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)