Reference Duty Procedures & Information

Revision as of 15:31, 7 August 2019 by Terry Simpkins (talk | contribs)

This is primarily documentation for Librarians.

When and where do we provide reference coverage?

  • See go/askus. In general:
    --On Sunday-Wednesday from midday and in the evening, and Thursday and Friday from middday, librarians have scheduled shifts at the Research Desk. Shifts will vary based on time of year and level of need.
    --On weekday mornings and on days when there are no scheduled reference shifts (eg, intersession), librarians should respond to reference email messages and calls to the reference line.  
    --Outside of normal working hours (eg, Saturdays), librarians may respond to reference email questions.  This is not required, but it is appreciated since many questions are time-sensitive.  Grab a candy from Carrie's office for every weekend question you answer! :)
  • We ask Circulation Desk staff to refer research questions to us by phone or email at any hour.  Circ staff also are welcome to walk researchers to our offices in person.
  • If the research desk phone line (443.5496) rings in your office, your phone display will read, "for Reference Desk." Please answer the call. It will only ring in your office if the research desk is closed or otherwise unavailable. Calls to the research desk line (443.5496) first ring at the Research Desk for 10 seconds (if the research desk phone is signed in to the "hunt group"). Then, the call is forwarded to all research desk librarians' phones for 10 seconds (this must be set up for individuals by ITS). After 10 seconds, the call is forwarded to 5494 (circ) and rings there for 10 seconds. If no one picks up at circ then the library is probably closed and the call is forwarded to a voicemail recording with no voicemail box. The voicemail recording says: "Hello, you have reached the Davis Family Library Research Desk. We’re sorry we can’t answer your call right now. For Research Desk hours and for answers to common research questions, please visit go.middlebury.edu/askus, or try calling us again at another time." (Note: The PIN for the research desk voicemail is stored in Librarian Confidential.]
  • The reference email account (login: refdesk@middlebury.edu, aliases for handouts and documentation: researchdesk@middlebury.edu, rdesk@middlebury.edu) forwards to librarians who provide reference assistance.
  • The “Ask a Librarian” form on the library home page sends email to the reference email account.  
  • “Text a Librarian” (text us at 802.546.0054) forwards to the LibAnswers system, and librarians who provide reference assistance each have a LibAnswers username and password.

Who provides reference coverage?

  • All librarians are invited to provide reference coverage, in person and virtual.
  • Members of the Research and Instruction (R&I) Workgroup generally take at least two weekly shifts. All librarians who work at the Research Desk participate in Sunday and weeknight rotations. Members of the Research and Instruction (R&I) Workgroup generally take on more Sundays/weeknights than other librarians.

How is the schedule set?

  • Brenda and Carrie review statistics approximately one month before the beginning of each term (see Liaisons & Librarians Calendar).  Any proposed changes to the schedule are brought to the R&I Workgroup for discussion.
  • Shifts are assigned and updated using the Outlook calendar called "Research Desk Calendar."
  • Brenda asks librarians for scheduling preferences, then assigns shifts, following these instructions:
  1. Create the recurring shift in the calendar.
  2. Send the invitation to the librarian.
  3. Reopen the invitation for specific dates ("open this occurrence") and cancel for: a) times when we're not staffing the desk for example October break and the spring symposium, b) times when librarian has a planned absence.
  4. Assign trades for shifts when librarians have planned absences.
  5. Review the Reference calendar; double-check to be sure there are no missing shifts or double shifts.
  6. Print out the calendar in monthly view, ask Carrie to proofread. When the schedule has been confirmed, give the print-out to Amy so that Amy can add it to the Research Desk google calendar.
  • The schedule is tied to the academic calendar, with no service scheduled during intersessions and other breaks. Specifically, in the fall semester, there is NO service scheduled for the following: daytime Sunday of October break, daytime Monday and Tuesday of October break (however, we DO schedule service for evening Tuesday of October break), evening Tuesday of Thanksgiving break, daytime or evening Wednesday-Sunday of Thanksgiving break. During winter and spring: no service scheduled for winter recess, Winter Carnival, spring break or the spring student research symposium. Also, no service when the library is closed; see Library Hours for current hours, and Guidelines for setting library hours for future. Summer reference hours begin the Sunday afternoon at the start of 6-week language schools and end on the Wednesday before Commencement. Fall reference hours begin the Sunday afternoon before classes start (if starting on a Monday - verify library hours) and end on the last weekday of exam period. Winter reference hours begin on the first day of classes and end on the last day of classes. Spring reference hours begin on the first day of classes and end on the last weekday of exam period.
  • The desk will be closed during weather emergencies and in other extreme circumstances. In these situations: a) librarians should plan to be available for virtual reference, b) Carrie will notify staff at the Circulation Desk, and c) Carrie will put up a sign directing questions to virtual reference options.

Where is the schedule posted?

  • After the schedule for each term is set, Amy enters the hours in the the “Research Help” google calendar. Then, Amy asks Carrie to proofread the google calendar.
  • Before the beginning of each term: a) Amy updates the “Research help” signs that list research desk hours for the upcoming term, sends the signs to Janine and asks Janine to post them at circ desk and on bulletin boards around the library; and b) Carrie notifies Circulation Desk of research desk hours for the coming term (for example: Research Librarians On Duty).
  • Before the beginning of intersessions in June and August, a) Amy updates the “Research help” signs that tell researchers how to contact a librarian, sends the signs to Janine and asks Janine to post them at circ desk and on bulletin boards around the library; and b) Carrie tells Circulation Desk how to contact a librarian (for example: Research Desk during intersesssion.

Procedures for in-person shifts

  • Sign: Put away the "Research Desk Hours" sign and replace it with the "Research Questions?" sign (stored under the desk). Put your name in the nameplate holder.
  • Pencils: Check the pencil holders and refill as needed (pencils are in the drawer).
  • Computer: There is a monitor, a collection of cables, a keyboard and a mouse at the desk. You may use your own laptop with the monitor at the desk; just connect the necessary cables. If you use your own laptop, you may wish to change the settings so that students can view the laptop while you view the free-standing monitor. Try these steps, with laptop open: 1) Right-click on desktop, 2) Select Graphics Properties, 3) Select: Dual Display Clone, 4) Select: Primary > Notebook, 5) Select: Secondary > Digital Display.
    • The cable labelling is, hopefully, self-explanatory, with perhaps the following exceptions:
      • KEYBOARD/MOUSE = plug into laptop
      • MOUSE-->KEYBOARD = mouse cable that should remain plugged into the keyboard USB port (this reduces the # of cables we need to plug into our laptops by 1)
    • There are 2 display cables, 1 each for HDMI and mini USB ports.  You only need to use one of these, depending on the ports you have on your machine
    • There are also 2 charging cables, 1 each for PC and Mac.  Again, choose the one appropriate one for your machine
  • Phone: At the beginning of the first shift of the day/evening, change the phone settings to ring audibly. At the end of the last shift of the day/evening, change the phone settings back.
    --To change reference phone to an audible ring, press the button along the left side of the display screen labeled "Hunt Group." When the phone is signed in to the hunt group, the button is illuminated. Calls to x5496 will will first ring the phone at the research desk for 10 seconds, then ring phones in research desk librarians offices, then ring at the circulation desk. If no one picks up at the circulation desk, the call will go to a message that invites people to call again at another time or visit the go/askus/ page.
    --To silence reference phone, press the "Hunt Group" button again. When the phone is logged out of the hunt group, the button is not illuminated. Calls to x5496 won't ring the phone at the research desk. They will first ring phones in research desk librarians offices for 10 seconds, then at the circulation desk. If no one picks up at the circulation desk, the call will go to a message that invites people to call again at another time or visit the go/askus/ page.
  • All shifts: When you are on duty, you are the person responsible for in-person questions at the reference desk and questions received via chat, email and phone. So log in to LibAnswers (go/libanswers/), sign in to LibChat (see instructions below), listen for calls to x5496.
  • If you have the first shift of the day, or the evening shift, consider saying hello to the staff at the circulation desk and the HelpDesk at the beginning of your shift. This is especially useful at the beginning of the term, when there are new student workers.  Tell the students at both desks that they can refer research questions to you, and ask them if there are any outstanding issues (eg, broken printers) that you should be aware of.  
  • When you begin your shift, check the LibAnswers Dashboard. Respond to any questions that haven't yet been claimed.
  • Also, check the walkup stations for pencils and scrap paper. Refill as needed. Pencils are in the Research Desk drawer. Paper is at the Info Desk.
  • At certain times of the year, consider putting out the candy bowl and the candy sign. This is up to you, and it's pretty informal. We don't want the candy bowl out all the time (it's more noticeable if it's not always there). Candy bowl, candy (if available), and candy sign are outside Carrie's office (LIB209) in the "Ask a librarian" file cabinet.
  • Mornings and other times outside scheduled coverage: If you are available to assist users, please consider leaving your door open, logging onto LibChat and turning on your ceiling light.
  • Consult Librarians Confidential for passwords.
  • Record interactions in RefStats Form.
  • All shifts, sign off LibChat at end of shift
  • Last shift of the day, and evening shift: Put away the "Research Questions?" sign and replace it with the "Research Desk Hours" sign (stored under the desk).

Procedures for LibChat

  • To sign in to chat: click the red "You are signed out" button
    -Chat will open in a new window/tab; button will change to green "You are signed in"
  • In Chat window, you can enable sounds, desktop notifications, and LibAnswers ticket notifcations using the buttons at the top of the Chat Activity window
  • To claim a new chat, click the "Answer" button on a new chat (orange bar)
    -Chats in progress will show as green in the activity window
  • In the upper right of the chat window, you can set yourself as away (stay connected, but no new notifications or chats will come to you) or Go OFFLINE
  • Under Monitored Departments, click the colored circle next to a department to toggle whether you are monitoring (green) or not monitoring (red)
    -Monitoring means you will receive notifications and others can transfer chats to you
  • Under Operators Online, click another librarian's name to start an internal chat with them, or the Group Chat in the upper-right to start a chat with everyone online

Procedures for email

All tickets come either via Email sent to researchdesk@middlebury.edu or from information entered into the Email a Librarian Form. New tickets will appear in the LibAnswers dashboard and will also be forwarded to the appropriate librarians. All tickets, including closed tickets, are stored in Answers > Tickets.

The expectation is that before the end of each shift, the librarian on duty will make sure that all questions in the dashboard have been addressed, i.e., “New” questions have been claimed and any questions where the patron has responded to a follow-up are not languishing.

A history of Questions and Answers is preserved (under Answers --> Tickets) and statistics are generated automatically.

Librarians can also answer questions that have come in through web form, chat, text, or twitter from the same place.

At least once each week, Carrie will check the Spam folder for any messages that were mistakenly labeled as spam and should have been answered.

Answering tickets

When you log in to LibAnswers you will see at the top of the screen the word Dashboard with a number to the left of it. This represents the number of non-closed tickets. Scroll to the bottom of the dashboard screen to see any such tickets. Tickets can have a status of New, Open, Pending, or Closed.

Note: Clicking on Administrative Announcement toggles whether or not this introductory text is displayed.

By default, the dashboard displays all non-closed tickets. By clicking on a ticket, you will claim it. (A message appears at the top of the screen saying "You have claimed this question.") You can also claim a ticket by replying to it from your email account -- if you are the first person to reply to a ticket, you have claimed it. If you claim a ticket by mistake, simply open the ticket and click Unclaim next to your name. Once a ticket is claimed, subsequent attempts to claim/answer it by other librarians will be rejected by the system so the patron does not receive two answers.

By default, the ticket will open on the Create a Reply tab. The other tabs available are Post an Internal Note and Assign/Transfer.

Create a Reply

To Create a Reply, compose your response in the text editor provided. Below the text editor box are options to attach a File or Add Links to your reply. The Add Links option allows you to enter a Title and a URL for up to 5 links.

If you believe you have completely answered a ticket, choose Submit as closed. If the patron replies, the ticket will be re-opened and you will receive an email.

If you are waiting for a reply from the patron in order to proceed with answering, choose Submit as Pending.

There are also buttons for Save Draft, Preview Email, and Cancel.

Post an Internal Note

Internal Notes appear in a grey box below the text of the ticket:

Changes to the status of a ticket will also appear here, in the same format:


Use this tab to transfer ownership of a ticket to another librarian. S/he will receive an email stating that the ticket has been assigned to them.

To pass on a question to another department or staff member, simply reply to the original ticket letting the patron know you are forwarding the question to ____, and cc the relevant department. That department will now be able to reply to and receive all further responses to the ticket.

If the question requires forwarding to Special Collections, reply to the original ticket, and CC: specialcollections@middlebury.edu. SC will then forward the original ticket to specialcollections@midd with the message "Got It." SC will then reply to the original ticket (don't cc the patron, or the patron will receive a duplicate email) as normal. If you would like to email all librarians, email librarians@middlebury.edu. If it is relevant, make sure to CC: Kellam Ayres or the Academic Technologists.

Procedures for text

  • Advice on how to text a librarian is at go/askus.  
  • When a text is received, a message will be sent to the emails of librarians who get notified of reference emails.
  • If a librarian is currently on duty when a text is received, that librarian should respond.
  • If no librarian is on duty, members of the Reference and Instruction Workgroup who aren’t required to spend a significant proportion of their time on outside work (eg, cataloging) should try to respond first.
  • To respond to a text use the LibAnswers Dashboard (LibAnswers Dashboard).
  • Record interactions in RefStats Form.
  • If a question needs to be referred to Circ, send the patron Circ's email/phone number so that they can easily contact them.

When a substitute is needed

  • When you need a substitute: 1) Write to researchdesk@middlebury.edu. Usually, we offer to trade. 2) When a sub is found, write again to tell other librarians the shift is covered, and update the calendar so that the sub has the shift on his/her calendar and so that other librarians know who is responsible for the shift. Here's how to get to the calendar: Reference email and calendar clarifications. 3) If some time passes and there are no responses, write to the group again.
  • If you are sick (last-minute), try to find a sub yourself.
    • If you are not able to find a sub and it's a weekend, alert circulation (library_circulation@middlebury.edu, xt. 5494) so that questions can be directed to the Reference email or text message service.
  • If you are not well enough to follow all of the above steps, write to researchdesk@middlebury.edu. Someone on the list will make sure that your shift is covered.

Communication of changes in reference hours

In August, September, December, January, February, May, June, we need to communicate changes in our reference hours.  This includes updating content of signs and web pages, and notifying circulation desk staff.

  • go/askus: Librarians with permissions may sign in to edit this page.  There are two versions (nodes) of the same page. This allows us to change the text ahead of time -- we can set dates of publication for each page. The content that needs to be updated is the “Find Us in Person” section.  
  • Signs around the library: The signs (Word documents) are are in middfiles: :\Library_Reference\Signs_Schedules_Posters\ (see Reference Service Hours_small_Summer.doc, Interim Ref sign languages.doc, Interim Ref sign.doc, etc.).  Send revised sign to Joseph. Ask him to print and display at these locations: Circ Desk, Ref Desk, Info Desk, bulletin boards (and if he’s willing to increase the size, in stairwells too).
  • Research Help Hours: Librarians with permissions may sign in to midd google docs. Click on “Calendar” in the upper left. Consult ref schedule for coming term. Make a recurring event for each afternoon and evening that we provide ref coverage (for example, Mondays 1-5 pm from June 15-Aug 15). Enter this description for each event: “Find us at the Reference Desk on the main floor of Davis Family Library. Or, phone or email: 802.443.5496, researchdesk@middlebury.edu.” When all hours have been entered, review each week against ref schedule to be sure Google calendar is accurate. For example, we don’t have ref hours during midterm recess in October, Thanksgiving in November, during spring break, etc.
  • Circulation Desk Staff:  Notify Circ Desk Staff through Circulation Services Blog.


  • Questions from Middlebury College students, faculty and staff receive the highest priority.
  • Questions from the media: If you’re asked by a reporter to speak on behalf of the college or the library, consult a director. If it’s an outside media organization, you’ll probably need to redirect the request to the Media Relations contact at the Communications Office. If it’s a campus publication, you and your director will be able to figure out who is the best spokesperson.
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