The 24/7 Reference Cooperative is set up so that Cooperative librarians are monitoring all chat queues of all member participants at all times. The Cooperative is there whether your librarians are monitoring or not, not just when your librarians are offline. If you are busy helping local patrons, then the Cooperative is ready to back you up and help out. And of course the Cooperative is always there during times your librarians are not online – after hours, during holidays, and during snowstorms when your library is closed. This is why libraries value the 24/7 Reference Cooperative – it is available 24/7!
One complaint we used to get was when the Cooperative librarians were too quick and picked up a patron before the local librarian had a chance. We tried several different approaches to solve this issue. First we told Coop librarians to check before picking up to see if any local librarians were online. Then we enhanced the software, so an asterisk would appear in the chat monitor next to patrons whose local librarians were online. Then we set a 40 second delay, such that all patrons whose local librarians were online would not be seen by Coop librarians until 40 seconds had elapsed – giving the local librarians a 40 second window to pick up. But, the 40 second delay was not long enough in some cases; the Enquire group (UK public libraries) requested that Coop librarians wait an additional amount of time before picking up UK patrons, if UK librarians were online.
But those rules are all in the past. In September 2010, we added an enhancement to the chat queues which allow the group administrator (also known as the BME admin) to define the amount of time the local patrons should appear to local librarians only. See the Sept 19 2010 Release Notes posted earlier in this blog. So, a patron from a public library in California may have a 40 second delay, while a patron from a UK public library may have a 120 second delay. As a Cooperative librarian, you don’t need to calculate how long to wait – the software does that for you. So, if you see a patron in your chat monitor, that means any delay set by the local library has already expired -- and you can go ahead and pick up that patron. Now we never hear complaints that the Cooperative librarians are picking up patrons too quickly – instead, we hear when librarians aren’t picking up quickly enough.
The rule today: if the patron appears in your chat monitor, pick him up!