Skip to Content

Virtual Reference Policy

Updated January 2014

Ask a Librarian @ Alkek Service

About VR Service

The Alkek Library Virtual Reference Service uses Springshare's LibAnswers software 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 activity.


Service hours reflect the hours of the main reference desk.

During Fall and Spring Semesters service hours are:
Monday-Friday 9am-8pm
Saturday 2pm-6pm
Sunday 12pm-7pm

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, 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 while on duty at the Research and Information desk on evenings and weekends. Starting January 2014, chat reference will be monitored by librarians in their office in order to provide a better experience for the patron with less interruption. In-depth reference questions may require a reference librarian to email a response to the user or an individual research consultation is available for more extensive questions.


Level of service to the Texas State Community will be the same level offered at the main Research & Information desk. Staff on duty 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. 

Chat only vs. Video-Conferencing Service

For patrons with simple ready reference or directional questions, there is no need to initiate a video-conference session. Video-conferencing should be reserved for questions requiring the library staff to instruct the patron to find the resources or how to use the resources recommended.

Information Literacy

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 staff on duty.

Behavior Rules & Etiquette

All users must comply with university policy on computer use, Appropriate Use of Information Resources
(UPPS No. 04.01.07).


Virtual Reference Chat Etiquette

  • Be patient. Network traffic may affect response time. A reference librarian will respond to your question as soon as possible. If your question is urgent, you may send your response by email.
  • Communicate in short sentences.
  • Reference questions will be answered in the order they are received.
  • Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. Common courtesies are expected and appreciated.
  • A survey will be available at the end of each chat session for users for feedback and comments about the service.

User Privacy

The Alkek Library Ask a Librarian 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 for a period of one year. Transcripts maintained by the library will be used for assessment and training purposes only.

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  service helpful and timely.