A knowledge base is more than a database of outdated answers? Eight reasons to use your QuestionPoint knowledge base.
Over the years since QuestionPoint’s introduction, we sometimes hear the question “Why the knowledge base . . . ?” Why would I want to put answers to questions in a knowledge base? Why add to my workload when I don’t have to? Why search the knowledge base?—no one ever asks the same question in the same way.
Well, here are some of the reasons other librarians have given for using their local (and sometimes Global) knowledge base:
- To answer repeat questions. We all know that librarians can get the same question over and over again, especially when there is a “class bomb.” (I just heard this phrase in recent postings to the QuestionPoint-L listserv, when the 24/7 Cooperative was suddenly overrun by a class of students who, exhorted to use chat to “talk” to a librarian, all clamored at once to get a question answered.) There is little point in each librarian repeating the same research—unless they, too, are in training. Why not use what has already been found by the first librarian, and perhaps add to it?
Contests are another source of repeat questions, and some of these are downright difficult to answer! Chances are, when dealing with hard-to-find answers, one librarian might have just the right background or experience or intuition to lead her to the answer, and another may not. In fact, even when you’re sure a question will never be asked again, chances are it will, at some time, in some form, of some librarian.
- To store lengthy instructions on how to use the library’s resources. For example, if you continually need to tell students how to select a database, log in, and use keywords to search it, you might want to type these up once and store them in your local KB. A huge advantage to having oft-repeated instructions stored within easy reach is that it saves you from retyping the same information over and over. You can always modify the instructions as necessary once copied into your message box or, when necessary, you can update or add to the record in the KB.
- To record “institutional memory.” Sometimes this is referred to as knowledge management. At a more individual level, this has sometimes been called “tacit information”—that knowledge that is in someone’s head, knowledge that is part of their experience. Knowledge that can be lost upon retirement—knowledge that isn’t available when that person is not available. The local knowledge base, because it allows metadata assignment and because it’s searchable, is a great way to begin to record those snippits of information so they are accessible to all.
- Consistency in answers. Sometimes delivering answers or instructions isn’t enough. You want your library’s answers to be accurate, comprehensive, and courteous. Drawing on the same content, or template, facilitates consistent and courteous answers. You can always add your own personalized openings, closings, and phrasings, but your patrons receive consistent service for similar needs.
- To collaborate on answers. One of the criticisms of knowledge bases is that the answers so quickly become outdated. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Answers can be edited, updated, added to . . . and addenda can be appended. As you encounter a KB record for which you know of additional sources or have new information, add it. Don’t settle for out-of-date and incomplete
- To train new staff about resources and strategies. Although staff can refer to your library’s actual transcripts in QuestionPoint proper—that is, in the Ask module—reading through questions and answers may be an easier way to follow the work that has been done. In the KB the transcript has probably been “scrubbed” a bit, taking out extraneous material and correcting typos. Work that other staff has done, and in particular other libraries (by looking at Global Knowledge Base records), is a kind of continuing education.
- To provide patrons access to answers as a first stop. You can offer your local knowledge base or the Global Knowledge Base as a search option to your patrons. In fact, you can set up the link or the search box to search both at once. Don’t forget, in your local KB, records you don’t want the public to see can be indicated as Not Public when they are added to the KB. A search box can even be positioned on your intake form or on any web page under your institution’s control.
- To publish rather than perish? Well, maybe not quite a substitute for the age-old university publish-or-perish method for increasing visibility and furthering your academic career, but have you ever thought of using the knowledge base to show not only how much but how good your research work is? Maybe your library would even consider contribution to the Global Knowledge Base—where potentially libraries and patrons around the world can see your research—as one kind of publishing activity.
QuestionPoint makes it easy to re-use information from the KB. And it tracks that usage, as well. When you search the KB from your Answer Question page (click on the Search KB button in the upper right of the page) and find a useful record, Forward Answer and Copy Answer buttons allow you to forward directly to your patron or copy the answer to your Answer message box. In either case, you can edit the answer and add to it before it is sent.
When you use either the Forward or the Copy button, the activity is logged as a re-use of that record and noted on the record itself. Total re-uses and total records re-used are logged in My QuestionPoint >> Reports >> QP Usage, in the Knowledge Base and the Administration sections.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.