Holiday times can be difficult for patrons who are lonely, cut-off or with other socialization issues. In the physical world, a trip to the library can be a social lifeline, but issues arise when the lonely latch on to the library chat service – especially when there are other patrons, needing help with research or other library-specific requests.
Here are some tips to deal with the lonely, the bored, and/or the persistent:
· Pick up the patron. Don’t leave patron waiting in the queue, as this will result in skewed wait times for the service, and may cause the waiting patron to enter multiple times.
· If you know (or have reason to believe) that the patron has asked this same (or similar) questions before, ask a clarifying question to determine if the patron seems to be following a pattern of unwarranted excessive use. Example: "What was lacking in the resources previously given to you?"
· If patron is simply asking the same previously asked question and has no additional clarifying information, then send this message: “I’m sorry, I can’t find anything else with the resources available to me, but I will forward this to your local library for further review. Could you verify your email address?”
· Code Follow Up if patron provides an email address. If no email address, code as Answered.
· If this patron returns with the same question, send this message if you coded patron’s previous message for follow up: “I’ve already forwarded this for further review and there is nothing more to add at this time. Thank you for using this service.” If patron is anonymous/hasn’t left an email, change the message slightly as follows: “I’ve already offered the option for further review and there is nothing more to add at this time, Thanks for using this service.”
· Add a librarian note to the session: repeat patron
For more detail, see the 24/7 Policy on Persistent Patrons
If you suspect your patron just wants to chat rather than get an answer to a question, try this approach:
Patron: [asks a question that’s already been answered]
Librarian: Hi [patron name, if provided], I see you’ve already asked that question several times.
Librarian: do you log in repeatedly because you have not had your questions sufficiently answered?
Librarian: Do you like chatting with different librarians?
Librarian: Does it help you?
Librarian: How so?
Patron: Because I’m bored and need somebody to talk to all day online
Librarian: This is a library reference service, and we have people waiting who need assistance with their research. I suggest you try a chat room, where you can discuss whatever interests you. Do you need help locating one?
If patron says yes, send a link to Yahoo!’s directory of chat rooms or something similar.
If patron indicates he may be in crisis or needs a support group instead, refer the patron to an appropriate hotline, staffed by mental health professionals or trained crisis volunteers. The librarian should not provide counselling. See the policy on crisis calls for more detail.