Virtual research services: Expanding the ways students find information

Photo taken prior to March 2020

When students and faculty moved to remote teaching in March, the libraries immediately began to ramp up remote reference services. Chat or “real time” service, then a smaller piece of our outreach portfolio, was expanded to a system-wide service. The libraries also knew we already had a number of commonly-asked questions in our Ask A Librarian FAQ database and felt that repurposing some of that content would benefit our campus.  A team was formed to update and share the content, to coordinate synchronic and asynchronous reference channels, and develop best practices and guidelines for training and providing reference services.

225 FAQ questions were rewritten and posted and 17 new questions were added. The team also wrote a best practices guide based on an Association of Research Libraries survey which they created and provided training for library staff. A volunteer group of 35 librarians covered 740 new chat shifts between March 16 and July 30. The system handled 1187 live chats and answered 2749 Ask A Librarian requests. When the libraries began to offer distanced book pick up, this group became the initial triage point for book requests, helping Resource Sharing Services (formerly Interlibrary Loan) manage the increased demand.