WA Secretary of State Blogs

Ask WA- Washington’s Virtual Reference Cooperative

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, For the Public, Technology and Resources | No Comments »

aubriImagine you are out and about and have a burning question.  Or maybe you have a big paper due tomorrow and there is something you need to cite that defies all logic.  What do you do?   Pull out your smartphone or tablet, or log on to the internet and Ask a Librarian of course.  Ask WA is the statewide virtual reference cooperative coordinated by Washington State Library.  Nearly 60 public and academic libraries around the state take part in the program.  Ask WA is also part of a global network of libraries that are available to answer questions 24/7.  Yes that’s right, 24/7.

Now imagine you are a teenager and the idea of actually visiting a library or talking to a librarian is either too scary or soooo uncool. But honestly you still need their help.  Ask WA is the perfect solution.  With the thought in mind that teenagers have their phones practically glued to them and love text as a form of communication, Whatcom County Library’s Ask WA Administrator, Aubri Keleman decided to do something about pairing the two.  Working with school librarians in her service area Aubri arranged a day where she could visit eleven classes of middle schoolers to demonstrate the service.   Just that statement sounds a little overwhelming but the preparation involved was so much more.  While the service has librarians available around the clock, having 30 students login at one time is more than it can handle, particularly all day long.  But it’s a cooperative right?  Whatcom County librarians as well as librarians from all over the state and even country volunteered to take on extra shifts.  Aubri created a great list of Q&A’s for the kids to use so that the librarians would be prepared with good answers.  The big day arrived and we were off to the races!

Over the course of the school day Aubri visited the classes, demoed the chat service and then had the kids login and try it.  315 questions were asked and answered in that one school day.  They wouldn’t be Middle Schoolers if there weren’t a few “Yo dog” type of questions but on the whole the kids were polite and asked good questions.  (An aside, the school librarian explained that “yo dog” is a sign of respect!)  Aubri reported that they were excited to be chatting with a real person, and wanted to know about them.   They were really excited when they got someone from out of state and of course, they loved having permission in school to pull out their phones.

Comments from the kids:

“Thanks that was awesome!”

“That was very helpful”

“Thank you that is exactly what I was looking for.”

“They were very helpful! Thank You!”

It sounds like the day was a big success and that the 7th and 8th graders of Mount Baker Middle School have discovered a new way to get help with their homework.

Currently almost 60 libraries and library systems in Washington participate in Ask WA. Are you interested in learning how your library can participate? Just contact Ask WA Coordinator Nono Burling.

Virtual Reference in Prison

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 Posted in Articles, Institutional Library Services | No Comments »

Librarians at Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, Washington Corrections Center Shelton, and Washington State Penitentiary, have started using kiosks at their local institutions to send overdue notices and hold pickup notices to offenders. We are also answering questions submitted by offenders.  The result has been even better than expected!  At Coyote Ridge, we have drastically reduced our paper usage by sending the notices over the kiosk.  The new system is a win-win for staff and offenders alike; correctional officers don’t have to distribute the paper notices to individual offenders, and offenders get their notices instantly. Quicker delivery of notices may even shorten the time that high demand items will sit on the hold shelf, waiting to be retrieved.

 I have also noticed a growing volume of “electronic mail” (kiosk version) that we are receiving from offenders, now that they realize they can send messages to the library’s electronic mailbox.  I’ve received countless messages that simply thank us for our services, and some that make suggestions for improvement or ask us to purchase their favorite books and music.  They also ask questions about library policies and ask us to check their accounts for overdue items, and attempt to resolve item return issues over the kiosk. 

The beauty of this new system is, to me, three-fold: 1) offenders are learning how to communicate effectively in an electronic world, a skill that is critical for successful re-entry, 2) conflict resolution is handled in writing, rather than face-to-face, which may encourage both parties to think about what they say before they say it, and 3) both offenders and staff are able to communicate in a much more efficient and organized way.  I can send messages to multiple offenders at once, and I can send them instantly rather than waiting 1-4 days for mail delivery and response time.  I can also answer questions in batches, rather than responding immediately every time someone has a question the library clerks can’t answer, and without asking offenders to wait in line at the counter to talk to a staff person. I can’t help but think this is the prison equivalent of virtual reference, and that is exciting!

Ask-WA(tch): Stats, Kudos and Comments for Dec 2009

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010 Posted in Articles, For Libraries | 2 Comments »

Ask-WA Statistics – December, 2009

December Survey Comments WordcloudDecember tends to be a slower month for Ask-WA, mainly because academic traffic drops off so sharply during the holiday breaks. In numbers:

  • Email questions received: 3319
  • Chat sessions requested: 3474
  • Chat sessions accepted: 2883
  • Qwidget requests (% of total): 791 (22.8%)

On a positive note, our answering percentage rose from its dangerously low 74% last month up to 83% in December, which is ideal. The best part is that this higher ratio is due to every cooperative maintaining a good ratio in December (as opposed to one group doing super-well and raising the rest up). Qwidget requests, as a percentage, rose from November to come back up to their average 20-25% level.

The word cloud highlights some of the most-used words left in survey comments throughout December. Some great words this month include: amazing, awesome, prompt, kind, helpful, useful, and wonderful.

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Ask-WA(tch): Stats, Kudos and Comments for Nov 2009

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009 Posted in Articles, For Libraries | No Comments »

Ask-WA Statistics – November, 2009

November Survey Comments Wordcloud Ask-WA slowed down a bit in November compared to October, but since we were super-extra busy in October, that isn’t saying too much. November numbers were still well ahead of September, August, and July numbers, especially in terms of chat sessions requested. In numbers:

  • Email questions received: 3743
  • Chat sessions requested: 4912
  • Chat sessions accepted: 3645
  • Qwidget requests (% of total): 965 (19.6%)

As a cooperative we maintained an answering percentage of 74% for the month, which is down significantly from previous months, and falls just below our goal percentage of 75%. This is due to some drag in the public cooperative, but I’m sure we can dust ourselves off and bring the numbers back up! Chat continues to dominate email, though both services remain well-used. Qwidget traffic dropped this month to just under 20%, down from a fairly consistent 25% in previous months.

The word cloud highlights some of the most-used words left in survey comments throughout November. Some great words this month include: wonderful, excellent, fast, quick, great, impressed, and love.

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Ask-WA(tch): Stats, Kudos and Comments for Oct 2009

Monday, November 16th, 2009 Posted in Articles, For Libraries | No Comments »

October Survey Comments Wordcloud Ask-WA Statistics – October, 2009

Ask-WA picked up significantly in October, beating September and August in every category. Except Qwidget requests, which remained about even, percentage-wise. In numbers:

  • Email questions received: 4287
  • Chat sessions requested: 5303
  • Chat sessions accepted: 4343
  • Qwidget requests (% of total): 1282 (24.2%)

As a cooperative we maintained an answering percentage of 81.9% for the month, which is down nearly 5% from September (probably because of the increased traffic), but remains well over the goal rate of 75%. Keep up the good work! The email aspect of the service continues to enjoy plenty of traffic, though the chat service blossomed this month and beat email by over 1,000 questions. Qwidget traffic remains consistent at around 1/4th of the total chat traffic.

The word cloud highlights some of the most-used words left in survey comments throughout October. The larger the word, the more it was used, so it’s nice to be able to easily pick out (because of their size), words like: great, helpful, wonderful, excellent, useful, impressed, nice, easy, and love.

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Internet Librarian, Day 3 – Tuesday, Oct 27 2009 – #IL2009

Friday, October 30th, 2009 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, Technology and Resources, Training and Continuing Education | No Comments »

image Day three started off with a funny and interesting keynote with Paul Holdengraber (who had interviewed Vint Cerf the previous day), and continued in good form with some great sessions. Paul talked a lot about the Live from the NYPL series they do and as opposed to doing straight author readings. They record these sessions and they are available on the website, so you should check some of them out.

Sessions on Day 3 include:

  • Keynote: Libraries of the Future: Places of Desire
    Paul Holdengraber, Director of Public Programs, New York Public Library
  • Making Virtual Reference Multidimensional
    William Breitbach & Mike Demars, California State University @ Fullerton
    Linda Bedwell, Dalhousie University Libraries
  • Web 2.0 for Tough Times
    Jaye Lapachet, Camille Reynolds, Kendra K. Levine
  • Library Website Improvement Face-Off
    David Lee King, Frank Cervone, Amanda Etches-Johnson, Aaron Schmidt, Jeff Wisniewski

Other IL posts: Index | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4

Full session notes available after the cut.

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Ask-WA(tch): Stats, Kudos and Comments for Sept 2009

Thursday, October 8th, 2009 Posted in Articles, For Libraries | No Comments »

Ask-WA Statistics – September, 2009

September Survey Comments WordcloudAsk-WA maintained a busy service during the month of September, and chat picked up slightly over August as schools came back into session. In numbers:

  • Email questions received: 3707
  • Chat sessions requested: 3457
  • Chat sessions accepted: 2993
  • Qwidget requests (% of total): 848 (24.5%)

As a cooperative we maintained an answering percentage of 86.6% for the month, which is a good 2% over last month, and remains well over the goal rate of 75%. Keep up the good work! The email aspect of the service remains robust, and continues to outpace chat ever-so-slightly. Qwidget traffic remains around 1/4th of the total chat traffic.

The word cloud highlights some of the most-used words left in survey comments throughout September.

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Ref22: Using Screencasts in Virtual Reference

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, Training and Continuing Education | No Comments »

Ref22 Word Cloud What: Ref22: “Using Screencasts in Virtual Reference”
When: Tuesday, October 13th, 8:30 – 9:30 am PST
Where: Wimba WA_TrainingRoom1

Tuesday, October 13th, we will host our very first webinar in what will be a monthly series called Ref22 (it’s “22” because it’s the 2nd Tuesday of every month). Ref22 is meant for reference and virtual reference librarians in particular, and will cover a variety of interesting and practical topics.

This month we are happy to feature Lauren Ray, Educational Outreach Services Librarian at the University of Washington Libraries, who will present on “Using Screencasts in Virtual Reference”.

The webinar will begin at 8:30am, and will last approximately one hour (including time for questions). It will take place via Wimba, and an archived version will be available if you can’t make the live session.

Instructions for Wimba are here: http://www.secstate.wa.gov/library/libraries/training/wimba.aspx.

If you have speakers or topics you’d like covered in future sessions, please get in touch. In the meantime, hope to see you there!

Join Ask-WA for Free in 2010

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 Posted in Articles, For Libraries, Technology and Resources | No Comments »

AskWa_WSVRC Dear libraries of Washington State,

Are your users on the internet? I’m willing to bet that a lot of them are.

Do they use chat software to communicate? IM tools like ICQ and AIM have been around since 1996/1997 (respectively), and companies like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo! all provide IM services. Chat and IM aren’t new, and lots of people use them to communicate with friends, family, and colleagues.

Chat and email are probably the two most-used methods for online communication.

So, can your users employ these methods to contact your library? To ask you questions? To tap into your expertise?

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Get great answers to tough questions, online and 24/7.

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009 Posted in Articles, For the Public, Technology and Resources | No Comments »

Your librarians will answer your questions, day or night.

Have you ever had a question you couldn’t answer? Has Google left you empty-handed – or overwhelmed? Have you considered asking an expert for help?

Your library has professional information specialists (we just call them librarians) who know how to go beyond Google to find you the information you need. And now asking a librarian is just as convenient as searching the Web.

Over 60 libraries in Washington State have joined together to form Ask-WA, a statewide cooperative of libraries in Washington that is in turn part of a larger, global cooperative. Using Ask-WA’s easy online chat service you can get a quality answer within minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Ask-WA’s friendly librarians are ready to help you with any question — from checking that pesky fact to helping you get started on in-depth research. Whatever your question, Ask-WA has answers from a professional you can trust.

In August, 2009, Washington residents used Ask-WA services through their local libraries to ask nearly 7,000 questions. Those who use the service are thrilled, and within just the last month have left such positive comments as:

“The librarian who helped me was excellent and I loved how he was able to link things that he was talking about directly on to my computer. Fantastic service – thanks for having it!”

“This was so easy, a high school student could do it. It’s nice to get information from REAL people once in a while.”

“I had been looking for this book through the Internet and it took me so long and I didn’t find it. I should of known I could chat with someone and have them as a professional find it for me! It took them about 1 to 2 minutes! That was awesome! Thanks!”

“We are so fortunate to have this service available. Incredible!”

Have a question that needs answering? Need help with genealogical research, citation styles, finding research-quality resources, or just settling a bet? No question is too big or too small.

Get answers now through your library’s web site, or ask via the official Ask-WA page at http://ask.wa.gov. For more information, or to find out if your library is participating in Ask-WA, contact the staff at your local library.