Reference Duty Procedures & Information

This is primarily documentation for Librarians.

When and where do we provide reference coverage?

  • See go/askus.  In general:
    --On Monday-Friday afternoons, Monday-Wednesday evenings, and Sunday afternoons and evenings, we have scheduled reference shifts.
    --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 the shared reference 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.
  • Phone calls to the reference line (443.5496) should ring on the phones in individual librarian’s offices.  Telephone Services can add the reference line to any person’s phone.  Calls are forwarded to the Circulation Desk if we don’t pick them up. If Circ is also closed then the caller will hear a message inviting them to send an email or check go/askus for additional options.  The message can be changed; check RefDesk Manager for the 4-digit security code.
  • The reference email account (refdesk@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 66746 and start your question with the word midd) forwards to the reference email account, and librarians who provide reference assistance each have a Mosio “Text a Librarian” username and password.

Who  provides reference coverage?

  • All librarians are invited to provide reference coverage, in person and virtual.
  • Members of the Reference and Instruction (R&I) Workgroup must take at least one weekly shift and participate in the weekend rotation.  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 take more than one weekly shift.

How is the schedule set?

  • Joy 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.
  • Joy asks librarians for scheduling preferences, then creates a schedule using the “Reference Desk Schedule” Outlook calendar.  The Friday afternoon shift will not be a permanent assignment for any librarian; it will change each semester, or perhaps weekly.

Procedures for in-person shifts

  • All shifts: log onto LibH3lp (go/chatref or go/libhelp)
    Libraryh3lp client login.png
  • If you have a 1 pm or 7 pm shift then begin by saying hello to the staff at the circulation desk and the HelpDesk.  Tell them 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.  
    --1 pm shifts:  do this for the first 3 weeks of the term only.  
    --7 pm shifts:  do this for the duration of the term.  
    --(see Liaisons & Librarians Calendar password access for liaisons and librarians only)
  • Afternoons:  Go to your office or the shared reference office, Lib 207.  Hang up the “Librarian on Duty” sign (find it in the shared ref office) and turn on the light and open your door.  
  • Evenings:  Go to the shared ref office.  Hang the the “Librarian on Duty” sign, blue side facing out.  Get the “Librarian on Duty Downstairs in Special Collections” stand.  Put the stand in the atrium at the top of the curved staircase. Open Special Collections (see Reference from Special Collections - Procedures password access for librarians only).
  • Mornings and other times outside scheduled coverage: If you are available to assist users, please consider leaving your door open and turning on the light.
  • Consult RefDesk Manager for passwords.
  • Record interactions in Zoho.
  • NEW! all shifts, logoff LibH3lp at end of shift

NEW! Procedures for Chat-ref shifts (using LibraryH3lp)

  • At beginning of shift log onto LibH3lp (go/chatref or go/libhelp)
  • Make sure your computer's volume is set high enough so you can hear the chatref alert
  • When you are busy with a patron, either walk-in or in a chat, it's good practice to change your status to 'busy' or 'away'
    LibraryH3lpstatus unavailable2.PNG
  • At end of shift, log off LibH3lp
  • For more detailed informationa, refer to these instructions

Procedures for email

  • The Ask-a-Librarian form on the library home page sends a message to the reference email account (refdesk@middlebury.edu).  The reference email account forwards to librarians who provide reference assistance.  
  • If a librarian is currently on duty when a reference email 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 reference email:Hit “reply” (not “reply all”) to tell other librarians you’ll respond.
    1) Hit “forward,” insert the researcher’s email address, and change the subject line.
    2) Save the response (with the question) to the “Answered Questions” folder.  
    3) Delete the question from the inbox.
    4) Record interactions in Zoho.
  • We should attempt to find answers to basic Special Collections questions (for example, do you have anything about this alumnus?). If you answer a Special Collections question, please copy Andy and Danielle so that they are aware of the correspondence.  (Sometimes, questions are sent to "Ask the Curators" and "Ask a librarian" simultaneously.)
  • If you need to forward a question to another person or service point, write back to the researcher to tell them you have done so.
  • Consider saving other research-related email responses you’ve written to the “Answered Questions” so that others may learn from your expertise.
  • The “Tips” folder is a good spot for reference-related advice received via email.
  • Instructions on how to add the reference email to your Outlook account are here.

Procedures for text

  • Advice on how to text LIS is at go/askus.  
  • When a text is received, a message will be sent to the reference and circulation emails, and that email gets forwarded to librarians who provide reference assistance.
  • 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:
    1) Hit “reply” (not “reply all”) to the email -- to tell other librarians you’ll respond.
    2) Go to the Mosio Dashboard and log in.  URL and logins are in RefDesk Manager.
    3) Respond or alert others in LIS to respond (HelpDesk and Circ have their own logins).
  • Record interactions in Zoho.

Procedures when sick & scheduled for evening or weekend reference

  • If you have an evening or weekend shift and are sick: try to find a sub yourself.
  • If you are not able to find a sub: alert circulation (library_circulation@middlebury.edu, xt. 5494) and Andy, so that questions can be directed to the Reference email or text message service.
  • For Special Collections: Andy is comfortable with the student manning the reception desk if someone is sick.
  • If you are not well enough to follow any of the above steps: contact Carrie or Terry, and ask them to find a sub.

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\ (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 in the Reference Offices: Davis Family Library 206-211 (Main Level, South side). Look for the red "Librarian on Duty" sign! Or, phone or email: 802.443.5496, refdesk@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.


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