to be the go-to service for questions that increasingly our smart phones can’t answer. And I do think that is a factor. We’re seeing less “ready reference” questions in our service and more library-related. With the increase in smart phone ownership, I think that those folks are finding their own quick answers. VR still enables us to be the human behind the machine! But…it could go the other way—with budget and time challenges, there could be fewer individual libraries offering their users this capability, and cooperatives could dissolve. Hopefully that only occurs in an anti-universe far, far away! My hope: All users are met at their point of need 24/7/365, by librarians—that our libraries are relevant, valued, and supported by our communities! I would also like to see VR become such a standard part of library service that there is no need for lists in the Wikipedia of libraries that offer virtual reference (or SMS text reference). When is the last time you saw a list of libraries that offer phone or email reference?

What is a current trend in libraries that interests you?

Just one? The effect of patron-driven-acquisitions on resource sharing and collection development; trends in texting for information; best practices for continuing education delivered via distance learning; assessment and the relationship between student outcomes and library services.

Ok, now ask us a question.

Where do you see Mosio for Libraries in five-years, including…..any plans for a back-up reference service?

About Mary-Carol Lindbloom: Mary-Carol is the Executive Director for the South Central Regional Library Council. SCRLC is a non-profit, multi-type library consortium, operating under charter by the New York State Board of Regents. It has member libraries located in the counties of Allegany, Broome, Cayuga, Chemung, Chenango, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben, Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates. The members include academic, corporate, hospital, public, school, and non-profit libraries.

Facebook: South Central Regional Library Council
Twitter: SCRLC
LinkedIn:
http://www.linkedin.com/pub/mary-carol-lindbloom/6/a85/24a

Google Talk Workarounds for Mosio for Libraries Notifications (Not Using Hangouts)

Virtual Reference Software Tips - Web Chat / Instant Message / Mosio

A Public Library Mosio patron writes, “We’ve been using Google Talk to notify us of new Text a Librarian questions. Now that Google Talk has been discontinued (and sort of replaced by Google Hangouts), we’re finding that Google Hangouts is not notifying us of new Text a Librarian messages. What do you recommend for a library in our predicament?”

To make sure you don’t miss out on any more of your Text A Librarian messages, we suggest the following workaround. Download a different chat client, such as either Pidgin or Trillian. We recommend Pidgin. When setting it up, enter your Google Talk email address in the section for accounts. Then use the client to view your messages.

Ideas for Improving Patron Service at Your Library, Regardless of Your Department

Customer Service

Self-Checkout Machines

Improving patron service doesn’t always mean providing the human touch; in fact sometimes it can mean giving the patron the option to forgo the human touch. One example of this is self-checkout machines.

There are many reasons why a patron might prefer to use a self-checkout machine. They may be in a real hurry and just want to pop in real quick, grab a certain title from the shelf, and dash back out. Or they may be checking out books on a subject that would make them uncomfortable to bring to the circulation desk for check out.

Providing this additional self-service checkout option improves service by giving these patrons exactly what they want – more convenience and improved patron privacy.

Staff Training and Cross-Training

There is perhaps no better way to improve patron service at your library than to ensure that the staff is well-trained on customer service strategies and able to handle any basic library function or patron request.

To ensure the first, regular customer service training should be an integral part of your library’s staff development programming. Repeated exposure to different types of strategies and techniques for improving patron service and tips on handling difficult patron situations with poise and tact will help foster a patron-centered environment.

Making sure that all staff members are cross-trained on the basic functions outside of their own departments will help ensure the second. When a patron stops a staff member to ask a question that falls outside of the staff members immediate duties and activities and that staff member is able to provide the needed assistance rather than having to go find the answer from another staff member, your patron service has stepped up to the next level.

Give Them What They Want

Finally, one of the best ways to improve patron service at your library is to provide opportunities for your patrons to tell you how you can improve service. This is easy because you don’t have to be creative; you just listen and then implement.

The old-fashioned suggestion box is still a terrific way to solicit this feedback from patrons. Add the modern incarnation to your library’s homepage – an online suggestion form – and you will have no shortage of projects to work on.

Improving patron service is an ongoing assignment. Use these techniques on a regular basis to ensure that excellent patron service in your library is no harder to find than the latest bestseller or local newspaper.

Mosio Partners with Tshwane University of Technology for its First Library Solution in South Africa

Mosio Partners with Tshwane University of Technology for its First Library Solution in South Africa

Leading virtual reference software for libraries, enabling two-way communications between staff and students via live chat, email, text messaging and Facebook, now available in South Africa
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Aug. 14, 2013PRETORIA, South AfricaMosio for Libraries, an all-in-one, multi-channel virtual reference software for libraries, announces its first solution implementation in South Africa. The company’s partnership with Tshwane University of Technology will enable library staff to interact with patrons and answer questions via live chat, email, text messaging and Facebook.

“We are extremely excited to add Tshwane University of Technology’s Libraries to our client roster and have already established a great, collaborative relationship with their team,” said Noel Chandler, CEO and Co-Founder of Mosio. “As one of Africa’s leading universities of technology, we look forward to continuing our work to help them provide excellent information resources to students online or on-the-go.”

The Mosio for Libraries solution will launch in August, 2013, and will be rolled out to nine campuses, supporting approximately 56,000 students. The software features a secure, easy to use, web-based dashboard that can be utilized for two-way interactions with library patrons. Popular communication and efficiency tools include answer templates, customizable auto-responders and collaboration features. “The LIS is introducing major and exciting student service enhancements, including Mosio”, said Vivian Agyei, the Director for Library and Information Services.

“We are thrilled to become Mosio for Libraries’ first partner in South Africa,” said Nokuphiwa Kunene, Systems Librarian at Tshwane University of Technology. “Our priority is to implement a strong technology solution that allows us to better serve and interact with students, while also enabling us to maximize the use of resources by efficiently managing communications.
Mosio for Libraries is available in 21 countries, including the U.S., Canada, UK, Spain, Australia and South Africa. The software is cloud-based, so it is always up to date and does not require any hardware or software installation. The dashboard can be accessed on any web-enabled computer or device, regardless of physical location.

Mosio for Libraries integrates easily across websites, blogs and online databases through support tabs and widgets, and plugins and apps are available for Drupal, Joomla!, WordPress and Facebook.

About Mosio for Libraries
Mosio for Libraries is an all-in-one, multi-channel support software that enables libraries to receive and respond to patron questions via live chat, email, text messaging and Facebook. Visit http://mosio.com/libraries to learn more, sign up for a free trial and be greeted at the front door with a 90-second video detailing Mosio’s technology solution to a problem faced by libraries all over the world.

About TUT
In its logo, the Tshwane University of Technology claims that “we empower people” thus committing itself to the concepts of Diversity, Ethics, Relevance, Entrepreneurship, Care, Partnerships, Professionalism and lastly, Quality. TUT awards qualifications from national diploma level through to bachelor of technology degrees. Students may also continue with postgraduate studies towards master’s degrees and doctorates.

Why choose a University of Technology?
One of the strong features of obtaining a qualification at a university of technology, is the specialization in a chosen field. Furthermore entrepreneurship carries a lot of weight in the students’ education, since they are taught new ways of thinking and approaching their careers to become job creators rather than job seekers in the market,

It is a fact that South Africa is still in dire need of people suitably qualified in science, engineering and technology, the so-called SET courses. TUT offers numerous courses in these fields. But apart from academic qualifications, the university also offers programmes to equip students with specific skills to prepare them for the world of work. Some of these programmes especially those aimed at improving communication, writing, reading and interpersonal skills, form part of their academic programme.

TUT is divided into seven faculties:
- Faculty of Economics and Finance
- Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment
- Faculty of Humanities
- Faculty of Information and Communication Technology
- Faculty of Management Sciences
- Faculty of Science
- Faculty of the Arts

At TUT the emphasis is on:
- Cutting edge technology
- Innovation through to commercialization
- Problem-solving skills
- Research and Innovation
- Partnerships and networks
- Technological incubators, technology stations, centres and institutes
- Community engagement

For more information visit http://www.tut.ac.za

Free Trials of Mosio for Libraries

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Hello! We now offer free trials of Mosio for Libraries so you can try out the system and experience how powerful virtual reference software can be.

  • Receive and respond to patron questions via Live Chat, Text Messaging, Email and Facebook, all through a single, web-based interface.
  • We guarantee you’ll be more efficient in your patron communications.
  • Add an Ask a Librarian button to your Facebook Page with a few clicks.
  • Answer questions from widgets on your website, blogs or electronic resources.
  • Patrons can text questions from their mobile phones or chat from smartphones or tablets.

There’s no obligation and no credit card required. Sign up for your Mosio for Libraries free trial here.

Thanks and we look forward to working with you!

The Mosio for Libraries Team

Mosio for Libraries
Patron Support Simplified
http://mosio.com/libraries

Self-service at the Library

Mosio Picture

According to a 2010 article in Library Journal, “85 percent of libraries offer some sort of self-service, and that percentage goes up with the size of the population served.” The variety of self-service options include: self checkout, book and DVD vending machines, automated computer booking and online account access. The article also found that overall libraries and patrons are happy with self-service options, but as with anything there are some possible drawbacks.

Whether or not to embrace self-service, and what kinds of self-services to offer, is an individual decision for each library. Smaller libraries simply may not be able to justify the cost of some self-service options, while larger libraries may find that they recoup the costs quickly by freeing up staff for other tasks. Moving beyond cost, the most important factor to consider is overall customer service and support.

Online tools, such as library card registration, renewals and holds are relatively easy to implement, and provide customers with increased service. While they often are still able to take care of these tasks in person, they are also able to take care of them outside of library hours on their own schedule. Similarly, book and DVD vending machines offer patrons access to popular materials at all hours, without altering access to library services during normal business hours.

A tool like automated computer books frees librarians from the odious task of monitoring computer use and referring disputes. It frees up the time and energy of staff, and prevents them from having to engage with the public in a negative way.

Self-checkout can also free up staff time and streamline library services, but it can have the disadvantage of limiting face to face time between staff and patrons. One potential way of addressing this issue is to have staff available in other ways, such as meeting and greeting patrons as they enter the library, triaging requests and helping direct them to the Reference desk or library catalog stations.

When considering any library self-service option, it is important to remember there will be a learning curve for patrons. Training and advertising are key elements to a successful role out. Staff should be available to assist patrons with the transition and answer questions. A customer feedback system can be used to monitor success.

Virtual reference from your Facebook page via the Facebook mobile and iPad apps with Mosio for Libraries

How to set up your library’s Facebook Page to launch your Mosio for Libraries widget inside of Facebook Mobile and iPad Apps.

^Yes, it’s a mouthful, but bear with us, this is pretty cool.

Mosio recently launched a Facebook App enabling you to add your chat/email/text messaging widget to your Facebook Pages. The app is getting a lot of excitement from our customers and naturally we got a request from a library asking us about making it work in Facebook mobile (the app or mobile web). Creating a Facebook App doesn’t automatically mean it will be an app in Facebook Mobile. Well we found a way to make it work and we’re going to show you how, right now. In fact, to do this you’re not even using the Mosio Facebook App, you’ll see the how/why in a second.

What you’ll need:
1) Mosio for Libraries
2) Bitly or another url shortening service
3) A Facebook Page

Step 1: Launch your Mosio widget from the tab or button on your website’s page and copy the url inside the widget.
mosio_facebook_mobile_widget

 

Step 2: Paste the url into the Paste a Link Here field (look for the puffer fish if you’re using Bitly)
After you do this, you can create a custom url name after bit.ly/YOURCUSTOMNAMEHERE. “askaquestion” was taken, so we used hyphens for the same effect.
bitly_paste_a_link

 

Step 3: Find a place (or places) in your Facebook Page to paste the link
We pasted ours in the Description/About sections, but you can also upload a photo and paste the url in the description of a photo. The screen shots below show it on iPhone, iPad and also the photo we uploaded of an Ask a Question button.

mosio_facebook_mobile2 mosio_facebook_ipad1 mosio_facebook_askaq_button_facebookapp

 

Step 4: That’s it! When someone clicks on the link it will open inside the Facebook Mobile or iPad App.
If a patron is accessing your library’s Facebook Page from the web via a smartphone or tablet it will open up in a new browser window.

mosio_facebook_mobile3 mosio_facebook_ipad2

If you’re a Mosio customer and you need any assistance, you can use our support widgets to get you the help you need. If you’re a library looking to support patrons from all channels (Online Chat, Text Messaging, Email and Facebook) through a simple, web-based dashboard, please consider Mosio for Libraries. We have plans for all sized libraries.

Have a wonderful day!

The Mosio Team

Mosio for Libraries
Patron Support Simplified
http://mosio.com/libraries

Mosio’s Facebook App – Now Patrons Can Ask a Librarian from Your Library Facebook Page

Virtual Reference Questions Asked Directly from your Library’s Facebook Page

The growth and power of Facebook shows no signs of slowing down and now with Mosio for Libraries, you can enable your Facebook page to be yet another amazing virtual reference channel. There are instructions below, it takes about 5 clicks. No hacks, no difficult workarounds using FBML (Facebook Markup Language), just a few clicks and you’ve extended your virtual reference services to Facebook. Here’s how you do it…

Step 1: Visit https://apps.facebook.com/mosiofb and you’ll see a window that looks like this:

mosio_facebook_app_screenshot

Step 2: Enter in your Keyword, an email address of one of your admins, then pick the page you want to add the app into.

Step 3: Click on Last Step: Add it to your page and then choose your page in the drop down.

That’s it! You’ll see the Ask a Question button in your tabs. The default button may change, but here’s what it looks like today:
mosio_facebook_app_button

If you want to change the color or title of the button, click on the little Edit Tabs button (see image below) until all of your tabs are showing, then the pencil and choose Edit Settings.
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You’ll see a little pop up that says “Edit Mosio Settings” and you can add a Custom Tab Image or Custom Tab Name. Add your custom tab or custom name and you’ll see it on your page.

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Patrons who click on your tab will be taken to a page inside of Facebook where they can ask their question. All questions will post to your microboard like they do now, enabling patrons to start a live chat (if you’re logged in) or choose to be responded to via email or text message.

If you have any questions, please let us know.

Thanks and have a great day!

The Mosio Team

Mosio for Libraries
Patron Support Simplified
http://mosio.com/libraries

Mosio for Libraries Intro Video: Multi-Channel Ask a Librarian Software | Chat + Email + Text Messaging + Widgets

The Mosio for Libraries “trailer” video is live! A 1 minute, 45 second explanation of why more librarians are choosing Mosio for their virtual reference and Ask a Librarian software needs.

Mosio enables libraries to receive and respond efficiently to questions from patrons via web chat, email, text messaging and support widgets for your website, blog and electronic resources. We’ll stop typing now and you can just watch the video. :)

 

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