VR Tips & Best Practices


"Share positive patron feedback with librarians." **

"Know when to transfer the chat session to either email or the phone. Sometimes you will just need to talk." **

"The reference interview is even more vital in the context of chat since the time required for answering the question is greater in chat." **

"Respond quickly with a simple 'Hi!' or 'Hello!' Being prompt is more important than starting with a full-fledged answer." **

"Break your responses into small chunks rather than large paragraphs - don't make the patron wonder if you are still there." **

"Use 'business casual' language. Be approachable and professional." **

"Use natural language to let patrons know you're not a bot." **

"Use multiple browser tabs rather than multiple browser windows when providing live chat/instant messaging reference service. Moving seamlessly between the chat interface and online resources within a single browser window seems to keep the "dead air" in the conversation to a minimum because one isn't clicking through lots of open windows on the computer desktop." (Posted by K. Reiman-Sendi - http://connect.ala.org/node/225501#comment-62405)


Have a policy for how to handle inappropriate chats or prank calls. **

Have a policy and procedures for handling emergency situations. For example, know what to do if your chat patron talks about committing suicide. **


"Be aware of 160 character limit with SMS reference." **

"Use a link shortener, especially with SMS reference." **

"Use Jing to share screens." **


"A strong brand makes a promise to the user, then consistently delivers on that promise.  It does this through consistent communications via...name, logo, advertising, Web site, brochures, public relations, communications with staff and more." - VRS Marketing Guidelines, Washington State Library

"It's important to link to the virtual reference service from all key points on the library Web site." *

"Because branding and accessibility are so important in getting people to use a virtual reference service, I was dismayed to see how well hidden the service is (and how many different names it has).  Not only do they need to feature it prominently on the home page, but they should also have links to it from other pages that people may use as starting places for finding information, especially the children's and teens' pages." *

10 Tips for Marketing Virtual Reference Services (VRS): http://www.ssdesign.com/librarypr/download/odds_and_ends/marketing_vps.pdf


*Comments from learners and trainers who participated in the Anytime, Anywhere Answers training, November 2002 to May 2005.

**Comments received from attendees of the MARS VR Discussion Group meeting, ALA Annual Conference, Las Vegas, NV, June 29, 2014.