Reference Duty Procedures & Information

Revision as of 12:47, 14 August 2013 by Carrie Macfarlane (talk | contribs) (When a substitute is needed)

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 at the reference 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 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.  

Procedures for in-person shifts

  • Computer: There is a monitor, docking station, keyboard and mouse at the desk. You may use your own laptop if it's compatible with the docking station. You also may use the laptop in the shared reference office. If you use the reference laptop, return it to the office when finished. 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.
  • 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:

  1. The PROGRAM key
  2. The Access 1 key
  3. 1
  4. The Access 1 key, again
  5. The PROGRAM key, again.

--To silence reference phone (calls will still ring reference office phones), press:

  1. The PROGRAM key
  2. The Access 1 key
  3. 0
  4. The Access 1 key, again
  5. The PROGRAM key, again.
  • 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 keep your email open, listen for calls to x5496, and log onto LibH3lp (go/chatref or go/libhelp, see below for procedures).
  • If you have a 11 am 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.  
    --11 am 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)
  • 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 in Carrie's office (LIB209). File cabinet just inside the door.
  • Mornings and other times outside scheduled coverage: If you are available to assist users, please consider leaving your door open, logging onto LibH3lp and turning on your ceiling light.
  • Consult RefDesk Manager for passwords.
  • Record interactions in Zoho.
  • All shifts, logoff LibH3lp at end of shift

Procedures for Chat-ref (using LibraryH3lp)

  • At beginning of shift log onto LibH3lp (go/chatref or go/libhelp)
    Libraryh3lp client login.png
  • 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 information, 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. Enter date and time when email was sent by the researcher, not the time when answered by a librarian.
  • 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 Danielle Rougeau, Joseph Watson, Terry Simpkins, and Rebekah Irwin 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 (go/mosio) 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.

When a substitute is needed

  • When you need a substitute: 1) Write to refdesk@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 Outlook calendar so that the sub has the shift on his/her calendar and so that other librarians know who is responsible for the shift. 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 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 at the Reference Desk on the main floor of Davis Family Library. 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.


Questions from Middlebury College students, faculty and staff receive the highest priority.