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A day in the life of a chat librarian

4078540366_2f3029dfb8_oAubri Keleman of Whatcom County Public Library was born to be a chat librarian.  Well honestly she was born to be ANY sort of librarian, but today I want to tell you about one of her evening shifts covering the Ask WA queue for WCLS.  Ask WA, you ask, what is Ask WA? Ask WA is a cooperative of public and academic libraries around the state which work together along with librarians around the world to provide 24/7 access to library services.

Aubri’s day started out fairly routine with a sixth grader from a Washington library trying to find information about a bookmark contest.  He was the winner for his branch and was excited to receive his prize.  Aubri answered his question, said goodbye and signed off.

The next question though was the kind that wakes you up a little faster than you wish.  The patron asked about poison and the side effects from ingesting something not designed for human consumption. Aubri instantly responded with the 800 number and website for poison control along with a query if he had a phone.  She gave a little information and offered to keep the window open while he called, but was disconnected.

Imagine, for yourself, how she must have felt waiting and wondering if the person at the other end was all right.  Fortunately, this time, the patron logged back on a few minutes later and she was able to reconnect.  She expressed concern, encouraged a call to 911, passed along the information that in Washington we have a law that says if you take someone to the hospital you will not get into trouble.  The patron was having trouble getting poison control on the phone so Aubri herself called and relayed what she learned over chat.  With the information she provided he agreed to head to the ER and signed off leaving Aubri feeling much better about the exchange.  The sentence “You saved my life!” may have taken on a whole new meaning that night.

The final conversation that evening was a great way to end her day.  Aubri is a former teen librarian and especially loves chatting with teens.  This one started out goofy, as teen chat interactions often do.  “I might be socially awkward.”  Followed by “Sorry that was my brother!”  Within a few minutes Aubri had engaged this teen in a conversation about movies, books, and graphic novels; which ones he liked, which ones she liked and why.   She provided great book suggestions with links to his library’s catalog.  Final words from the teenager, “You are the best librarian I have talked to.  Thank you for being so nice.”

Aubri reports that she loves being a chat librarian because there is so much variety.  While every night may not provide quite such an array of questions, we are lucky in Washington to have a team of excellent and experienced chat librarians.  Haven’t tried it?  Next time you have a question from simple to complex, from goofy to life changing, you might want to have a chat with a librarian.



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2 Responses to “A day in the life of a chat librarian”

  1. Thanks for publishing this article, Nono. Academic library chatting is very seldom this dramatic but it is similarly satisfying–we’ve saved many students from the full consequences of their procrastination and saved many others a great deal of time. There are very few other places where a worker gets sincerely thanked forty times a day.

  2. These stories I think are great examples of why chat reference is so much more approachable for asking anonymous and sometimes embarrassing questions. I also loved working with teens and it’s pretty clear that the comfort afforded through this online environment feels like home to them! Thanks Nono for sharing and thanks Aubri for providing such excellent service.