In the time of COVID-19, AskWA

In the time of COVID-19, AskWA

AskWA is the Statewide Virtual Reference Cooperative — a team of over 50 academic and public libraries across our state who band together to help provide email and 24/7 chat reference services with the help of a global network of librarians. Never has there been a more relevant time for virtual reference services for library users across our state and our globe, as in person reference services have become impossible due to health and safety concerns. Though many AskWA librarians are now working from home or work sites that are closed to the public, they continue to stay connected and provide professional, reliable, and trustworthy assistance to Washingtonians with information needs.

Greg Bem, Faculty Library Coordinator at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology Library Learning Commons works from home.
Greg Bem, Faculty Library Coordinator at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology Library Learning Commons works from home.

Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland found themselves at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak and their library and campus were among the first to close down physical access to staff and students. Acting swiftly for the safety of their community, they moved classes online. Librarians began hosting regular Open Reference sessions via Zoom and developed a system to distribute tablets to students who needed them.

In public library land, the King County Library System has updated the automated reply message that their users get after submitting an email. This message addresses COVID-19 FAQs they have been getting from their public and provides helpful links for their patrons. The canned message that they were able to provide using the current QuestionPoint software reads as follows:

“Thank you for submitting your question to King County Library System (Washington). We are currently experiencing very high email volumes. Thank you for your patience, as our response time may be longer than normal. Please review the information below for answers to some common questions.
As announced Friday March 13, all KCLS library locations are now closed to the public through April 13. Please keep items currently checked out until KCLS reopens. All due dates have been automatically extended until April 30. Our full array of online resources, including ebooks, databases, videos, music and much more is available at www.kcls.org. For more information on KCLS’ pandemic response, or to find reliable sources of information on COVID-19, please visit https://kcls.org/news/covid-19-coronavirus-information-you-can-trust/.”

Our AskWA network is currently in the process of migrating from QuestionPoint to Springshare’s LibAnswers and LibChat software. Luckily, our AskWA coordinator is able to continue working on setting up this new system and providing AskWA users with support for both the current and new software.  Sara is working at home with the same laptop she usually works on and additional help from her four-legged lap-warming colleague Jarvis.

Sara Peté, WSL Community Outreach Librarian and AskWA Coordinator, working from home with Jarvis.
Sara Peté, WSL Community Outreach Librarian and AskWA Coordinator, working from home with Jarvis.

If you have questions about the AskWA cooperative, need support using it, or would like more information about joining, please don’t hesitate to email Sara Peté at sara.pete@sos.wa.gov.

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