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Summary of Virtual Reference Eforum

The ETS/RSS Virtual Reference Services Committee hosted an eforum July 15 and 16. Following is a summary of the conversations. If you would like to read the full archive of the eforum conversation, go to http://lists.ala.org/sympa/info/vrc-eforum, then enter your email and password in the login area on the E-Forum web site, and finally click the link for archive.

VR Eforum Day 1 Summary
Tuesday, July 15, 2015

Chat Traffic

While there were a few libraries who had noted a decrease in the number of chat questions their libraries were fielding, most respondents noted an increase in the number of questions. Some of the drivers for the increase in use was ascribed to marketing to students and placement of a chat widget in the university’s LMS. One participant noted an increase in the number of questions after the library introduced a “proactive” chat pop-up after reading about it in a College & Research Libraries News article. Some libraries noted that they saw a drop in the number of chat questions when the link to the chat service became less prominent on the library’s web site.


Chat Reference Patrons

Responses to the question about chat patrons was limited, but a respondent noted that while both students and faculty at their library use the chat service, students make up more of the users. Response to the question about satisfaction was also limited, but a respondent noted that feelings about the service are overwhelmingly positive.


Training for libraries operating in a consortial environments

There were a number of options used by libraries for training across institutions. These included shared screen walk-throughs of the chat interface, wikis and policy documents that are accessible to those staffing the service, to internal training within member libraries. One respondent noted that up to date and thorough policy pages were very important to those staffing the service. Some chat services, such as QuestionPoint allow a staff person to mark a question as needing follow up by the patron’s home library, which even with extensive policy pages, can be a better way to serve patrons.

VR EForum Day 2 Summary
Wednesday, July 16, 2015


How are you counting stats for your chat reference?

  • The most usable numbers are:
    • How many questions are our students asking?
    • How many questions are we answering?
    • Tracking when questions get asked, particularly before/after hours for those participating in a shared environment like QuestionPoint
    • Checking to see if enough local questions are being answered by local staff


How is your chat service being marketed? Is it through instruction sessions, print or online marketing, or word of mouth? If your library’s virtual reference client offers a widget, where is the widget placed?

  • Newsletters, video displays
  • Mention during Tours
  • Promote in classes
  • Outreach to local schools
  • Facebook
  • Student orientation
  • Widgets  placement – some had on all pages, some prominently featured on homepage, one mentioned including whenever a catalog search generated zero results



Are you satisfied with your chat software? Enhancements you'd like?

  • Enhancements desired:
    • Would like screen sharing
    • Skype/webcam option
    • More robust reporting, easier to manipulate transcripts

What types of software do you use in conjunction with your chat software to enhance the user experience?

  • No responses