Updated March 2009
The Alkek Library Virtual Reference Service uses VRLplus software and Pidgin instant messaging client to manage and provide online research and reference assistance to Texas State students, faculty, and staff. Use of our electronic and print resources of the Alkek Library will be emphasized, and authoritative Internet sites will be recommended when appropriate. Users will have the choice to chat, send email or search the knowledgebase of questions previously submitted.
Chat reference is typically limited to the Texas State University community e.g. students, faculty and
staff. Patrons not affiliated with the university may be redirected to email reference at the discretion of
the librarian/assistant on duty. Issues such as business at the desk, time of semester, and time of day will
determine whether or not the operator will redirect the chat patron. Email reference is open to everyone
but with the Texas State community receiving preference over other patrons at times of heavy email
Service hours reflect the hours of the main reference desk.
During Fall and Spring Semesters service hours are:
Email reference service is available when the Ask a Librarian service is closed but will be answered during working hours. Hours will vary during times of Interim, Mini Session, Summer 1 & 2 and holidays and will
usually reflect the hour of the reference desk.
The virtual reference service is staffed by reference librarians and reference assistants, (operators) while
on duty at the physical reference desk. In-depth reference questions may require a reference librarian to
email a response to the user. Individualized research consultation is available for more extensive
Level of service to the Texas State Community will be the same level offered at the main reference desk.
Operators on call will determine the amount of time spent online with a patron and may refer the user to
email, follow-up via email or phone, or offer in-depth research consultations and library instruction as
needed. During times of inactivity at the main reference desk, operator may choose to spend more time
online with patrons.
For patrons with simple ready reference or directional questions, there
is no need to initiate the co-browse feature. Co-browse should be reserved for questions requiring the
operator to instruct the patron to find the resources or how to use the resources recommended.
Patron needs to know what hours the library is open. (No need to initiate co-browse feature.)
Patron needs help getting started and their topic is the history of Rock n Roll. (Here the operator may
initiate co-browse to show patron where to look for books and/or how to use the databases.)
Length of transactions will vary depending on the level of traffic at the main reference desk. Typically
questions will last no more than 15 minutes before operator offers to refer the patron to a subject
specialist, librarian, (if operator is reference assistant) or to be followed up via email. Librarians and
assistants should use their own judgment when online.
Alkek Library’s mission is to develop information literacy skills of patrons during the chat transaction if
possible. Instruction can be carried out in an interactive digital environment during the reference
interview and can be highly valuable to patrons.
**Referrals and follow-ups are the discretion of the operator.
All users must comply with university policy on computer use, Appropriate Use of Information Resources
(UPPS No. 04.01.07).
The Alkek Library Ask a Librarian Live service records all reference transactions, including the chat
conversation and the URLs for all the web sites visited. At the end of the session, you have the option to
have the transcript emailed to you and a copy will be stored in our database. Transcripts maintained by
the library will be used for assessment and evaluation purposes.
We will not disclose any personal data we collect from you to any other party in a manner that would
identify you, except where required by law, or in order to fulfill your service request.
We hope you will find the Ask A Librarian Live service helpful and timely.