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24/7 Co-Op: Best Practices for 24/7 Co-Op Chat Sessions

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Best Practices for 24/7 Co-Op Chat Sessions


The same general principles that apply when providing traditional reference service also apply when providing reference service in the Springshare 24/7 Reference Cooperative.

To ensure successful sessions, Co-Op chat operators should follow these best practices:


  • Claim the chat
  • Greet the patron
  • Reference conversation/resource selection
  • Provide professional-level search assistance
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Concluding the session


Claim the chat

In general, chat sessions should be claimed right away. If more than one patron is waiting, pick up the patron that has been waiting the longest. 


Greet the patron

Send a greeting immediately after joining the session, indicating your willingness to help. The greeting is your first interaction with the patron, so be sure your greeting establishes a welcoming atmosphere. Although a canned message can be used for your greeting, be sure it is short and friendly!


Hi, I'm happy to help! I'm reading your question now ...

Hi, I'll be helping you today. Let me read what you wrote to see how I can assist ... 

Consider combining your greeting with the initial reference interview question. Example: Patron asks about locating a book. Librarian combines the greeting with a reference interview question: "Hi, I'm happy to help with this! Are you looking for a particular title?". By asking for more information about the patron's request, the librarian is showing a willingness to help.


Reference conversation/resource selection

• Engage in an adequate reference conversation to understand the question and the patron's information need. Be sure to clarify the patron’s question before beginning the search.

• Choose resources at the appropriate level for the patron's research. In general, databases are preferable to Google or other general web sources when assisting students with research projects.

• Use the library's FAQs and website to find information using the local library’s resources (including the catalog, databases, and guides).

• Evaluate resources for authority, objectivity, and currency; share with the patron.

• Cite your sources (e.g. URL, book title, or 'information from library FAQ').

• Answer questions accurately.


Provide professional level search assistance

• Provide context and instruction to the patron, rather than just sharing resources or merely sending web pages. Provide enough guidance so that the patron can recreate the search if needed (include the name of links, which one patron should click on, as well as the “click path”). Merely providing links to resources often will not suffice – some URLs are dynamic, such as library catalog search results, and the links that appear in session transcripts may become dead links.

• Recommend appropriate search terms and subject headings, in the context of a recommended search statement using Boolean operators. Provide examples of query constructions using basic and advanced Boolean operators.


Patron: Need help finding books on the history of black businesspeople in New York City.

Librarian: You should search the catalog with keywords like black, businesspeople, entrepreneurs, New York, african americans, history


Patron: Need help finding books on the history of black businesspeople in New York City.

Librarian: You can search the catalog by typing in things like this (exactly as I have them)...

Librarian: african americans AND business* AND new york

Librarian: or using that last one, replace business* with the word entrepreneur*

• Help patron evaluate the sources for relevancy to topic.

• Ask for feedback on resources sent.


Interpersonal skills

• Create a welcoming atmosphere.

• Chat frequently, so the patron doesn't have long lags without chat from the librarian.

• Show interest in the patron's question through chat tone and choice of words.

• Use positive phrasing ("We can…" instead of "We don't/can't/won't…")

• Use canned messages appropriately, as needed.

• Paste small excerpts of information; avoid pasting long blocks of text in the chat.


Concluding the session

• Before ending a session, ask the patron if the question has been answered (“Does this completely answer your question?”) or if additional information is needed ("Is there anything else I can help you with today?").

• If the request cannot be adequately answered during the session, create a ticket.

• Before creating a ticket, check the Patron Information tab to verify there is an email address or phone number present in the Contact Info field. If there isn't, click the button to request that the patron enter contact information.

• If the patron indicates that no additional information is needed, thank the patron for using the service and encourage the patron to return.


Additional resources for Co-Op chat operators: 

Springshare 24/7 Reference Cooperative Policies.

RUSA Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers.