Skip to Main Content

LibAnswers Best Practices and Training: Dashboard Best Practices

This guide gives Library staff information on using LibAnswers to provide reference and circulation service to library patrons. The guide includes information on best practices for providing service to patrons virtually through the LibAnswers Dashboard an

Email us/Ask us Best Practices

Responding to Patrons

  • Greet the patron. For example: "Hello....Thank you for using Ask Us".
  • Avoid using library jargon
  • Answer questions within one business day. Exceptions: University holidays, University closure days.
  • Close answers with a signature, and include your name and service group name. For example: "We hope the information we have provided will assist with your research.", or "Hope this helps."


  • Questions may need to be referred to staff inside and outside of LibAnswers. For detailed instructions, see Referring a Question Inside the System and Referring a Question Outside the System.
  • Notify the patron that their request has been referred, and provide contact information.
  • Contact the liaison librarian or expert to make sure of their availability and to notify them of the referral.


  • Staff working in the Dashboard need to check the Spam tab, as there are often legitimate tickets there.
  • To determine if a message is spam: 1. Check the patron's name on WatIAM White Page Search. 2. Assess the question type and sentence structure.
  • Label spam messages. LibAnswers learns from tickets labeled spam or not spam.

Department Responsibilities

  • ISR and Circulation staff work within the same Dashboard, collaboration is encouraged.
  • Circulation staff handle circulation related questions, such as patron accounts.
  • ISR staff handle questions that are beyond enhanced directional.
  • Department responsibilities differ on weekdays, weeknights, and weekends. See Department Responsibilities for 9-5 and for Evenings and Weekends.

 Recommended Actions

  • When monitoring the Dashboard, check for questions periodically during your shift.
  • You can set alerts so as to be notified that a new item as come into the Dashboard.


  • Email reference service is provided Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. The expectation is to answer all questions from the day before 5:00pm.
  • Shifts are assigned for a one week period. See the email reference schedule.

SMS Reference Best Practices

Answering Questions

  • Respond quickly, and notify the patron as to the anticipated response time, because text reference is used for immediacy.
  • Keep answers brief, in a single message if possible.
  • Answer questions in the order they are received, and with actual answers, not URLs.
  • If there is no response, do not reply.


  • Questions may need to be referred to staff inside and outside of LibAnswers. Referrals outside of  LibAnswers are handled differently because there is no way to pass on the patron's phone number.
  • Notify the patron that their request has been referred and provide contact information.
  • Contact the liaison librarian or expert. Send a response to the patron when you receive it.
    • Use your judgement in how you contact the expert, keeping in mind the immediate nature of text reference.
  • Alternatively, change to email reference.


Recommended Actions

  • Use correct spelling, grammar, and capitalization, while talking conversationally.

  • Do not correct spelling unless necessary for understanding, and correct it using an asterisks (e.g., *blue).

  • Break up long responses to avoid long pauses for lengthy answers (e.g., 30 words per block).

  • Be aware that some patrons have limited text message plans.

  • Use strategies to clarify information, and do not expect dialogue in text reference transactions (e.g., ask 1-3 clarifying questions, paraphrase questions back, ask about assignment requirements.