Answerland Goings-On

Answerland Goings-On, October 2018

The Answerland newsletter is back! If you have questions or news to share, let me know! -Tamara, Answerland Coordinator (tamara.ottum@state.or.us)

Annual Report

The FY18 Annual Report has been published! Take a look to see a summary of last year’s activities, usage, and staffing.

Quality Team

The Answerland Quality Team has been hard at work revamping the quality rubric, best practices, and Quality Team webpage. They are looking for mentors to help guide the next generation of Answerlanders; apply today!

Assessment

The year-long assessment project has come to a close. See the final report for results and recommendations. One of the outcomes of that project is the formation of a subgroup to investigate new software options and service models. Stay tuned for findings!

Patrons Chat Back

Recent comments from our survey…

  • “I’m impressed with the way the question was handled; not an answer directly, but a guided support to find the answer myself.”
  • “Chat was friendly and helpful and they left a note for my librarian to get back to me for some additional help.”
  • “Thanks for offering this service! It sure helped me without having to go to the library first.”
  • “The librarian I was connected to was very helpful in recommending titles at my local library that would provide the information I was looking for!”
  • “Very prompt and convenient! Keep it up!”
  • “I was very happy with the service. It steered me in the right direction, and the librarian was very helpful and precise. I appreciated it very much, and would not hesitate to use it again.”
Answerland Goings-On

Answerland Goings-On 4/11/16

What’s Going On with Answerland and the RFP?

The RFP has been published! The closing date for proposals is next Monday, April 18th, after which an evaluation team will review the proposals. We are planning to select a vendor in early May and have the new software up and running by mid-June.

In the meantime, I am working on getting everything ready for the great migration. You may be already getting emails from me about data cleanup. This is a good time to review your library’s policy page and make sure the information is correct.

Once the new software is in place, I am expecting the vendor to deliver 3-5 onsite trainings throughout Oregon. These will be focused on getting existing Answerland users familiar with the new platform. I plan on resuming the full-day trainings for new staff and volunteers sometime in the Fall.

Comings and Goings

Goodbye to Erin Sharwell (Hillsboro). Congratulations on your new opportunities. Answerland will miss you!

Greetings Rachel Kenny (State Library) and Gabriela Martinez Mercier (Columbia Gorge Community College). Answerland is glad to have you aboard!

Tamara’s Tips for Working with K-12 Students

  • If you ever find yourself in the middle of a ‘class bomb,’ give me or a fellow librarian a shout-out on Spark!
  • Use OSLIS. Not only does it have databases, but also information literacy tips and tutorials and citation makers. Our OSLIS policy page has info about accessing the databases.
  • If you find out about a particularly difficult assignment or have tips to share about a specific school project, post them to the forum.
  • Don’t hesitate to report inappropriate behavior to me. I have had success reaching out to teachers and media specialists who are grateful for the heads up and can remind students about online etiquette.
  • Watch “K thnx, working with teens online,” a presentation by Susan Smallsreed (MCL) and Ian Duncanson (Beaverton City Library) at OVRS. They have good insight into what is going on inside teens’ heads and what it means for serving them online.
  • Read “Do You Have Prince Albert in a Can? Or, When Bored Tweens Use Chat Reference” by Nicollette Sosulski. She illustrates a great way to handle pranking teens.

Patrons Chat Back
(a sampling of the last two months)

  • “Great service to reach a librarian other than phone or personal visit. Got my questions answered promptly. Will use it again.”
  • “I just learned about your service when I went onto my library site to see if they had the resource I was looking for and lo and behold found your site. I contacted you on the slim chance that you could help me locate something within 24 hours during term break! The librarian responded right away, he was clear in his remarks and gave me helpful info for the future (even though he was not able to locate exactly what I was searching for by !tomorrow!) I really appreciated his help anyway! I definitely will share my positive experience with others… Thank you very, very much!”
  • “How wonderful! A librarian from Queens (NY) just helped me find Oregon census data. Just what I needed and the librarian was very helpful. Even on a Saturday!”
  • “Being new to college after +30 years, I didn’t grasp what my instructor was wanting, but the librarian led me to a road I was able to travel to find the information I needed to turn in a great assignment. Thank you librarian and Answerland.org for being here on Sunday to help. I’d still be wandering if not for you.”
  • “Thank you! It was very easy to use and I found some great sources that would most likely not have come up on a google search.”
  • “This service was invaluable as it allowed me to quickly answer questions I had on my own time. The chat feature was especially useful because I didn’t have to wait for an email to be returned. The librarian quickly understood my problem and helped me take steps to find the information I needed.”
  • “I thought I would be up the creek without a paddle because the weekend has started and I have to write my first college research paper and never bothered to figure out how to access the library’s online databases. Alas, the librarian saved the day by giving me a link to all of the scholarly articles I could ever hope to access for this project. Thank you.”
  • “this was very helpful for finding awesome graphic novels!”
  • “My librarian was amazingly helpful. Librarians are awesome. She was very quick and located my source in what seemed like seconds. Wonderful. Wonderful.”
Answerland Goings-On

Answerland Goings-On 2/8/16

What’s going on with the RFP?

The RFP for new software was slated to be out sometime in January or February. Unfortunately, we have encountered significant delays in the process. According to the new timeline, the RFP should be released to the public on March 3rd with evaluations scheduled in April.  If all goes well, we could expect implementation of the new software to occur in early June.

I know that there are several problems with our current software, and that new glitches seem to be appearing every day. I want to assure you that the State Library is doing everything we can to encourage expeditious progress of this RFP. I will keep you apprised of further details as I know them.

Comings and Goings

Greetings Kelsey Domingo (Concordia University) and Rya Agatep (COCC). Answerland is glad to have you aboard!

Featured Resource: LearningExpress Library

Getting questions about improving computer skills, practicing math skills, standardized tests, or job searching? Have you tried introducing patrons to LearningExpress Library?

LearningExpress Library is available to public, academic, tribal, and school libraries as part of the Statewide Database Licensing Program. All Oregonians can also directly access it through Libraries of Oregon.

It includes practice tests for math and reading skills and standardized tests like the GRE and SAT, videos tutorials for computers skills, e-books, resume-building tools and more! The resources are organized into themes:

  • School Center (grades 4–12)
  • College Center
  • High School Equivalency Center
  • College Preparation Center
  • Career Center
  • Adult Learning Center
  • Recursos para Hispanhoblantes (Spanish) Centers
  • Computer Skills Center
  • Job & Career Accelerator

This product sheet details what is available in each center.

I think it’s a great reference resource, and recommend you check it out!

Patrons Chat Back

  • “I think this is a very good service. I wish that I had known about it long ago.”
  • “Great service. Awesome librarian! I got all the help I needed!”
  • “Thanks! Fast response on a Saturday – love it!”
  • “It’s nice to be able to chat with a librarian during late hours”
  • “Great work. Keep it up.”
  •  “The assistance was helpful, and the person who helped me was very kind. They knew how to help me, and they even searched my topic alongside me to help! Overall this was a wonderful experience and I will definitely be using this service in the future!”
  • “I really appreciate the 24/7… I only have a few minutes a day to do this research”
  • “I can’t thank you enough for helping me find something and place it on hold. I have tried the very library I want it at…but it has been months and several forms filled out. Thank you for having staff to find it and place it on hold for me. I tired even old card catalogs and it wasn’t in there. I look forward to using this option again, when I can’t find something.”
Answerland Goings-On

Answerland Goings-On 1/08/16

What’s going on with Answerland?The RFP for new software is working its way through the state administrative process. I will let you know when it is officially published.

The Answerland Advisory Committee is working on re-creating bylaws, since it is now part of the State Library Board structure. The bylaws, as well as committee membership, will be presented to the LSTA Advisory Council (to whom the Answerland Advisory Committee will be reporting) at their May meeting.

Statistics for Fall Quarter (Sept – Dec)

  • Chats: 5,541
  • Texts: 286
  • Emails: 247
  • Total: 6,074 (about 66 questions per day)

Goodbye to….

…  Elena Gold and Catherine McMullen (Multnomah County Library). Congratulations on your new opportunities. Answerland will miss you!

Pranksters

Dealing with inappropriate behavior is one of the least enjoyable, yet unavoidable, part of our jobs as virtual reference librarians. Last month, while watching one of my favorite holiday movies, Mixed Nuts, I was reminded that it helps to keep a sense of humor about it. Here’s a great scene in which Madeline Kahn, whose character is a crisis hotline employee, deals with a prank caller.

If you are feeling frustrated by pranksters, I recommend watching (or perhaps re-watching) Dawn Lowe-Wincentsen’s presentation from last year’s Oregon Virtual Reference Summit, There’s an Elk in the Living Room: How to Handle Prank Calls. It’s a great refresher on what is a prank, what is not a prank, and how best to deal with them.

Patrons Chat Back

  • “I was surprised to get help at this hour (9:50 pm) but the librarian that helped me told me everything I needed to know. The chat is a great service.”
  • “The librarians who help make this service work are very kind and helpful.”
  • “Librarians are helpfully, but they think I can’t use Google. I do. So when I’m looking for something answers like “Google it like “lalala AND dadada” and you can get 2128172382142348 hits about your question is TRULY not helps me. So that is my main problem with the problem-solvers.”
  • “Great service!!!!!!!!!!”
  • “It would be helpful to know what an average wait time for your service is.”
  • “In an age of instant gratification this service is perfect!”
  • “They did not exactly help me with what I needed to find out. I wish they would have said what they thought.”
  • “Give [the librarian] a raise….”
Answerland Goings-On

Answerland Goings-On 12/7/15

What’s going on with Answerland?We are making good progress on the RFP for new software. I am working on gathering an evaluation team to review proposals early next year.

It has been decided that the Answerland Advisory Committee will be reporting to the LSTA Council, which reports to the State Library Board. I am hoping the current members can meet in January to begin discussing the software transition and development of a new companion website.

Comings and Goings

Greetings Beth Gilbert (Hillsboro Public Library); Matthew Neer (Eugene Public Library); Shantelle Salyer (Multnomah County Library); Clare Sobotka (Linn-Benton Community College Library); and Meggie Wright (Linn-Benton Community College Library). Answerland is glad to have you aboard!

Farewell Ellen Francesa (Volunteer), Kim Gorman (Linn-Benton Community College) and Keli Yeats (volunteer). Answerland will miss you!

Scheduling

Due to our current staffing shortage, I have acquired extended QuestionPoint coverage from OCLC. They will now be covering Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 6-8pm, in addition to their usual coverage.

I also want to say many thanks to those who have stepped up and taken on extra shifts to fill in gaps in our coverage!

Washington Virtual Reference Conference

We are not holding our annual Summit conference this year, due to all of the ongoing changes with Answerland. However, Washington State is holding its first statewide VR conference on March 18th at Highline College. Nono Burling, my Washington State counterpart, has invited Oregon librarians to present. If you are interested, use this form to submit.  The deadline for proposals is January 15, 2016.

Fun Facts about Tamara

  • Oregon is the fourth Pacific state in which I have lived. (I think I’ll save Hawaii for my retirement years.) I have also lived in two out of the six New England states.
  • I have worked in libraries for over 17 years. I have held student, paraprofessional, and professional positions of various types (circulation, information literacy, reference, rural outreach, shelving, systems) in both public and academic libraries. The majority of my professional experience is in community colleges.
  • I grew up in a musical family, and began playing the piano at 3 years old and violin at age 8. The list of instruments that my family play include accordion, cello, clarinet, flute, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, saxophone, and voice.

“The moral bias behind your search results”

I watched this TedTalk recently and found it very interesting. It’s a good reminder for those of us in the reference field.

Patrons Chat Back

  • “I was having a hard time finding an article and was getting upset. It was nice to see there was help from our college library. I found the article myself but felt grateful that I would have someone help me when I needed it at 10 PM.”
  • “Yes, I really love your system, but I wish the librarians could respond faster. Now, my chat was at 8:15pm and I know they technically stop at 8 so I get it, but yeah this website is going to help me so much in my school career!”
  • “Initial response/connection lagged but peachy from there forward. [Librarian] was succinct yet personable….grand experience.”
  •  “[The librarian] was so helpful! I was having trouble using my library’s catalog for a specific search, and this extraordinary librarian walked me though a complex search process. This was especially amazing since the librarian is from a different library system with a different catalog. Yea for librarians! Yeah for Library Chat!”
  • “The person seemed knowledgeable about the available resources but did not seem to listen to the key point of my issue, that I live 200 miles away from the library and needed an online article. Repeating myself multiple times is frustrating.”
  • “It was wonderful to have such a quick response time.”
  • “I used this service because I wanted to find out why I could not log into my account. […] I thought the chat service is 24/7 and was hoping that my issue would be solved. But I was told that access to the users account is only available when the library is open. […] It would be very helpful if this kind of issue can be solved after hours.”
  •  “Your librarian seemed a little overworked, i could easily tell he was handling multiple people. at least 3 including me if not more. this reduces the overall quality of the help people receive. However, the help i received was just what i needed. I would recommend having a few more staff members on call.”
  • “Great service, quick answer!”
  •  “This is the most help I could ask for.”
Answerland Goings-On

Answerland Goings-On 11/2/15

What’s going on with Answerland?This summer the oversight of Answerland was successfully transitioned from Multnomah County Library to Oregon State Library. Enough cannot be said about those who not only participated in the changeover but also kept the service running. Many thanks to our volunteer coordinators, June Bass (Multnomah County) and Robin Speer (State Library), and to the Answerland transition team: Cindy Gibbon, Darci Hanning, Kelly Most, Emily Papagni, and Rachael Short!

The next step is to upgrade to a new platform. The State Library is in the final stages of crafting an RFP; we hope to have a new system up and running by early March. I will keep you apprised of our progress.

I am also in the process of reconvening the Answerland Advisory Board. I am aiming to have a membership list by the end of the year so that the State Library Board can approve it at their January meeting.

Last but not least, we will not be holding a 2016 Oregon Virtual Reference Summit, due to the transition and upgrade. However, Washington State is putting on their first ever Virtual Reference conference in March 2016. Stay tuned for more information!

Goodbye to….

…  Laura Cecil (Volunteer), Judy Chen (Multnomah County Library), Sara Kelso (Tigard Public Library), Linda McGough (Multnomah County Library), and Morgan Sohl (Driftwood Public Library).

Congratulations on your new opportunities. Answerland will miss you!

Statistics

Yes, statistics are down from the previous year. We attribute this to transitional staff changeover and lack of time for marketing, recruiting, and training. Once we have the new software in place, we will be revitalizing the service – so get ready!

  • July: 1,261 chats, 85 emails, 109 texts (down 25% from July 2015)
  • August: 1,152 chats, 68 emails, 97 texts (down 16% from August 2015)
  • September: 1,391 chats, 76 emails, 100 texts (down 21% from September 2015)
  • October: 2,246 chats, 87 emails, 119 texts (down 16% from October 2015)

Here Comes Santa Claus

Well, not quite yet… but the holiday season is fast approaching. This is a reminder that Answerland will be closed for Veterans Day (Nov. 11), Thanksgiving (Nov. 26-27), Christmas (Dec. 24-25), and New Years (Dec.31-Jan 1.).  All shifts for those days will be dropped. Also, if you are planning on taking any vacation in addition to these days, please remember to drop your shifts. It helps if you can drop your shift by the Wednesday before the day it is scheduled, so that everyone will get notified that it is available and have the chance to pick it up.

Patrons Chat Back

(A sampling from the last 4 months)

  •  “Great information and immediate help! I really appreciated the additional websites the librarian referred me to. Thank you!”
  • “I bookmarked this site. It is a very helpful tool.”
  •  “I received online help with an account question I had. It was very prompt and courteous. Thanks!”
  • “The librarian suddenly closed my session. He said he had to close up. I thought this service was a 24/7 day operation.”
  •  “I learned about interlibrary loans today! In the middle of the night, no less. And I was able to request a book that isn’t in my current library system and I’m really excited to hear back about my loan request.”
  • “You should have more librarians on at once, my friends had to wait 45 minutes to use this, please consider what i said.”
  • “What a great way to communicate with the library, genius.”
  •  “This is not about this particular chat with this person, because he was thorough and helpful. But, I have noticed that the chat librarians the last few times I contacted them were not keen on looking up information for me. They wanted me to go to the research tools page and look for the information myself. It is not that I am against looking in the research tools, but I would think that the chat librarians could serve a more useful purpose than merely guiding every single patron with a question to the research tools page. I remember the good old days of chatting with the librarian where they would actually have reference books (I think) as opposed to just the internet to refer to and actually find answers I was not able to find on my own with my limited resources. I always do my online research before I go to ask a librarian. When I go to ask a librarian, I really want information I was not able to find. I miss the days when I could chat with a librarian and receive information. I wonder how often nowadays they feel they are just there to tell people to use research tools on the library page. Sorry to be so negative. But, I feel sorry for the librarians nowadays. It wasn’t like this in the past. I have many saved transcripts to prove it.”
Answerland Goings-On

Answerland goings-on 6/25/15

Hi Everyone,

The transition of Answerland administration from Multnomah County Library to Oregon State Library is fast approaching! As you saw in the recent email from State Librarian MaryKay Dahlgreen, the temporary coordinator will be in place on July 7, and in the meantime OSL staff is there to keep things running and to support you. (MaryKay’s email included all the necessary contact information – if you missed it, let me know!)

Josephine Community Libraries video with an Answerland cameo

Recently Josephine Community Libraries shared a video about their services that emphasized all the ways that the statewide LSTA grants support their community. It is a wonderful video all-around, but at the 2:10 mark is something extra special: an Answerland success story.

Answerland closed on July 4

Answerland is closed all day for Independence Day. Enjoy the holiday! (Answerland is open on July 3 – if your library is closed that day please be sure to drop your shift.)

Saturdays & Sundays

If you need a password reset or something similar on a Saturday or Sunday, you can still contact me, Rachael Short. I will have a different job within Multnomah County Library, but I can still help, and I will.

Annual report for…last year

I recently posted the full Annual Report for 2013-14 on our Statistics page. This is the report with how many hours each partner library staffed the statewide queue, how many questions patrons from each Oregon library asked, and the like. I hope that it still proves helpful in spite of the late date.

Congratulations Emily Stockdale!

Volunteer Emily Stockdale has been a part of Answerland for more than three years. Now she is moving on – to be a Librarian at the Woodburn Public Library! Congratulations, and thank you so much for the hours you gave and questions you answered.

Answerland theme song?

I recently stumbled upon a song called Answerland by the Berlin-based musician Planningtorock. It’s a sort of electronic dirge with the word “Answerland” repeated mournfully again and again.

Patrons chat back

It would be nice to have the title of the book, not just the link, because the links are hard to see in the chat text box, otherwise fantastic service.

Your site is wonderful.

Comments on after hours (QuestionPoint) chats:

Miriam was fantastic! She went above and beyond and helped me find just what I needed! I’m so relieved that I now have the ebook needed for my class (which i’m currently sitting in). Thank you Miriam for all of your help!

I appreciate the time and effort spent to help me with my problem.