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Getting started with a LibAnswers shared group system

We know - getting a new system is both really exciting and fairly daunting all at the same time. You have this shiny new system...with nothing in it. What do you do with this totally empty system?? Let's walk through the things you ought to learn & discuss before you start setting up your system and then help you set everything up!

Who is this Springboard for?

This Springboard is intended for users setting up a LibAnswers Shared Group System. This is a special type of LibAnswers site specifically for a group of affiliated locations that cannot all support their own individual sites, and/or provide staffing to answer patron questions directly. With a shared group system, you can still identify patrons as originating from a particular location, but their questions can be answered by users belonging to any of the other locations.

Although there are many similarities between a shared group system and a traditional LibAnswers site, there are also some features and limitations unique to shared group systems that you will learn more about in this Springboard.

Looking for help setting up a traditional LibAnswers site for your library? Please head to our springboard on Setting up LibAnswers for the first time. This will cover all aspects of the setup process for traditional sites.

While this Springboard is primarily intended for the initial Admin level user created in the system, that doesn't mean only that person should take a look! (Unless you're a solo librarian...then it just makes sense, of course! ;) ) This guide is for anyone who is helping to initially set up the system. Others may or may not be Admin level users in the system, but they can still understand the options and help discuss / form the plan for how you'll use the system, so feel free to share the information!

Featured training sessions

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Join our Springy Training Team for the Planning your LibAnswers Site workshop, offered monthly. This session is for folks just getting started with a brand new LibAnswers site -- or attempting a total overhaul. We’ll discuss how the different parts of LibAnswers integrate, efficient setup, and planning for future growth. 

Visit the Springy training calendar to register for the next available session! While you're there, also check out our LibChat: System Setup & Answering Chats and Setting up LibAnswers Groups & FAQs sessions, as well!

Or, if you're unable to make it to a live training session, check out the LibAnswers System Tour & Planning video anytime in our training video collection.


Step 1. Configure your system settings

Before you start adding user accounts for your colleagues, it can be helpful to get your system settings configured first. This will make sure that all of the settings are the way you want before users start adding content to the system. To get started, head to Admin > System Settings.

The System Settings page

The most important of these is your Time Zone, as this affects the date and times used throughout the system. This will impact the timing of email notifications, among other things, so be sure to select the proper time zone for your system. You'll find this, along with other settings, under the General tab.

Also under the General tab, you'll find a list of all members of your shared group system in the Group Shared System box. To change your shared group system status, or add, edit, or remove members from the group, please contact Springshare support.

General tab showing the Time Zone setting and Group Shared System box

You can also customize the appearance of your LibAnswers public pages under the Look & Feel tab. If you're looking to customize the styles of your pages, you can add a banner imagecustom HTML header & footer, and/or custom javascript & CSS code. This can be as simple or sophisticated as you'd like. :)

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Step 2. Add user accounts

This is where you can start giving your colleagues access to LibAnswers. When you add an account, be sure to select the appropriate level of permissions for that user, based upon how you need them to use the system. For example, if you will have other folks helping you manage the system, you'll want to make sure they have admin-level access.

In a shared group system specifically, you'll also want to assign each user a group member affiliation. This is what's used to identify each user as belonging to a specific location, which is displayed on the Manage Accounts page in the Group Member column.

Once you've given everyone access, encourage them to explore the system hands-on and start creating content. Don't forget to share our documentation, videos, and training calendar, too, in case they need any help!

The Create a New Account tab on the Manage Accounts page

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Step 3. Set up your FAQ groups

FAQs are the frequently asked questions & answers that you want to share with your library community. Within LibAnswers, FAQs are organized into groups. Each group has an availability setting, which determines who can search and view its FAQs. In addition to keeping your FAQs organized, each group also has its own set of customizable web pages. These allow your users to browse, search, and view the group's published FAQs. 

When first starting out, your shared group system will have the following groups:

  • Default group: this group's pages also serve as the homepage of your LibAnswers system, which is what patrons will see when they first visit your site. Although it's pages and FAQs are public by default, you can restrict its availability if desired. (Just keep in mind that doing so may prevent the general public from accessing your LibAnswers site.)
  • Group Member Policy FAQ groups: each location in your shared group system will have its own Group Member Policy FAQ group. This is a special type of group that staff can search while chatting with patrons, allowing you to share information about your local policies, collections, e-resources, facilities, etc. Unlike regular FAQ groups, these are intended for internal use and do not have public pages. Only Admin users can add FAQs to these groups.

You can add as many additional groups to your system as you'd like. For example, you can add groups for different departments (reference, circulation, etc.) or services (tech support, borrowing policies, etc.). If any of the locations in your shared group system would like to provide their patrons with public FAQs, then you can create a public group for them, too. The FAQs added there will be separate from their Group Member Policy FAQs.

Each additional group you create will have its own friendly URLpages, and look & feel options, allowing you to give it a completely customized web presence. Also be sure to set up the appropriate user access for each group. System Admins have full access to every group, but you will need to specify which regular users will be able to add and edit a group's FAQs.

Lastly, before you start creating your FAQs, consider taking some time to set up your system's topics and keywords. ‚Äč

  • Topics allow you to organize the FAQs in each of your Groups. When a user is viewing your group's homepage, they'll see an option to browse FAQs by topic. They'll also be able to filter search results by topic, as well. In addition, topics can also be used to create customized FAQ List widgets.
  • Unlike topics, which patrons can use to browse FAQs, keywords are designed to improve the relevancy ranking of FAQs in search results. When a patron's search query contains a keyword that you assign to an FAQ, that FAQ will have a higher relevancy ranking. As a result, patrons will be more likely to find it.

The Manage FAQ Groups page

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Step 4. Set up your ticket queues

A ticket represents a conversation between you and your patrons - their question, your answer, and any other replies! Tickets can also contain internal notes - for example, a conversation between you and a colleague, or an internal note containing information that might be useful to others answering similar tickets. 

Each ticket is assigned to a queue, which is how tickets are organized in LibAnswers. For example, you could have one queue for general reference questions, another for circulation questions, and even another for tech help questions! Each system will have at least one queue, but your LibAnswers subscription can include additional queues. If you're interested in adding more, contact the Springy Sales team.

When setting up your queues, one of the most important decisions you need to make is who should have access to the queue. System admins have full access to each queue, but you will need to specify which regular users will be able to manage tickets within the queue. If someone has not been given access to the queue, then they will not be able to view or reply to questions submitted to the queue.

Next, you'll want to configure the different channels your queue can use to receive questions. This includes your queue's online question form, email address, and SMS number.

Lastly, you'll want to spend some time setting up the tags you want to use to organize your tickets. Tags can be used to search for tickets and filter your stats. This is also a good time to set up any macros you want to use, as well, when replying to tickets.

The Manage Queues page

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Step 5. Set up LibChat departments & widgets

LibChat is a full-featured chat-reference tool built directly into LibAnswers. With LibChat you can create dedicated chat departments monitored by multiple staff members, build and embed customizable chat widgets that can go just about anywhere, answer incoming chat, SMS and Facebook message in the same place, and more!

The first step in setting up LibChat is creating your chat departments. When creating a department, you need to assign users to monitor chats within that department. You can select individual users (from any group member location), or you can assign the department to a ticket queue. When you assign a department to a queue, any user with access to the queue will also be able to monitor chats in that department. This is helpful if you want the same people answering tickets in your reference queue to also monitor chats in your reference department.

The LibChat Settings page

Next, you'll need to create some LibChat widgets to embed in your website and anywhere else where you want patrons to chat with you. In a shared group system, there are two important settings to pay attention to:

  • Group member affiliation: this lets chat operators know which location in your shared group system a widget belongs to. This is especially important if your LibAnswers site is part of a co-op, as this will ensure that the co-op staff member is searching the correct Group Member Policy FAQs for that patron's library.
  • Who monitors the widget: this determines which departments, operators, and/or co-ops can answer chats submitted through the widget.

LibChat widget creator page, showing the group member affiliation and who monitors the widget settings

Lastly, consider setting up some canned messages for your staff. These can be a real time saver, as they give you ready-made messages that you can use to quickly reply to frequently asked questions.

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Step 6. Set up Reference Analytics datasets

The Reference Analytics module allows you to track all of the questions you're asked, regardless of the the user's location or the library service they're using. You can define the data you want to record, create multiple datasets (to track everything that's important to you), and gather valuable data about how questions are asked and answered throughout your library. You can input new transactions directly from a ticket in LibAnswers, after an interaction in LibChat, and directly from within the module.

To get started with Reference Analytics, you'll need to configure your dataset(s). Each dataset is set up to gather a question and answer, but you can add up to 10 multiple-choice fields to gather additional information. For example, you could record the patron's status, the type of question asked, where the question was asked, and how long it took to answer it. Before you start recording transactions, it's important that you get these questions set up the way you want them. Changes made to the multiple-choice options after you've recorded transactions will be reflected in those transactions.

The Reference Analytics Setitngs page

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Step 7. Customize your site's domain name & HTTPS settings

Out of the box, each new LibAnswers site has its own unique libanswers.com domain name. If you're happy with that domain name, great! However, if you're interested in customizing your domain name so it fits in with the rest of your institution's web sites, you can work with your IT staff and LibApps admin(s) to change it. (Note: a user who has admin access to LibAnswers may not necessarily have admin access to your LibApps settings. Check your LibApps dashboard for a list of your system's Admin users.)

For example, let's say your library's website is springylib.org and your LibAnswers website is springylib.libanswers.com. If you'd like your LibAnswers site to also end with springylib.org, you could change it to something like libanswers.springylib.org

Whether or not you decide to customize your domain name, we recommended that you configure your site to always load over HTTPS. This will ensure that your patrons are always accessing your site and submitting forms over a secure, encrypted connection.

  • If your site uses a libanswers.com domain name, you can begin viewing your site over HTTPS right away. Your LibApps admin can configure your site to always load over HTTPS (strongly recommended).
  • If your site uses a custom domain name, then you first need to work with your IT staff to update your DNS. We will then automatically install a free Let's Encrypt SSL certificate for your site, at which point your domain name change will take effect. Your LibApps admin can then configure your site to always load over HTTPS (strongly recommended).

The LibApps Domains and Certificates page

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Setup Checklist

Before you go, consider reviewing the following checklist to make sure you have everything set up and ready for action. If you missed something, no worries! Check out the sections above for help tying up any loose ends.

System settings and accounts

  • Have you configured your system settings, such as your system name and time zone?
  • Does everyone who needs a user account have one?
  • Is every user assigned to the correct group member affiliation?
  • Have you customized the basic look & feel for your system the way you want, such as your banner image, header, and footer?
  • Did you want to customize your site's domain name?
  • Is your site set to always load over a secure, encrypted HTTPS connection?

FAQs and groups

  • Have you customized the settings and pages for your default FAQ group? (Remember: this group serves as the homepage for your entire site.)
  • Have you created any additional FAQ groups that you may need?
  • Has each user been given access to the group(s) they need?
  • Have you created and published the internal Group Member Policy FAQs for each location?
  • Have you created and published your public FAQs?
  • Did you create topics and keywords to assign to each group's FAQs?

Tickets and queues

  • Have you customized your ticket queue, including your question form, email address, and notifications?
  • Did you need any additional ticket queues? (If so, you can contact the Springy Sales Team to increase your allowance.)
  • Has each user been given access to the queue(s) they need?

LibChat

  • Have you created one or more LibChat departments and chat widgets?
  • Has each user been given access to the department(s) they need?
  • Did you assign each widget the appropriate group member affiliation?
  • Have you identified where you want to embed your chat widgets?

Reference Analytics

  • Have you set up your Reference Analytics datasets?
  • Did you want to set your system settings to prompt users to add tickets and chats to your datasets?

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