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Customer Service Standards

  • Remain friendly and approachable, and act in a manner that encourages users to ask for clarification.
  • Call the person by name. Personalizing the conversation will help everyone keep perspective.
  • Restate the question if needed to ensure that you and the user are on the same page.
  • Engage the patron by asking open-ended questions.
  • Be patient with slow replies; there may be a slow connection, poor reading/typing skills, etc.
  • Use canned messages, customizing when necessary or appropriate.
  • Give frequent and positive feedback as you conduct the reference interview.
  • Empathize and show interest in transaction: I see; I understand; That’s an interesting question.
  • Do not use all caps; use *asterisks* for emphasis on a word if needed.
  • Engage the user in conversation, and send updates every 2-3 minutes or so: Still searching…; I am going to pull a book, I will be back in two minutes; Sorry for the delay; the web page is loading slowly; Didn’t find it there, so now I’m trying Resource X.
  • Break long messages into chunks so user gets several chat messages instead of one long message.
  • Use authoritative sources when possible, cite sources, and offer details of how it was retrieved or found.
  • Send a closing message before releasing the chat.
  • Reply to their specific question, and be aware of a hesitancy to ask for clarification.
  • Avoid terse, cold, or negative language, such as: You should have or Why didn’t you. Never imply that the patron should have been able to handle the situation themselves.
  • Let the user blow off steam, but do not take abuse.
  • Never blame other staff or another library.
  • Remain impartial and avoid emotionally charged or liability-prone wording.

Texting (SMS)

  • Answer SMS messages when covering the Statewide Ask a Librarian or Collaborative queues as they come into the chat dashboard.
  • When clarification is needed, try offering general information with your refining request.
  • Not all users have unlimited texting and/or Internet access on their phones, so be aware of how many responses you are sending. Springshare’s text option has a character limit of 150 per message.
  • SMS messages should be answered within 12 hours of receiving the question.
  • Site coordinators should set the SMS auto response to notify patrons if they send a text outside of monitored hours.
  • A text-string time may be set to break up questions from the same patron that are asked across different days.


  • Email responses should be sent within 48 hours from the time the question was asked.
  • Tickets should be closed if no further information is needed from the patron or if a patron hasn’t responded within 72 hours. *Even if the ticket is closed, the patron will still have the ability to respond to the email.
  • When transferring an email ticket to another library, add a note that explaining the transfer reason.
  • Only claim a ticket if you intend to answer the question. If you have opened an email but don’t wish to answer, be sure to “Unclaim” it so others will know it requires attention.
  • If your library will be closed for more than 2 weeks and no one will be monitoring the queue, notify the Help Desk.


  • Ask a Librarian is committed to keeping personal information private. In order to provide effective assistance, we do ask for a name and e-mail address; however, users do not have to provide this information to receive services.

Additional information, such as status – middle school student, college student, etc. – and library of access may be gathered to more efficiently analyze questions, direct our responses, or recommend appropriate reference or research resources. Personal information gathered before and during a session is considered confidential and will only be used to respond to a question and obtain statistical data.