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)

TRY 2012: Mobile Device Loans at the Library


  • Mandissa Arlain – RULA
  • Monique Flaccavento – OISE Library, UTL
  • Ricardo Laskaris – YorkU Libraries
  • Fangmin Wang – RULA
  • Jenaya Webb – OISE Library, UTL

Loaning Device

  • Laptops
  • iPads (with covers & cables) at OISE
  • York also provides many other gadgets & accessories
  • most 4 hour loans (York 1-4 days), restricted to university community


  • posters
  • social media: twitter, facebook, blog
  • LCD screens
  • website
  • branding of bags


  • iPad > laptop at OISE
  • 12.5% of circulation stats at Ryerson
  • laptops & iPads at York


  • sign waiver first time
  • replacement fee for losts
  • personal data cleared by deep freeze software once powered down
  • iPads cleared manually (~20 minutes each time) whenever returned
  • theft reported to security & IT
  • repairs sent to IT

Staffing Considerations

  • training sessions for staff including hands on experience
  • basic use and troubleshooting help
  • technical support & issues to IT
  • working group meeting to discuss issues
  • chargers with devices

Financial Support

  • education commons as pilot project at OISE
  • library itself & one-time funding from provost office to upgrade at Ryerson
  • library paid & some donations at York
  • apps purchased with gift card so as not to associate credit card #

Software & Apps Selection

  • laptop software same as what’s on desktop
  • productivity apps e.g. Dropbox
  • educational
  • preferred free, but some money to purchase apps

Age & Replacement Schedule

  • no formal refreshment cycle
  • mostly depends on budget, try to repair existing laptops
  • replacements determined by IT

User Feedback

  • informally, anecdotal
  • from student committee
  • studies planned for future: focus groups, survey

Future Directions

  • meeting demands, so unlikely to expand
  • no money to expand
  • future to encourage students to bring their own devices