TUE (FEB 21, 2023) 

9:00-9:05a Welcome


Keynote (presentation + Q&A) - View Recording

Wholehearted Libraries: Meeting the Needs of Community 

(Dr. Michael Stephens)

We should bring our hearts to work, and qualities such as open-mindedness, emotional intelligence, and reflective action are all part of this process. Services steeped in humanism, compassion, and understanding should be the cornerstone of what we do, and why we do it, for all members of our communities, including the underserved. Not only do libraries need high tech, they also need staff who approach their work with a wholehearted attitude. 


We should approach technology information work in all of its forms with an open heart. We need staff to lead with the heart and to see every interaction as an opportunity to improve someone's life -- remove a burden, give some pleasure, and help them grow, etc. The best library staffers make that emotional investment because they believe in the communities they serve. 

Session and Lightning Talks

Session: 10:20-11:10a

Innovating and adapting reference services to serve resident students incarcerated in Idaho - View Recording

In August 2021, Dr. Omi Hodwitz (Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Idaho) reached out to the University of Idaho Library about providing library services to resident students who are currently incarcerated at Idaho Department of Corrections (IDOC) facilities. These students had recently become eligible to take classes at the University of Idaho as part of the University’s participation in the Second Chance Pell Experiment (, and Dr. Hodwitz was seeking to create an alternative infrastructure across the University to support these students. Because of internet access limitations, content restrictions, and communication constraints, the Library had to create a new way for students to access approved library materials, while also ensuring that students had similar opportunities to search an actual catalog, request additional sources, and choose which sources they wanted to use in their assignments. We first partnered with our colleagues in Data & Digital Services to create a database for approved sources that could be deployed both online, via a whitelisted URL, and offline, as a folder on the facilities’ local computers. We then partnered with Second Chance Pell Experiment student interns to create a process for adding metadata to sources and including them within the database. Lastly, we developed a workflow for reference librarians to fulfill asynchronous reference/research requests from resident students, which involved further collaboration with project interns. In this presentation, we will discuss adapting this collaborative process to meet the needs of our resident students, the restrictions placed on our processes by IDOC, the ongoing privacy and sustainability concerns, as well as what we see as the Library’s next steps for supporting resident students. 


Lightning Talks: 10:20-11:10a

Collaboration Station: Active Learning Experiences to Help Conduct the Reference Interview Using Google Jamboards

Have you ever had patrons that could not remember what was discussed during a consultation or reference interview? The following session will help the researcher feel collaborative. For example, the patron might have lost their notebook or could not remember what database was suggested or what keywords were used during the reference interview. The following session will demonstrate how to create and implement the usage of a Google Jam board while conducting the research interview. The goal is for the researcher to share their thoughts and ideas around their research question using post-it notes and other features to locate information further. The speaker will walk the attendees through pre-work, work during the consultations, and send data after the consultation. 

Each attendee will learn how to incorporate the following:

 Overall, the goal is to provide research consultations in a collaborative way instead of a mini demonstration of database resources for each consultation. The process allows the librarian to understand the complete picture of the beginning stages ( where are you?),  middle stage (meeting you where you are), and where we go from there ( listing resources, keywords, databases, etc.). The digital whiteboard also gives the researcher a takeaway from the session and is a remembrance of what was discussed during the individual or group consultation session.

Applying flipped classroom strategies to virtual research consultations with history students

Librarians working with undergraduate history students can use a few techniques drawn from research on the flipped classroom to scaffold student learning in the context of a half hour, one-on one virtual research consultation. History students often need support from librarians along several facets of a research task - they may need to fill in key background information, identify and evaluate secondary sources, and even do some historiographical analysis while also trying to locate a collection of primary sources. In a virtual research consultation setting, it can be challenging to quickly recognize which elements a student has mastered. By creating a shared document from a template and asking the student to make notes about what they have found in advance of the meeting, this librarian has been able to structure online research consultations to prioritize which needs to address; the shared document leaves the student with key links and concrete steps for moving forward as well as a model that could serve them when preparing for future professional interactions. 

Session: 11:20-12:10p

Service, Interrupted: Analyzing Chat Referrals - View Recording

Washington State University (WSU) librarians analyzed approximately 3,900 chat transcripts from 2020-2022 to identify referrals and service disruptions (e.g., “I will get back to you later with the answer,” “Let me find someone who knows more about this,” “You need to fill out this form and someone will get back to you,” etc.), with the goal of further analyzing the interactions to create a better referral system and identify areas of training for reference staff. This project stemmed from the desire to ensure that inevitable service disruptions follow professional best practices and determine whether standards of practice across the WSU Libraries reference team are consistent. Our presentation will feature our preliminary results, including evaluations of the overall quality of virtual transactions, with a particular focus on the caliber of the service before and after the initial referral. We will outline differing kinds of virtual reference service disruptions and how these interruptions impact the success of the overall exchange. We will examine to whom queries are referred, and address whether a referral was needed in the first place. We will also provide an analysis of wait time throughout the referral process. We plan to share the process of analyzing referrals within virtual reference, including what worked, what didn’t work, and what we’ve learned. Presenters will discuss potential impacts of this project and next steps for improving our reference service, including a reference retreat where we hope to start conversations about service expectations, using evidence to create those expectations. Attendees will be able to see how a large-scale analysis of chat transcripts was done in order to perform similar analysis at their own institutions. 


Lightning Talks: 11:20-12:10p

Research or directional? An assessment of chat reference transcripts at a community college library - View Recording

This project assesses the chat reference service at a community college library over a two year period using the Warner Model. Chat reference transcripts were reviewed on a weekly basis from the Springshare LibAnswers virtual reference service and then examined for the depth of the question submitted.  Once the transcripts were examined and assigned a tag level between 1 and 4, reports were generated to observe trends over time. An analysis of the chat transcripts showed that patrons are using the service to ask research questions as compared to directional or basic library services. This presentation will discuss the reference Warner Model and share results from assessment reports.

Information Seeking with Grey Literature - View Recording

Virtual reference interactions possess multiple opportunities for unconventional information seeking within today's post pandemic digital terrains. Grey literature sources that include zines, white papers and prepublication drafts of research papers provide librarians with access to iterative research processes in progress. Grey literature supports sustainable reference practices as it dismantles information infrastructures of classification and categorization through open source tools that that remove barricades and bulwarks to information as iteratively designed knowledge. Virtual reference practices are critical to supporting this process as sustainable and increasing access for individuals that traverses boundaries and barricades whether institutional or organizational.

WED (FEB 22, 2023) 

9:00-9:05a Welcome

Session and Lightning Talks

Session: 9:05-9:55a

AskMN Service-Learning Experience for MLIS Students - View Recording

St. Catherine University’s LIS 7040 Information Access Services course was designed with a service-learning component intended to give library graduate students real-life reference skills. However, since the pandemic students struggled to find the opportunities to meet this requirement. In the Spring of 2022, faculty from St. Kate’s MLIS program partnered with the AskMN coordinator to create a new service-learning opportunity to fulfill this need and introduce students to online reference services. Come to this session to learn more about the program, mentoring students in an online environment, and hear from one of the students that participated in this program.


Miscommunication in Library Chat: How Conversation Analysis Can Help You Understand and Fix Problems - View Recording

We have all experienced frustrating communication problems in library chat. Understanding the specific types of communication problems can empower librarians to identify, repair, and potentially prevent these problems. In this program, we will share the findings of a study that used a Conversation Analysis (CA) lens to identify common areas of miscommunication in library chat. CA, which originated as a branch of sociology, offers a research methodology that involves recording and analyzing naturally occurring everyday conversation and other forms of talk. Through this analysis, CA researchers have found that although on the surface conversation may appear random, conversation is in fact orderly. The study analyzed chat transcripts and looked at communication identified by patrons and librarians as problematic. This session will focus on two sources of problems and possible solutions to those problems. First, terms such as source, database, and website are ambiguous terminology that can cause miscommunication. Second, differences in expertise between patrons and librarians can also cause misunderstandings during chat. Then we will facilitate a training session in which participants will analyze chat transcripts, identify communication problems, and reflect on how to improve their own practices. Participants will also discuss how they can use this research-based approach to chat training to implement similar programs at their libraries. Analyzing chat transcripts in order to better understand textual communication provides a solid basis for adjusting and renewing our chat practices and can help us avoid frustration in future chats.

Session: 10:05-10:55a

Personalizing Virtual Reference: The Drive to Thrive - View Recording

Face-to-face reference can be a very personal service, but initially many virtual reference services were set up in a way that was impersonal. The increased isolation many felt during the pandemic created a longing for more personal virtual interactions. Much work and research has gone into providing virtual reference, like creating short answer videos or FAQs that can easily be searched, shared, or linked. Others are developing, or have recently implemented, visual online reference tools like Zoom, WebEx, or Teams as part of their virtual services, which does help personalize the service. But what about personalizing the services at a more fundamental level, such as using personal names in interactions or labeling services in a way that encourages increased usage? In this presentation, two librarians from separate institutions will present different practices in place for the naming of virtual reference services, and the use of names within the service. Using online interactive tools, participants will be invited to share the practices of their home institutions and how these practices were developed. The use of personal or system names in chat and e-mail reference will be explored as well as how these naming decisions may influence patron perceptions. Recommendations for the use of names will be provided and discussed based on the implementation at the two home institutions as well as conversations with librarians at a variety of different institution types.


Lightning Talks: 10:05-10:55a

Digital Relations: Creating Virtual Reference Tools for Gender Diverse, 2Spirit, and Indigiqueer Students - View Recording

Although libraries are frequently framed as “safe spaces” for LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, recent studies have highlighted the ways that academic libraries might create discomfort for gender diverse students in how their physical and virtual spaces are organized (Yates, 2020; Wexelbaum, 2018). Libraries and Cultural Resources (LCR) at the University of Calgary has had a long history of meaningful student engagement, including a personal librarian program with designated library contacts to support LGBTQIA2S+ students, as well as a robust virtual reference program with significant online instructional tools to offer personalized aid. After meetings were conducted between the Gender and Sexuality Studies librarian, a library student assistant, and the University of Calgary’s Q centre- a student union group that provides the LGBTQIA2S+ community and their allies safe space and resources on campus- it became clear that there were ways LCR could improve their support to this community, namely in finding and utilizing library resources on topics relevant to their lived experiences and in utilizing the affordances of  online and virtual environments to create a safer space for browsing and learning in and beyond the library’s physical walls.

This presentation outlines the process of consulting, planning, and designing virtual reference tools for LGBTQIA2S+ students at the University of Calgary, with related tools for 2Spirit and Indigiqueer Students. We will discuss the virtual reference tools we assessed for use (AR tour, virtual interactive tour, Storymap) and our final platform in light of considerations around digital safety and privacy for LGBTQIA2S+ students that our consultations unearthed. This presentation will reflect more broadly on ways in which virtual reference and supporting online tools can be conceptualized to embrace and advance EDIA in academic libraries in unique and responsive ways, including a discussion of best practices for safety and privacy when designing an online resource for LGBTQIA2S+ students.

Ready, set, oh no? Prepare for possible online accessibility issues before they arise - View Recording

Trying to make your online resources more accessible but aren't sure where the vendor's interface might cause problems? Do you collect Accessibility Compliance Reports (sometimes referred to as a Voluntary Product Accessibility Template or VPAT) and file it away without doing anything with the information contained within? Find out how the Online Resources and Services Librarian at the University of North Dakota’s School of Medicine and Health Sciences Library Resources has partnered with UND’s Equity Compliance and Education Manager to take accessibility compliance to the next level. We’ve augmented the basic University requirement to check a box into a more comprehensive process that ensures we’re proactively attending to our users’ current and future needs. We work internally and with vendors to identify and track the potential failing points of our online resources as identified in their ACR. We then, prior to purchase approval or renewal, develop a plan to mitigate the accessibility barriers within the platform and provide equally effective alternative access to the material. Once the resource is made available within our ILS, we inform users of known accessibility barriers and make sure they know how to contact us with questions or for assistance. In this lightning talk, we’ll discuss going beyond basic internal requirements to establish more rigorous measures that better meets users where they are and before they know they need help. You’ll discover how to identify and track potential problems, how to communicate to your users regarding accessibility concerns, and how to maintain contact with your vendors and publishers to advocate for your users.

Session: 11:05-11:55a

Unconventional Partnerships: Building a Sustainable Methodology to Evaluate User Needs - View Recording

While remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic enabled the use of online collaborative tools, returning to in-person work has proven the importance of interpersonal relationships, especially when it comes to building strong inter-departmental partnerships. It has become clear that in-person serendipity fosters creativity. The story of this talk starts with a hallway chat; one between the VR coordinator and the Systems librarian. A discussion started around virtual reference chat interactions and from this came a question: how is virtual reference affected by library system changes? This is how an unconventional partnership started, one that would help the Virtual Reference coordinator to discover a new methodology and the Systems librarian to perceive the impact of all system changes that occurred in the past few years. A partnership and a project that allows both departments to improve their services.

This presentation will discuss the methodology used throughout this project. The Systems librarian built a script that automatically reviews chat interactions and looks for sentences or word-combinations that would identify interactions about library systems. The process used will be presented, as well as the methods used for quality-insurance. The presenters will detail the different limitations they found while building this methodology and outline when and how to use it to improve user services, while remaining aware of these limits.

Finally, this talk will summarize the results of the study to clarify how this novel methodology can be used. Are system changes impacting virtual reference? Can a peak be identified right after system changes? How can teams prepare to improve user services in transitional times? These are some of the questions we wanted answered. This talk should present some of the practical implications of this study, of the methodology developed, and the power of inter-departmental partnership and collaboration. It will also touch on how to create mutually beneficial partnerships at your institution.


Lightning Talks: 11:05-11:55a

Meeting Students Where They Are to Boost Your Stats!: Proactive Slide-out Chat for Point of Need Service - View Recording

The University Library at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has offered chat reference for patrons since the Spring of 2001 and has used Springshare’s LibChat tool since the Summer of 2019. For most of this time patrons needed to visit a special page on the library’s website to access the chat. In Summer 2022, the University Library introduced a slide-out chat widget to appear on every page of the library website. 

In addition to making the chat service more widely available across our online ecosystem, the chat widget prompts patrons to ask a question after they spend 20 seconds on any webpage.  This allows us to meet patrons where they are, for a point of need service. 

Before launching the slide-out reference chat, IUPUI University Library averaged 32 chats per month. Since launching the new chat widget, we have averaged 74 chats per month, an increase of 230%. 

This presentation will focus on the University Library’s experience in implementing this type of chat widget, how it compares to our previous methods of soliciting patron questions, and the challenges that an increase in chat reference questions has brought. We will also share our future plans for the service, including taking greater advantage of the tools that Springshare provides for chat reference. 

Psst, wanna chat? Using signage to increase chat traffic - View Recording

Montana State University Library offers users several options for engaging with its reference services. One of these is a virtual chat service staffed by in-house librarians and staff members. In recent years, there has been a decline in the number of questions submitted to this service and an effort is being made to try and increase usage. A project team comprised of a Research & Instruction Librarian and a Service Desk Supervisor are working on a project to utilize large print posters to advertise the chat service. These posters are being designed by the project team and displayed in a well-trafficked area adjacent to the library’s coffee shop, where students frequently wait in long lines for their beverages. The hope is that by having the posters visible in a prominent location, the use of the library’s chat service will increase. The presenters will discuss the different versions of posters they’ve used and share the ones that have been most well-received by users. As well as the process used to design and implement the posters, the presenters will also share chat service statistics during the initial phases of this project. Additionally, this poster project is also being used to highlight other library services and online resources.

THU (FEB 23, 2023) 

9:00-9:05a Welcome

Session and Lightning Talks

Session: 9:05-9:55a

Rebuilding a Sustainable Research Help Model
(No recording available)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, librarians at Oakland University evaluated methods of providing reference services in order to develop a more adaptive, sustainable model for research help. In this session, three librarians will detail their work in transforming their library's research help model, and will use their experiences to help others identify meaningful directions for their own reference services. Since virtual reference services have grown over the last several years, it was important to understand the efficacy of our interactions with patrons. Therefore, a project was undertaken to evaluate online chat interactions and identify opportunities to provide additional support.

Using this internal analysis, we developed direction for more clearly positioning our different research help service points to external audiences, and developed plans to implement and promote a more tiered reference model. Moreover, research help strategies were integrated into the library’s social media outreach, as well as the library’s physical space.

In addition to a cohesive external marketing strategy, library faculty worked to create a unified internal virtual reference presence through shared goals and best practices. We leveraged the features of our LibApps products and our internal systems to develop and share best practices guidelines, maintenance procedures, common messages, and structures for self-evaluation. A definition for successful virtual reference interactions, including an internal rating system for self-evaluation and reflection, was created to provide librarians an opportunity to review their interactions with users.

In positioning research help both internally and externally, we sought to provide more effective asynchronous research assistance through our tutorials and online learning objects. To evaluate whether these resources were appropriately useful and accessible, a pilot testing process was undertaken to review instructional content items and gain feedback about the user experience. These results were used to update existing library resources to better reflect the information needs and interests of library users, and to identify directions for future growth in this area.

As these changes have been implemented, data collection tools have been evaluated and updated to reflect the information needed to continue to evaluate these services. These projects comprise a sustainable, adaptable system that we have developed, and which we can use as we continue to revise or update our reference services. As a result of this session, participants will be able to identify areas where they can build (or rebuild) resilient structures to support the ongoing growth and renewal of their own library's virtual reference services.


You served us, how can we serve you? Targeted outreach to student veterans to increase their use of virtual reference and other library resources and services.

Two Montana State University Librarians received funding to facilitate five focus groups of student veterans (20 students, total) in order to gauge their usage of and experiences with MSU Library resources and services, both virtual and in-person, as well as learn about desired library services and resources. The funding was a subaward of an IMLS Project at Texas A & M University Libraries, the “Libraries and Veterans National Forum,” designed to better learn from other libraries' efforts to support veterans and military families. Collaborating with librarians from academic, public, school, state, and VA libraries, the Libraries and Veterans National Forum project team gathered 250 librarians engaging in this work to share their success stories, brainstorm solutions to their challenges, and gain new ideas to bring back to their libraries. Subawards were granted to many libraries of all types in order to help grantee libraries to improve their services to their veteran communities. These MSU Librarians used their funding to purchase $50 gift cards to incentivize focus group participation among their student veteran population in collaboration with the Director of Veterans Services at MSU. This program will report on findings and share recommendations gleaned from student veterans for improving outreach efforts and marketing of virtual library services to this and other special populations in order to meet their library and information needs.

Session: 10:05-10:55a

An investigation into library virtual chat reference software features

Chat reference service became prevalent in libraries starting in the early 2000s (Sessom,2008). Software such as LibraryH3lp and LiveEngage (formerly LivePerson) and QuestionPoint were the most popular from literature review or article in that era (Cassey 2004, Porter 2003). From Web 1.0  to Web 4.0 has enabled many design features in the user interface. From audio notification, asynchronous communications, file sharing, proactive chat and many more. 

How did chat service software evolve in libraries? Does the pandemic has sparked some ideas to provide more features? This presentation will investigate multiple chat service software to provide some insight on trends from 2000 to 2022 of library chat service features and possible upcoming one in the web 5.0.

Topic: Adaptability, Service Evaluation.


Lightning Talks: 10:05-10:55a

Second Time Around - View Recording

As our profession starts to gray, library staff may find that they are ready to retire from full time work, enjoy their well earned retirement, but are not ready to completely stop working.  Learn how you can parlay your years of service into a part time position that nourishes your soul but also allows you time to do all the things you have dreamed of doing.  

Supervisor at a distance: supporting undergraduate reference workers - View Recording

Salisbury University is a public university that serves about 8,000 students. As a former student employee in libraries (both in undergrad and graduate school), I try my best to support my current undergraduate student workers at the Research Help Desk. Even though they often do not go into libraries, the skills they gain and develop over their employment are easily applicable to most fields. They are trained to be adaptable, flexible, and calm under pressure – all things that they’ve been working towards already in these past few pandemic years. They are primarily responsible for staffing the desk on Sundays and evenings, with a few working Thursday and Friday mornings. Students are by themselves at the Research Help Desk, though staff and other students are next to them at the Circulation desk. Their job is not to know every answer under the sun; their job is to know where to look to find it, or who to contact for more help. In addition to taking in-person questions, they are the first line on chat when librarians aren’t available. They are also expected to log their interactions online via Gimlet. This lightning talk will detail my procedures in training, reviewing their work, and helping them develop professional skills to take with them after college when I do not work with them directly during their shifts.

Session: 11:05-11:55a

DEI in 2023 Starts with Me - View Recording

Proposal Summary:  In June 2020, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Tennessee Library Association (TLA) released statements and agendas noting the position of these organizations in the history of racist structures in the U.S. and more specifically, in the library profession. While many may have seen such statements as pure rhetoric, some library professionals embraced such endeavors and vowed through their work experiences to be involved partners for equality amongst colleagues and patrons. 

This presentation is divided into four parts: 


Lightning Talks: 11:05-11:55a

Google Meet a Librarian: Leveraging Technologies to Design Resilient Reference Services

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled college and university communities to adapt to rapidly evolving learning environments. As safety protocols shuttered most campus buildings, limited staff presence, and reduced existing campus services to prevent the transmission of COVID-19, students, educators, and librarians virtualized courses and knowledge co-creation spaces using a wide variety of online learning and video conferencing tools to stay connected.

Now, even with the return of on-campus life, long self-isolation periods due to pandemic-related illnesses, robust distance-learning programs, and a demonstrated need for adaptive online services make it imperative that virtual library services provide sustainable, essential support for student learning that meets a variety of student circumstances.

At Boise State University’s Albertsons Library, the pause of onsite operations upended traditional reference channels (i.e. in-office chat service, telephone, and face-to-face interaction at a dedicated reference desk) and significantly impacted student and faculty engagement with library reference services. In response to these changes in information-seeking behavior, we envisioned a new, virtual approach to provide reference services and meet our students where they are.

In this session, librarians from Albertsons Library will explain how they applied Blue Turf Thinking to leverage existing online tools and meet the demand for virtual reference services in a COVID-changed world. We discuss the evaluation process for selecting the most appropriate tool to provide a familiar, yet innovative, virtual reference service that is purposefully aligned with our university’s strategic plan to improve educational access and student success.

Virtual Reference is a Hybrid Reality Post-COVID

In May 2020, my colleague and I wrote and published a paper on, “COVID-19 and digital library services – a case study of a university library,” in which we discuss how offering Bridgewater State University’s Maxwell Library’s reference services changed since the reference desk was no longer available. Prior to the pandemic research consultations were only offered in person. Post-pandemic the library’s online reference services included research consultations, LibChat, and LibAnswers (i.e., email, SMS, IM, and FAQ) that have been impacted since librarians were asked to telecommute.

Before COVID-19, the screen share option was not available within LibChat, and it is something that our library implemented quickly. The use of screen share made it possible to offer virtual reference in real-time and we have definitely seen an increase in the use of our LibChat feature which includes email, SMS, and chat. Since the research consultations were primarily in-person prior to the pandemic we ended up adding a Zoom option. Post-pandemic virtual reference services have taken on a hybrid reality and have definitely improved the way we provide service to our students and faculty in person and virtually. We have realized that faculty turn to LibChat to ask questions whereas before they would email a librarian. Currently, three public services librarians are on LibChat during their office hours, and after that library assistants monitor the virtual chat.

Due to a reorganization where we have one Library Services Desk, there have been barriers to using virtual reference services such as limited staff, time-consuming, and library assistants’ knowledge of how far to conduct a reference interview. In the Spring, librarians will be offering library employee training sessions on the use of resources and when to refer students to a research consult when offering virtual reference.

With the up taking need for online reference services, it is significant to promote these reference services virtually as much as possible. One initiative implemented was to create virtual postcards for students and faculty. The postcard is shared on the library’s Facebook and Twitter sites. They are posted on student announcements and emailed to faculty listservs. Virtual reference is part of libraries and is here to stay even more, as the pandemic has changed work schedules and environments and facilitated a hybrid reality.