LibChat co-ops: everything you need to know

Simply put, a LibChat co-op allows librarians across multiple LibAnswers sites to provide collaborative chat reference. There are two types of co-op setups:

  • 24/7 Co-op: this cooperative provides its members with chat reference services 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. With a dedicated staff of Springy reference librarians bolstered by librarians at contributing member libraries, this allows all co-op members to provide continuous chat reference to your patrons when their local staff are unavailable.
  • Local Co-op: libraries can group together to form local co-ops. Unlike the 24/7 Co-op, a local co-op is only monitored by librarians from each of its member libraries. This means only staff from each member library can answer chats within the local co-op.

It can be helpful to think of a co-op like a chat department, as it allows multiple staff members to monitor and answer chats collaboratively. The big difference, of course, is that the co-op consists of libraries from across multiple LibAnswers systems (a "metadepartment", if you will). You can set up your LibChat widgets to be monitored solely by the co-op, or only fall back to the co-op if your local departments/staff are not online. You can even have separate chat widgets, some monitored only by local staff/departments and others monitored by, or falling back to, the co-ops you belong to.

Belonging to a co-op doesn't change the way you monitor LibChat, either: you'll still log into LibChat using your library's local LibAnswers system. This allows you to monitor your co-ops right alongside your local chat departments. (Note: co-op functionality is not available in the classic LibChat dashboard. Learn more about using the new LibChat dashboard.)

Your library's local co-op admin can choose which staff members can monitor chats from your co-op. Just like with your local chat departments, each user can turn monitoring on or off for a co-op via their LibChat dashboard settings. This allows users to continue using LibChat for monitoring only local or internal chats, as needed.

 How do I join a LibChat co-op?

  • If you are currently a QuestionPoint customer, we have a dedicated site with information and resources about migrating from QuestionPoint to LibAnswers.
  • For everyone else, you can request more info via our online request form, or by contacting the Springy Sales team.
  • And, as always, stay tuned to our blog for the latest announcements and release notes!

How can you use a co-op?

Click on the panels below for some examples of how you can use co-ops to extend the availability of your chat services.

Depending upon which co-ops you belong to, you can choose to fallback to one or more co-ops if your local staff are unavailable. For example, you could have a chat widget set up to be monitored in this order:

  1. Your local chat department(s)
  2. If nobody is online and monitoring that department, fall back to your local co-op (if you belong to one)
  3. If nobody is online and monitoring your local co-op, fall back to the 24/7 Co-Op (if you belong to it)

This allows you to prioritize who will receive new chats. In the above example, as long as you have local staff signed in and monitoring your local Reference department, all new chats would be answered locally by your own staff.

If nobody is online from your library, chats would then be routed to your local co-op to be answered by staff from one of the other member libraries. If nobody is monitoring that co-op, only then would the chat be routed to the LibChat 24/7 Co-Op.

A chat widget can also be set up to always route new chats to your co-op. In this setup, your local staff could still answer chats from your local patrons if they're monitoring the co-op -- they would just be doing so alongside staff from the other members of your co-op.

If your local staff go offline, but other users of your co-op are still online, then your chat widget would still appear online to your patrons. This type of setup can be helpful if you are a solo librarian or if your library does not have a large staff, as it bolsters the number of librarians available to answers chats from your patrons.

Because LibChat allows you to create as many different chat widgets as you need, you can create chat widgets for different locations or purposes -- co-op monitoring is optional for each widget. This means you can still have widgets that are monitored only by local departments, as well as personal chat widgets for each staff member.

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Getting started with a co-op

Once your library has a joined a co-op, the next step is to get your library ready to participate. These tasks will need to be completed by your library's Institution Admin and local LibAnswers Admin users.

  • LibAnswers Admin: this is a user who has admin-level permissions to your LibAnswers system, allowing them to manage accounts, content, and system settings.
  • Institution Admin: this is a user within a co-op who has permission to manage their library's participation within the co-op. This includes adding users to monitor the co-op, as well as reviewing transcripts, feedback, and stats from co-op chats answered by all users from their library.

In many cases, your library's Institution Admin will also be a LibAnswers Admin, but this is not required. When adding users to the co-op, you may find it helpful to give a few users Institution Admin permission. That way, you have other users who can step in if the original Institution Admin is unavailable.

Adding users from your library to a co-op

Similar to your local chat departments, each user must first be given access to a co-op before they can monitor and answer chats. This can be done by one of your library's Institution Admin users. There are three account levels within a co-op, that are independent of a user's account level within their home library's LibAnswers system:

  • Regular: these are users who can monitor and reply to chats from the co-op. They can also view transcripts, feedback, and statistics, but only for the chats they claimed.
  • Institution Admin: these users can also monitor and reply to chats from the co-op. In addition, they can also add users from their library to the co-op, at either the Regular or Institution Admin level. Unlike Regular users, they can view transcripts, feedback, and statistics for all users from their home library.
  • Co-Op Admin: these are similar to Institution Admin users, but with one key difference: they can manage accounts, transcripts, feedback, and statistics for all institutions in their co-op. They can also assign the Co-Op Admin permission to other users, as well.

Remember: A user must still have LibChat access enabled in their local LibAnswers account in order to log into your institution's LibChat dashboard. Access to your local chat departments is still set by your local LibAnswers admin users.

Learn more

Setting up your LibChat widgets

Just like a local department or operator, you must first add a co-op to a chat widget before co-op staff can monitor and answer chats from your patrons. You can add co-op monitoring to any new or existing chat widget, either as the initial monitoring option or as a fallback.

Learn more

Preparing your 24/7 Staffing FAQ group

To help co-op staff answer questions from your institution's patrons, they will be able to search your library's FAQs right from within LibChat. These will include:

  • FAQs from all public groups. Any FAQ group with Public/Open availability can be searched. Hidden, Internal, and Restricted Internal groups cannot be searched by co-op staff.
  • FAQs in your 24/7 Staffing group. This is a special group that can only be searched by co-op staff, allowing you to share information about your local policies, collections, e-resources, facilities, etc.

The 24/7 Staffing group will be listed along with your other groups under Admin > FAQ Groups. Please note that, unlike other FAQ groups, only Admin users can add, edit, or delete FAQs in this group. User access cannot be extended to Regular users.

Learn more

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Chatting with patrons & staff from the co-op

Customizing your co-op user profile & nickname

When your account has been added to a co-op, you'll have a user profile that is separate from the one you use in your local LibAnswers site. This allows you to use a different nickname and profile image than what you use when chatting with your own library's patrons (that can still be customized in your local LibAnswers user account).

Your co-op user account also has options for providing your contact information, subject specialties, and education/experience. This info is never displayed to patrons; rather, it provides a way for your co-op's admins to contact you if necessary.

Learn more

Monitoring & answering co-op chats

Once you've been given access to your co-op, you can begin monitoring the co-op via your institution's existing LibChat dashboard.

When a chat arrives from your co-op, it'll show up under Chats > Patron Chats in the LibChat dashboard -- just like chats from your local patrons. To help you easily see which chats in the list are from your patrons from your library vs. the co-op, chats originating from your home institution will display a home () icon next to the patron's name.

A patron chat displaying the home icon above a co-op chat without a home icon

To view more information about a co-op chat without claiming it, click on the patron's name. This will reveal the patron's site, co-op, and referring URL, as well as the name of the widget being used (these details can also be found under the Patron Information tab of the chat pane). If the widget prompted the patron to submit their initial question, it'll display under the Chat tab of the chat pane. To start chatting with the patron, click on the Claim Chat button.

Previewing a co-op chat's details and initial question

Chatting with patrons from the co-op is largely the same as chatting with your own patrons. The big differences you'll notice are:

  • You can search FAQs from the patron's home library right within the chat dashboard. This includes FAQs in the library's 24/7 Staffing FAQs group, as well as their public FAQs.
  • When transferring a co-op chat, you'll have the option to transfer to online operators or departments at the patron's home library, or to other online operators in the co-op. If the patron's library participates in multiple co-ops, you can transfer a chat to one of those, as well.
  • If follow-up is needed, you can create a new ticket for the patron in their home library's LibAnswers system.
Learn more

Chatting with other co-op staff

In addition to chatting with patrons, you can also chat with other online staff from your co-op. Under the Chats tab of the LibChat dashboard, they'll be listed along with your local departments and operators under the Internal Chat section.

  1. Co-Ops: this section will list all of the co-ops you're assigned to and monitoring. Clicking on a co-op will allow you to chat with all online co-op users at once. This is a great way to collaborate as a group.
  2. Operators from Other Systems: in this section, you'll see individual online users from the other systems in your co-op (the name of their institution appears in parentheses). Click on the arrow button to expand or collapse the list. Clicking on a user's name will allow you to chat with them one-on-one.

Of course, you can still chat with other online staff from your own library, as well -- either one-on-one, as a department, or in an all-staff chat.

Learn more

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Analyzing co-op activity

Chat transcripts & feedback

When a co-op answers a chat from one of your library's patrons, the chat transcript is still logged under LibChat > Transcripts -- just like chats answered locally by one of your library's staff members. Each chat answered by your co-op will display a Leave Feedback () icon in the Actions column. Clicking this will allow admin users the ability to provide feedback and rating of the chat.

Co-op staff will be able to view their chat transcripts and the corresponding feedback via the Co-Op's dashboard. Regular users will only have access to transcripts and feedback for the chats they answered. Institution Admin users will have access to the transcripts and feedback for all users from their library.

Please note that co-op staff only have read-only access to transcripts: they cannot edit, delete, or email transcripts. Because transcripts are stored locally in the patron's home LibAnswers system, only users from that library can edit or delete them. If the originating institution deletes a transcript, it will also be removed from the co-op's Transcripts page.

Learn more

Statistics

Your co-op dashboard provides you with a personal summary of your co-op activity, as well as other info about the co-op(s) you belong to. In addition, it's also the jumping off point to view statistics for your co-op activity.

  • Regular co-op users can view reports only for the chats they've answered.
  • Institution Admin users can view reports for all chats answered by their institution's users.
  • Co-Op Admin users can view reports for chats answered by any institution in the co-op.

The stats provided for your co-op are very similar to the stats for your library's LibChat activity, which include:

  • Distributions: this report provides a breakdown of chats answered by month, day of the week, hour of the day, and by day and hour.
  • Browser/OS & Referrer Information: this report provides a breakdown of chats by source and user agent (i.e. browser & operating system).
  • Clients/Staff: this report provides a breakdown of chats answered by user and institution, along with related aggregate data on chat durations and ratings.
  • Co-Op Activity: this report provides a personalized breakdown of your activity within the co-op.
Learn more

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