Category Archives: Virtual Reference

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

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
mosioforlibraries_microboard_sk13
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

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

Virtual Reference – When to Collaborate

wepromise

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.

 

Mosio for Libraries – Ask a Librarian Software | Condensed Webinar

We’ve been getting a lot of requests lately for more webinars on different days/times, so we went ahead and made a condensed webinar showcasing all of the features and functionality of Mosio for Libraries. Spend 15 minutes and see how Mosio saves librarians hours every month by combining patron communications normally splintered across channels into a single, web-based dashboard.

We have plugins and apps for Drupal, WordPress, Joomla! and Facebook and adding patron support to your popular online databases and electronic resources is a breeze. We’ll stop here and let the video show and tell…

mfl-header-newsletter

 

 

Is 24/7 Reference Really Necessary?

247-reference-services

Is 24/7 Reference Really Necessary?

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin

One of the characteristics that can distinguish information specialists is their knowledge and ability to forecast the needs of informational services often before the public is aware of their future need for such services.

Our current society operates on a three shift day. Very few of us actually work a “typical” Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, 40 hour work week, and staying mindful of this, the availability of information and information professionals should become equally as flexible as those in need of these information services.
In teaching bibliographic instruction at the College of Central Florida library campuses in north central Florida, I include in that instruction the availability of the Ask-a-Librarian service that is provided for our students thanks to the dedication of many public, private and academic librarians. Prior to discussing the hours of availability, students will often ask, “Is Ask a Librarian available 24 hours?” This to me indicates that even in my selected area such services are needed.

Today, even in some of our nation’s smallest rural libraries, patrons have the ability to access electronic journals, e-books, databases as well as other e-resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Electronic information sources are growing in popularity throughout the world and along with this service, the need for expanded information assistance in other areas is often seen necessary.

When companies do establish their own in-house library, it is often limited and outdated. Medical professionals will sometimes have limited collections within their own facilities and are among the patrons seeking information outside the typical service hours of our public, private and academic libraries.
Perhaps instead of asking if 24/7 reference is necessary, we should now focus on the central element of when, where and how should we begin to commit the resources in providing this 24/7 reference.
Diane Perrine is a freelance writer and an Academic Librarian at the College of Central Florida in Ocala, Florida. She resides in Ocala Florida.
Her hobbies include gardening, hiking, bicycling, volunteering and learning something new everyday.

This article is provided by Mosio for Libraries. To receive these directly in your inbox, please register for our Patron Support Tips Newsletter.


Patron Support Simplified
www.mosio.com/libraries

Mosio’s Text a Librarian is now Mosio for Libraries: Multi-Channel Customer Support Software for Libraries

mfl_green_banner_bigs

For awhile now, our customers have been simultaneously paying us a compliment, but also making a huge feature request: “I wish we could answer all of our patron’s questions this way.” We were flattered, we’ve been listening and now we can say we have fulfilled that wish. Well, almost. Libraries using our software can now respond to patron inquiries via Text Messaging, Live Web Chat and Email, all from a single, web-based dashboard. Plus, we’ve made it easy for libraries to have a larger digital footprint by working with some of the leading vendors and applications in the industry to make it simple to add their Mosio for Libraries support tab, customizable in color, wording and placement on the web.

So, with some more advice in the form of “you guys are more than just Text a Librarian now”, we’ve decided to change the name of the product. We figure Mosio for Libraries describes it perfectly.

If you are an existing customer or partner of ours, thank you for growing with us as we’ve evolved. If you are looking for a better way of supporting your library patrons/customers, we guarantee Mosio for Libraries is the most efficient tool you will use to do so.

We are busy adding new features, working with as many integration partners as possible and look forward to serving you in the future. For more information about how we can provide your library with the fastest way to provide support to your patrons online and on-the-go, contact us for a webinar or a free quote.

Thanks and we look forward to serving you.

The Mosio Team

Mosio for Libraries
Patron Support Simplified
www.mosio.com/libraries

Customize Your Support Tabs / Widgets – Mosio’s Patron Support Software for Libraries

Customization is Here – Upload Your Library’s Own Support Tab

Hello!

Support Tab customization is here! You are now able to upload your own Support Tab design (or use one of the 70 we have created in our Support Tabs Gallery). This enables you to create a Support Tab that has the look and feel of your own site, along with your desired “call to action” (Contact Us, Support, Ask a Librarian, etc.)

You are also able to choose if you want your widget on the Right, Left, Top or Bottom of your page AND you can decide where it aligns.

To upload your own Support Tab:

1) Log in to your microboard.

2) In the upper right, click on Support Widget Admin (this is where you log in and out of chat).

3) Click on Customize Your Widget.

CapturFiles_6

This is what you’ll see on the next page (although your tab will most likely be green)…

widget_customization

After you have uploaded your new support tab, it will immediately show up on your site, you do not need to replace any code on your website.

The Mosio Development Team has been working on several features and fixes over the past few months, we will be announcing more soon, but many people have been asking about being able to have control of the look and feel of the support tabs, so we pushed those live.

Some Quick FAQs:

* Will we be able to change the colors and feel of the widgets themselves?
The widget that slides out will remain white for now, but the Tab that sits on your site can be updated and changed by you as often as you like.  See “Chat Widget Pop Out” below to learn how the widget itself is changing.

 

* Why is that?
We have some feature updates coming up that we feel will make for a better librarian and patron user experience. By keeping the widgets a uniform way, it enables us to make it easier for you to take advantage of those features without spending any time in design or coding. After gathering some feedback from some customers, we heard that because the Support Tab is literally on every page, it was better to give everyone graphic and design control. The upcoming features (see below) will enable us to make these changes seamlessly without requiring anything new on your part except turning them on in some cases.

 

* Do we have to change or update the Mosio code on our web pages?
No and this has always been our goal. We feel it is better to have you place code on your site once and then as we add features and functionality, not to have to ask you to change any code on your end. This way you can manage features from your microboard without having to know any HTML or programming languages once the code is on your site.

 

* Can we be logged into the microboard, but logged out of Chat?
Absolutely. Look in the upper right of the microboard for Support Tab Admin – that’s where you log in and out of chat (see image above).

 

* What other features are coming?
- “I Got It” for Chat:
When a new chat starts, it will post to everyone who is logged in for someone to claim.

 - Chat Widget Pop Out: When a patron starts a web chat from the widget, it will pop into a new window to give them more freedom to click around your website or databases.

 - Email Response: Patrons will be able to choose Email when they decide how they want to be contacted.

 - Choose Your Channel: Patrons will be able to choose any channel to be responded to, even if librarians are online and ready to conduct a Web Chat. This means a patron who has a question, but might not have time for a web chat can type their question and be contacted later, much better than having the, leave the website with their question unasked.

* When are all of these new features going live?
All of the features listed above are being worked on currently and have been during customization. We will be posting target launch dates for each very soon.

We’ll send more updates and feature announcements soon!

Thanks and have a great day!

The Mosio Team

Log In to Text a Librarian

 

---

Mosio’s Patron Support and Help Desk Software for Libraries [VIDEO]

Hello!

This video explains all of the great reasons why more librarians choose Mosio. Our patron support software for libraries enables you to help more patrons wherever they are, faster. We offer simple copy/paste widget code for your website, blogs, content management systems and online resource areas. When patrons have questions, they click the tab, type in their question and choose their communication channel of choice: Web Chat, Text Messaging or Email.

Based on our popular Text a Librarian platform, patrons can also send/receive text messages from their mobile phones with your library, giving them communication access when they are online or on the go. Or you can just watch the video which does a great job! :)

To sign up for a webinar or get a quote for your library, visit us at www.textalibrarian.com