Skip to Main Content
Lansing Community College Library

Reference & Instruction Guide: Chat

Policies, procedures, best practices and training guide, for reference and instruction services.

Best Practices

  • I connected to the patron promptly.
  • I read the patron profile information and recorded the patron's name, institution, and e-mail in case we get disconnected.
  • I introduced myself to the patron using a scripted greeting similar to "Hi. This is Kelli, a librarian from Lansing Community College in Michigan. I am reading your question and will be with you very soon."
  • I restated the patron's topic and confirmed with which college they are affiliated.
  • I asked about the assignment and course and what types of resources they could use.
  • I asked what sources the patron had checked already and how much time they had.
  • I established and maintained a professional, friendly tone.
  • I tried to match my tone and pace with the patron's.
  • I avoided using too much library jargon and explained unfamiliar terms.
  • I took a teaching approach rather than answer their questions.
  • I suggested improved search strategies when necessary.
  • I provided more than one type of resource, if appropriate.
  • I used standard English grammar and punctuation.
  • I used shorter sentences when possible and broke longer messages into shorter segments.
  • I used the patron's name often.
  • I asked the patron plenty of questions throughout the session to get feedback.
  • I responded often so the patron knew I was there.
  • I made appropriate use of scripts / FAQ texts for consistency.
  • I used other communication methods (e-mail, phone, etc.), as appropriate.
  • I asked the patron if he / she was happy with the results of the session.
  • I encouraged the patron to come back for more help, if necessary.
  • I encouraged the patron to close by clicking on Exit.
  • I encouraged the patron to complete the patron survey.
  • If possible, I let the patron disconnect first.
  • If the patron provided an e-mail address and you feel there is a need for follow up by the patron's institution, be sure to mark the session as a Shared Follow Up.


  • The library monitors LibAnswers Chat & Email service Monday through Thursday when classes are in session.
  • The librarian coordinating the virtual reference service notifies the collaborative each semester when LCC librarians are available to monitor virtual reference. 
  • The Library Director assigns librarians to virtual reference / chat shifts as part of their reference service assignments. Librarians assigned to a Reference Chat shift are also responsible for monitoring the e-mail reference service and responding to Shared Follow-Up requests from collaborative librarians for the same day.
  • Virtual reference on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, is not assigned.  The librarians working on the Research Help Desk these days should log on to LibAnswers to answer Tickets.
  • Tickets, which include Email inquiries and / or Chat follow-up questions are the responsibility of the Librarian assigned to a chat shift on Mondays through Thursdays until 4 p.m. On the day of an assigned chat shift, librarians are encouraged to check for tickets early in the day, when possible

  • During evening shifts Tickets will be monitored by the Reference Librarian staffing the Research Help Desk.


LibStaffer is used to clock in and out of a librarian’s assigned chat shifts. Librarians’ assigned shifts should appear in 30 minute increments in LibStaffer. Access LibStaffer under the heading Status Messages and Alerts each time you log into LibAnswers when staffing chat.

In the case that a librarian's assigned shift does not show up in LibStaffer, the librarian should contact LCC's chat manager. The librarian should staff assigned chat queues, as normal.

If chat shifts have been traded, the assigned shift must be traded in LibStaffer. Follow the instructions below.

  1. Log in to
  2. Find the shift in My Upcoming Shifts. You might have to use the calendar to change the date to Next 14 days.
  3. Click on Drop.
  4. Click on Assign Shift to (choose my name from the dropdown menu)
  5. Click on Drop Shift.
  6. Click on Close.
  7. Repeat this process with each 30 minute segment.


The Library provides virtual reference service by participating in the Michigan Virtual Reference Collaborative Research Help Now (RHN) service. RHN LibAnswer reference service software from SpringShare. The software allows librarians and students to type messages and share webpages in real time, as well as providing the option of email services.

Virtual Reference Librarians have access to information about participating libraries in order to inform students about the resources, including research databases at their institutions. LCC students who use this service may be helped by a librarian from another Michigan academic institution or from another librarian hired by the chat software service.

Virtual Reference Librarians instruct students rather than provide them answers. When deemed appropriate, Virtual Reference Librarians will first take students to the databases at their own institution.

Students can access the library's Ask a Librarian chat service or RHN by following these steps:

  1. Locate the library's homepage.
  2. Click on Ask a Librarian.
  3. Type a question in the Ask a Librarian chat box.
  4. Users may also connect to virtual reference by using the RHN collaborative link, located in the chat section of the Ask a Librarian webpage.

Resources and Activities

  • RHN has developed a detailed manual which includes the policies, procedures, and best practices for the service. Ask the Online Librarian for a copy of the RHN Policy Manual and read it.
  • Schedule a training session with the Virtual Reference Coordinator.
  • Complete the LibAnswers training.

Asking for a Sub from the Collaborative

If you need a sub, send an email to:

Once somebody responds, send a message to the Listserv thanking the volunteer. After you get the sub, reassign the shift to the librarian in LibStaffer.

Below is a message you can adapt:

  • Please consider taking my VR shift this Wednesday, 13 December from 10am - 11am for Research Help Now and the global queue..