Presentation: Working with Users of Perceptual Disabilities At a Distance

I actually recently presented this as part of an interview, and thought it had enough new material (and not just repeating my web accessibility posts/presentations) to warrant posting it.

To give you a bit of context, the goal of the presentation was to train staff, who have no prior experience working with persons with disabilities, to provide assistance to users with “perceptual disabilities at a distance”, that is virtually or remotely. Much like the users they would serve, I also made the assumption that staff technical expertise may vary as well. Continue reading “Presentation: Working with Users of Perceptual Disabilities At a Distance”

TRY 2012: Evolving Services with Technology

Angela Hamilton, U of T Scarborough, spoke about technologies that she has used particularly at a campus where many are commuter or distance education students.

Libguides: Customized tools

  • branding yourself for students to recognize you as their librarian: picture, meebo, contact info
  • info on what is an article, database, annotated bibliography, etc.
  • custom course guide
  • use the tools available to you
  • helps to build relationship with users

Online Meeting Software

  • e.g. Adobe Connect
  • for more advanced reference questions
  • share screen – the “show-er” needs to install a plugin, but viewer doesn’t need to
  • one-to-one, but also for teaching sessions

Screencapture Videos

  • check vendors for already made videos e.g. ISI for Web of Science
  • Jing (sp?) – free 5 min videos
  • answer longer questions
  • can also do it at the reference desk and e-mail it to them
  • esp useful for non-techsavvy and ESL students to review later
  • can also work for one-on-one session if have software for longer videos

I think some of the ideas presented here are great ways to give students further reference on how to do their research, especially on-the-spot screencasts for customized tutorials for them to review later.

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)

Reference Gone Mobile Notes – ALPS December Meeting

Presented by panelists Debra Flewelling (Douglas College), Nicole Gjertsen (Simon Fraser University) and Joyce Wong (Langara College).

  • 93% students use phone for texting

Phone Based Service

This is where a library buys a phone and plan and passes the phone from librarian to librarian (whomever is on duty).


  • cheap cost


  • no statistics
  • cumbersome
  • asynchronous means a student might reply hours later when another librarian has the phone

Might start with phone as beta service, but will usually move to software based.

Software Based Service

Users send texts, which are then turned into emails sent to librarians. The reply emails are sent back to students as texts. Different setup options are available, such as shared or dedicated numbers.


  • little or no change to workflow
  • automated message sent if unavailable
  • can do mass messaging campaigns
  • courtesy notice option


  • more expensive

Upside Wireless

  • somewhat of a monopoly in Canada
  • can share number or shortcut but needs – user needs to precede text with a specific word (e.g. Douglas or Langara)
  • dedicated line – more expensive, but more messages and dedicated

Some Statistics


dedicated phone and staff

  • 50% facilities/how/where
  • 22% ref/citation
  • rest known item/technology


recently extended hours
auto response with askaway or desk’s phone number if closed

  • 20% directional
  • 50% known item
  • 30% ref
  • 8am-6pm typically
  • few questions on weekends, but open
  • ~10 mins response time
  • ref questions usually referred to subject/liaison librarian


  • must be careful of message size limit
  • should have quick turnaround time
  • may point to where can find answer instead of give answer
  • best practices and guidelines including local polices
  • need to work out workflow
  • might bring in other staff to answer non-reference questions


  • keyword campaign – users text keyword to number to enter prize draw
  • posters and banners
  • tabletop mini-posters
  • social media of institution
  • website, especially mobile site
  • powerpoint slide for liaison libraries to add to their presentations
  • article or ads in student paper
  • QR codes
  • word of mouth

Can ask students where they found out about the service.

Programming & Software Design Research Guide – LIBR 530

So for LIBR 530, we were to make a mini-subject guide and write up services that we would propose for the use of a specific type of person. To explain, the persona I chose is a computer science faculty member working on the more ‘theoretical’ side of things.

Lack of Literature

It was actually very difficult to find any research done on information behaviours for computer science faculty, especially anything recent and in the library context. I had to extrapolate from other research on scientists or computer science professionals and much of it I actually got from asking people I knew who had either done research or current faculty members.

The Resources

Interestingly, on the flip side, it was not hard at all to find out which resources were the most important ones. As conferences and its proceedings/reports are so important in the field, the big associations have their own publications and digital libraries. Google Scholar is frequently used because it indexes proceedings, reports (including technical reports), and online writings (vs. formal publications) from academic and research sites.

The Services

I don’t feel as if the services are original in any way, but I thought they were the most useful regardless. The hardest part of putting them into place, especially the first two, is the licensing and copyright involved. I wonder if lecture notes database already exist in an academic institution, in which case, it should be fairly easy to simply replicate.


Honestly, not my best work. I didn’t spend as much time on it as I would have liked, because I just didn’t have the time to. If I could do it over again, I would have taken more time to research and interview people, possibly even do a mini-study. I probably would have focused on the more application and technology side of computer science as well since that’s where my interest lie or do a completely different subject that I know nothing about.