If you are in a position to choose which staff will work best on your chat service, there is a good way to assess the candidate’s aptitude for virtual reference. All QuestionPoint libraries have access to a practice queue, and you can use this to assess the skills of a potential chatting librarian. Here’s how Sandra Clark at the University of the West of England conducted such an assessment:
We ended up doing a chat on the practice queue with an experienced chat librarian posing as a customer. One of the test assessors sat with the candidates and the other with the ‘patron’ We used a common question (journals) with a bit of a twist as there was no e-copy for the year the patron wanted and the paper copy was in our store. We also had possible patron responses mapped out so we would respond to each candidate in a similar way.
To be as fair as possible, the assessors were looking for an aptitude for communicating effectively with customers through evidence of a good reference interview, showing a rapport with the patron and trying to teach rather than tell – we didn’t worry too much about the niceties of chat like using holding messages or a ‘has this completely answered your question?’ statement to conclude the chat as we can train these skills. Also having a staff member with the candidate meant we could start them off on the chat so that the test wasn’t about using the interface.
It worked quite well – I think we’ll use the format again.
How to use Practice Chat:
You can monitor the practice queue of your Subscription Group (BME) to practice your skills or try a new feature without accidentally accepting a real session. Those acting as Librarians in practice sessions should check the Monitor Practice Queue Only box below the queues list in the chat monitor and click Save. Practice Patrons should use the Chat Patron Practice Form, located on the My QuestionPoint page, left-hand side under “Quick Links”. Once you access the Chat Patron Practice Form, leave the Practice box (on the form) checked, then complete and submit the form. If you or someone else is monitoring your group's practice queue, your session begins. If no one is monitoring it, a message indicates that no one is available to chat. Transcripts for practice sessions are labelled "[Practice]" in the chat monitor and in QuestionPoint question lists. Practice sessions are not counted in QuestionPoint statistics.