Reinventing Help

Michele Hampshire, Emerging Technologies Specialist, Contra Costa County Library
Valerie Zito, Business Services Library Specialist

Michele: Foot traffic, new library cards, number of questions asked is increasing despite the loss of public service hours, and virtual refere Lce is projected to increase 200%. Contra Costa decided to implement help in the form of social systems: LibGuides, LibAnswers, and links to chat, email. You really want to work more with LibGuides than LibAnswers.

LibAnswers is a knowledge database; patrons ask questions, add information, submit answers; staff can add answers to the knowledge base or reply privately to asker. Some topics are how to make financial donations (paypal);  referrals.  There is a place for public to “improve” the answer. Both products come from  springshare.com and would cost $600-1000/yr, dependin on the size of the library.

Valerie: The business connection libguide is the only one right now on the library’s front page; others on subject guides/research page, but will be featured soon.  The business LibgGuide is intended for those starting small business and for staff to help people with questions. The software is easy for non-coders to use.  You can see what other libraries have created and borrow/edit material from them with permission. Springshare provides statistics.

Q- Is a library card needed to access the libguides?
A. No.

Q-Are the libguides cataloged?
A-We created MARC records and they can be found in the OPAC.

Q-What is the feedback from patrons?
A-Not much yet; wish there was a way to reply to comments. In creating theguides, you can add widget that allows patrons to add star ratings.

Q-Is the ref staff pushing it?
A-Yes; especially in virtual reference.

Q-how many looking at them?
A- Every whole guide has stats; DIY not much, business 1500 hits/month

Q-Are they indexed by Google?
A-We have seen them in search results.

Q-Will they replace bibliographies?
A-Completely!

Q-Are you using them to promote e-resources?
A-We include links, but users will need to authentiate. The guides also can link to search results, but to read the articles, you need to authenticate.

Q-How do you handle requests for reciprocal links?
A-It’s not an issue – few requests.

Q-Since you’re maintaining 20 guides – how divided among staff?
A-Each guide can be shared. You can also work on it a little at a time and make features visible as completed. people at all staff levels contribute.

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2 responses to “Reinventing Help

  1. The Contra Costa Library’s remodeled web site just went online. E-services seem to be featured.

    • Thanks for the tip! I’ll show it to our IT team today, because we’re also an Innovative library here in Sacramento. I had fun exploring the visual catalog.

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