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LibChat Co-Op: getting started as a non-contributing member

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.

Who is this Springboard for?

Within each co-op, there are different types of member institutions:

  • Contributing members: these are institutions that contribute staff hours to answering patron chats within the co-op. 
  • Non-contributing members: these are institutions that do not contribute staff hours to answering patron chats within the co-op. 

This Springboard is intended for non-contributing members. In it, you will learn everything you need to allow your patrons' chats to be answered by the co-op. This includes setting up your chat widgets and adding FAQs to your 24/7 Staffing FAQ group. In addition, you'll also learn how to provide feedback on chats answered by co-op staff.

(Is your library a contributing member? We've got a Springboard just for you! Check it out here.)

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 LibAnswers Admin users. This is a user who has admin-level permissions to your LibAnswers system, allowing them to manage accounts, content, and system settings.

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.

Learn more

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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 a rate the chat. Co-op staff will be able to view the transcripts of the chats they've answered, along with any feedback you provided.

Please note: transcripts for chats answered by the co-op are still stored locally in your LibAnswers system, so only users from your library can edit or delete them. Co-op staff only have read-only access to transcripts: they cannot edit, delete, or email them. As a result, if you delete a transcript from LibAnswers, it will also be removed from the co-op's Transcripts page.
Learn more

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