TRY 2012: Library FAQ and Answers: Reimagining Email Reference


  • Judith Logan – Robarts Library, UTL
  • Michelle Spence – Engineering & Computer Science Library, UTL

The Basics

  • LibAnwers: User Knowledgebase FAQ database powered by SpringShare
  • Contact Information if question not answered


  • Designed to have one FAQ system per library, but too many libraries at UTL
  • 3 libraries grouped together: Gerstein, OISE, Robarts
  • launched Dec 2011


  • relied on Springshare’s training materials and FAQ


  • Questions come into system
  • => access & information staff member reads and answers questions
  • or assigns questions appropriate for other libraries/services
  • send on to specific library if needed

Guidelines and Best Practices

  • developed collaboratively
  • ensure questions get answered in a timely manner
  • ensure answers are up to date (each library check their questions)
  • tips for writing for the web
  • default settings/entering questions manually (private by default, so not in knowledgebase because frequently includes personal info)
  • applicable to all libraries (in most cases)

On Website

  • FAQ under Quick links
  • E-mail contact link now goes to submission form to cut down on spam
  • FAQ browse and search on Contact Us page
  • Library FAQs button under every Ask Us chat – widget includes tag cloud and contact info


  • Knowledge Base Explorer that tracks public and private questions
  • Query Spy tracks user interaction with the system
  • Custom analysis queries

Typical Month

  • 57% find an instant answer
  • 13.5% receive an answer within one business day
  • 30% do not find their answer (successive queries or outside scope of FAQ service)
  • unanswered usually using the wrong search: searching for staff, database, or research question


  • analyze query spy data further
  • integrate with other reference service vehicles
  • promote as a resource for staff
  • expand to suburban campuses and more St. George libraries
  • create workflow to maintain currency and accuracy of articles
  • enrich resources with multimedia (images & videos)

Author: Cynthia

Technologist, Librarian, Metadata and Technical Services expert, Educator, Mentor, Web Developer, UXer, Accessibility Advocate, Documentarian

Leave a Comment

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: