Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Coming soon! Updates to the webclient for staff

We've been hard at work on updates to the webclient for staff based on user feedback. This updated webclient retains the current webclient's basic layout and workflows, and so it will feel immediately familiar to most operators. We plan to release these updates on January 29, but for now we invite everyone into the late-stage beta testing phase. You can readily switch back and forth between the production and beta versions as desired. If you'd like to give the beta version a try, follow the link provided from the webclient login page.

And without further ado, let's run down the list of changes and improvements!

Menu Layout

The navigation menu has moved from the top to left sidebar, which opens up the space for your custom status (more on that below).

Left: older layout with navigation at top.  Right: updated layout with navigation along left sidebar.

Custom status for colleagues more conveniently located

Provide short custom status lines shown only to your colleagues (guests won't see this).  Previously, custom status was set through the Availability drop-down menu.
Setting a custom status

Canned message improvements

Canned message behavior has been redesigned.  Now in addition to or instead of the type-ahead menu, you can use our canned message selector to visually browse and filter all canned messages within each chat.
Visual canned message browser.

And, for those that prefer an approach that doesn't require use of the mouse, canned message type-ahead matching remains, with a couple of usability improvements to make it less aggressive:
  1. Matching begins after three matched letters.
  2. Matching occurs only at the beginning of words.
Type-ahead matching begins at three letters now.
Type-ahead matching can be enabled or disabled in Preferences.

Emoji picker

No need to memorize the key combinations for the available emoji. There is a handy "insert emoji" button that comes with every chat. Click the "insert emoji" button to review the available choices and then click the desired emoticon to insert it.

Emoji picker available via the "insert emoji" button for a chat

In-place profiles

If you staff a collaborative service, you're probably very familiar with queue profiles.  These function as staff "cheat sheets" and provide useful context-sensitive shortcuts for staffers.  


Queue profile displays as an overlay and can be detached into a separate window.
Queue profiles display as a convenient overlay now, instead of always opening in a new tab.  And, if you need continued access to a profile, you can detach into a separate tab at any time by clicking the icon in the profile overlay title bar.

Performance improvements for very busy services

We suggest Chrome for the best experience if you have a high-volume chat service and often chat with many guests simultaneously.

Conference rooms

If you use conference rooms, you'll notice a few changes to the layout:
  1. There are no longer options to join or to leave the conference room. Both actions are done automatically for you as you log into and out of the webclient.
  2. If you have more than one conference room available to you, the rooms be listed vertically to the left of the conference room messages.  Previously conference rooms were listed horizontally across the top of the conference room area.

Detachable Chat History and Profiles

Chat History and Profiles are both available for browsing at any time within the webclient.  And if you need to have them available in their own, separate browser windows while you're chatting, you can detach them easily.

Detachable Chat History
Detachable Profile Browsing
Open Chat History and/or Profiles in their own separate browser window or tab.




Desktop visual alert improvements

Desktop alerts notify the user visually of new chat messages, even if the webclient itself is minimized or otherwise not at the top of the user's desktop.  This is especially handy in situations where sound must be disabled on the staffing computer.

In any browser that supports desktop notifications, you will be proactively prompted for permission to display the notifications if permission is not currently granted to the webclient.

You can control the duration of these visual alerts if you're in Chrome.  So you can set a lengthy duration if you're worried about missing a notification when your attention is away from the computer for a few minutes.
Configurable persistence of desktop alerts available in Chrome ONLY.

Auto-logout also available in Preferences now

Auto-logout is a very handy feature that prevents you from leaving your chat service falsely online if you forget to logout and then step away for a meeting or for the day.

Change your auto-logout preferences at any time, not just at the time of login.
As before, the opportunity to adjust your auto-logout setting continues to be offered each time you login, so that you can flexibly change your auto-logout trigger if needed based on how long you expect to staff in that particular session. But now, you can also visit and change your auto-logout setting in your Preferences.  

Monday, July 25, 2016

Updated look for the staffing client and admin dashboard

Hope everyone is having a great summer!  Quick heads up that we pushed out some aesthetic changes to the webclient for staffing and the admin dashboard recently.  Though we've modernized the look and feel, there are no major changes to the underlying functionality for this latest update.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ask a Librarian spit and polish

Hi folks!  We are solidly into summer and we all know what that means...  It's time to re-group and shore up for the next academic season.  To help you get the most out of your Ask a Librarian service when students return, we've dusted off and updated our checklist from last year with some new ideas.

Ask a Librarian Check List

  • checkboxIs help available anywhere a patron might need assistance?  
    • Action item: Check all the usual places: website, subject and course guides, catalogs, databases, mobile apps.  Don't forget your 404 (not found) page!
  • checkboxCan patrons easily locate chat and FAQs on your web pages with just a glance?
    • Pro tip: Aim for a consistent, highly visible place where patrons can always find help.
    • Action item: Ask a friend to play the part of a patron and see how long it takes them to find help without intervention.
  • checkboxDo you proactively invite patrons to chat?  
    • Action item: If a patron has been sitting on a page for a while, they might be stuck.  Add a proactive chat invitation to your web page and ask them if they need help. 
  • checkboxAre patrons getting the help they need?
    • Pro tip: You can search the chat metadata on the Activity page to find unanswered chats and evaluate wait times.
    • Action item: Create canned messages for librarians to use when responding to patrons.  This saves a lot of redundant typing and speeds up response time.
    • Action item: Do you find yourself always asking patrons for the same info? Set up a concierge auto-responder which immediately triggers a request for that info so the librarian has what they need up front to better serve the patron.
  • checkboxCan patrons get help after hours?
    • Action item: When chat is offline, point patrons to your searchable FAQ.  (Don't have a LibraryH3lp FAQ, email us and we'll create and customize one to match your website for free!)
    • Consider back-up staffing: Our partner, Chatstaff, provides responsive, high quality back-service 24/7 or for select hours.

Text a Librarian Check List

  • checkboxDo patrons know about your Text a Librarian service?
    • Action item: Advertise on your website and make it easy for patrons to use.  Here's a handy HTML example:
      <a href="sms:15555551234">Text us at 1-555-555-1234!</a>
    • Action item: Advertise on all printed promotional materials and during tours and instruction sessions
    • Action item: Encourage patrons to add the library to their contacts list for later use.
  • checkboxDouble-check your offline auto-response.
    • Action item: Pretend you are a patron and text your service when it is offline.  If the offline auto-response misses the mark, email us with a new auto-response 140 characters or fewer.

Email a Librarian Check List

  • checkboxIs email reference integrated with the rest of your virtual services? 
    • Action item: Activate the 3mail module to integrate email into the staffing workflow. 3mail is a simple email system that makes the LibraryH3lp webclient one stop shopping for answering chat and email questions. 
    • Action item: Train staff to use Tag for Follow-up.  When chats can't be answered right away and you need to get back to the patron, tag for follow-up automatically sends email to pre-designated addresses with transcript attached.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

You may be surprised at what you can do with an API

We enjoyed meeting many librarians at Code4Lib last week! While LibraryH3lp of course has oodles of standard features available through our graphical management interfaces, we wanted to take a moment to open up the hood and illustrate some of the things we can offer to those interested in diving a bit deeper.

The LibraryH3lp REST API provides programmatic access to resources (like users, queues, chat box skins, code snippets, FAQs) included with your subscription or trial and makes it easy to write and test custom scripts to manage your account.

You can use your browser to access URLs and make use of pretty much any HTTP client in any programming language.  If you happen to dig Python, we have a ready-made SDK available under @libraryh3lp on GitHub.

But when there’s so much flexibility, sometimes it is hard to know where to start!  Here are some ideas to get you started…

Account Management

  • Create a new user, automatically adding her to queues, conference rooms, canned message pools, and buddying her with colleagues. 
  • Perform a search/replace operation across FAQs.
  • Bulk import questions and answers into a FAQ.
  • Edit questions or templates in the console. Because consoles rock.

Chat

  • Display staff chat status as an in/out board. 
  • Count the number of active chats and the number of operators currently staffing chat.
  • Receive reports when too few operators are staffing.
  • See if chat is online and, if not, why not. 
  • Somebody forgot to log out.  Opt that operator out of staffing so guests don't think you're available.
  • Update staffing assignments on a schedule.
  • Create a chat bot to answer basic guest questions.

Metadata/Statistics

  •  Forward all of yesterday's chats to your inbox.
  •  Get a summary of last week's activity. 
  •  Delete last month’s transcripts. 
  •  Download chat transcripts for import into Excel.
  •  Download a record of FAQ views and searches.

3mail

  •  Poll 3mail for new messages and send notifications via chat or email.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Ask a Librarian Mobile App now in Amazon Appstore

The Ask a Librarian mobile app is now available through the Amazon Appstore for Android, making it available to patrons with Kindle Fire devices and devices running Android 4.0 and up.  As with the Google Play store and iTunes App store, the Ask a Librarian mobile app is completely free -- with no advertising of any sort nor in-app purchases.

If you are just hearing about the Ask a Librarian mobile app, let's get you up to date!  The app helps patrons find libraries by location or name.  The app also remembers previously visited or favorite libraries so patrons can quickly pick up where they left off.  Patrons have easy access all available virtual references services like chat, texting, phone, email, and FAQs. All libraries and library consortia are invited to participate for free!  That's right.  Any library.  No charge.  No fine print.

How can I download the app to my mobile device?



My library isn't listed in the app.  How do we get started?


Email us and we'll set you up with a default, unpublished listing.  Each library listing lets you list any available virtual reference services. These services may include real-time chat with librarians, text a librarian, phone a librarian, email a librarian, and frequently asked questions. Libraries can also include a customized avatar, a website link and additional free-form information such as operating hours.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Join the Ask a Librarian App -- Now in Production!

About two months ago, we first announced the Ask a Librarian mobile app for Android and iOS.  A big THANK YOU to everyone who participated in the beta and provided feedback.  We've folded your feedback into the app and today we're excited to announce that the app is now out of beta and freely available to everyone, including patrons!

For those of you who missed the original announcement, the Ask a Librarian app helps patrons find libraries by location or name.  The app also remembers previously visited or favorite libraries so patrons can quickly pick up where they left off.  Patrons have easy access all available virtual references services like chat, texting, phone, email, and FAQs.  Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian for free! 

How can I download the production app to my mobile device?



I took part in the Beta. How do I promote the app to patrons?


Feel free to provide the direct links listed above to the app to patrons on your website or any other promotional materials you have.  And for one stop shopping, you can direct patrons to the Ask a Librarian website that contains the download links to the app plus screenshots and an overview of the app's functionality.

If you'd like to include the Ask a Librarian app logo in your promotion, you can download it here.

My library isn't listed in the app.  How do I get my library included?


Email us and we'll set you up with a default, unpublished listing.  Each library listing lets you list any available virtual reference services. These services may include real-time chat with librarians, text a librarian, phone a librarian, email a librarian, and frequently asked questions. Libraries can also include a customized avatar, a website link and additional free-form information such as operating hours.  Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian for free!


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Become Part of the Ask a Librarian App


[Update Nov. 12, 2015: The Ask a Librarian App is now out of beta and in production!]

We'd like to invite all libraries to become part of the new Ask a Librarian App currently undergoing beta testing. Ask A Librarian is a mobile app that we've developed in conjunction with our back-up service partner, Chatstaff, that connects patrons to a library's reference services, including chat, texting, email, and frequently asked questions. Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian at no charge.

What does the Ask a Librarian app do?


When patrons aren't sure what libraries are nearby, they can use the browse function that locates nearby libraries or libraries around a particular  location. Patrons can also search for their favorite library by name.  The app remembers the libraries patrons have visited previously so they can quickly revisit those libraries and pick up where they left off. And patrons can favorite and revisit libraries later.

Each library listing summarizes available virtual reference services. These services may include real-time chat with librarians, text a librarian, phone a librarian, email a librarian, and frequently asked questions. Libraries can also include a customized avatar, a website link and additional free-form information such as operating hours.

How can I test drive the Ask a Librarian app?


For Android, use the Google Play beta link to download the app to your device.

For iOS, send us a request by email and then we'll be able can send you an emailed beta invite through Apple. The Ask a Librarian app itself works with iOS 6 and higher.  But while the app is in beta testing, it is only available through Test Flight which requires iOS 8 and higher.

How can my library be included in the Ask a Librarian app?


Send us email indicating your interest and we'll set you up with a default, unpublished listing.  From there, you can edit the listing to suit and publish it when you're ready. Any library or library consortium, regardless of software platform, can be included in Ask a Librarian at no charge.