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Library Service Desk

Email/LibAnswers Best Practices

Responding to Patrons

  • Greet the patron. For example: "Hello....Thank you for using Ask Us".
  • Avoid using library jargon
  • Answer questions within one business day. Exceptions: University holidays, University closure days.
  • Close answers with a signature, and include your name and service group name. For example: "We hope the information we have provided will assist with your research.", or "Hope this helps."


Recommended Actions

  • When monitoring the Dashboard, check for questions periodically during your shift.
  • You can set alerts so as to be notified that a new item as come into the Dashboard.



SMS Reference Best Practices

Answering Questions

  • Respond quickly, and notify the patron as to the anticipated response time, because text reference is used for immediacy.
  • Keep answers brief, in a single message if possible.
  • Answer questions in the order they are received, and with actual answers, not URLs.
  • If there is no response, do not reply.


  • Questions may need to be referred to staff inside and outside of LibAnswers. Referrals outside of  LibAnswers are handled differently because there is no way to pass on the patron's phone number.
  • Notify the patron that their request has been referred and provide contact information.
  • Contact the liaison librarian or expert. Send a response to the patron when you receive it.
    • Use your judgement in how you contact the expert, keeping in mind the immediate nature of text reference.
  • Alternatively, change to email reference.


Recommended Actions

  • Use correct spelling, grammar, and capitalization, while talking conversationally.

  • Do not correct spelling unless necessary for understanding, and correct it using an asterisks (e.g., *blue).

  • Break up long responses to avoid long pauses for lengthy answers (e.g., 30 words per block).

  • Be aware that some patrons have limited text message plans.

  • Use strategies to clarify information, and do not expect dialogue in text reference transactions (e.g., ask 1-3 clarifying questions, paraphrase questions back, ask about assignment requirements.

Chat Best Practices

Answering Questions

  • When answering questions, make sure that your statements are short, quick and to the point. 4-5 short statements (sent separately) will show that you are still there, working on the response, and be more readable than one long paragraph. Ellipses help indicate a continuous transaction.

  • Avoid Library jargon, argot, lingo.

  • In a chat, you may be asked questions related to circulation.



  • Chat questions may need to be referred to liaison librarians, other library departments, or specific individuals. In these cases, switch to email reference. 
  • Notify the patron that their request has been referred, and provide contact information.
  • Contact the liaison librarian or expert to make sure the referral is appropriate, or to notify them of the referral.

Department Responsibilities

  • Chat messages are left for the chat group.