What Makes Our Ask Us 24/7 Librarians Great

n 2013, Ask Us 24/7 celebrates 10 years of service. From now through September, we’ll be highlighting the history of the service in a series of blog posts. Let’s look at an outstanding chat transcript.

In July 2010, I was copied on an email from a contact at OCLC, which manages the chat software and the cooperative. She wanted to congratulate one of our participating librarians, Beverly Choltco-Devlin of the Mid-York Library System, on an outstanding job. The transcript is below (posted with Beverly’s permission) but I’d like to draw your attention to the reference interview portion.

In this chat, the patron’s question was not what it seemed. This is a great reminder that you need to reference interview the patron to find out their “real” information need. At first, it looked like the patron just wanted to look up their old account records from 25 years ago, but what they really wanted was to identify a particular song they had listened to. While the original question would have been impossible to answer, even by a local UK librarian, their actual information need turned out to be doable.

After the chat, the patron left this feedback in a survey:
“The reason for my search was personal and my own efforts had yielded no result, so to have an answer in just a few minutes was surprising. the lady who helped me, Beverly, was damn good at her job and i would recommend this service.”

The transcript was posted to the listserv for Enquire (UK’s chat service) as an example of a great chat, and it also ended up winning Ask Us 24/7’s “Transcript of the Quarter” award for public libraries.

The transcript, below, is just one example of the many great transactions that our librarians have participated in over the last 10 years. It is interactions like these that make our patrons come back for help again and again! Check out the transcript below – it’s a bit longer than the usual chat, but definitely worth the read.

Full transcript:

2010/07/23 (GMT+0)

Patron: 01:36:17  Might it be possible that you have records of what items I checked out from Catford libary when it was located on Bromley Rd se6 circa 25+ years ago?

Librarian 1: 01:36:17  Note: Patron’s screen name: X

Librarian 1: 01:36:41  Librarian ‘Beverly at Mid-York Library System’ has joined the session.

Librarian 1:01:36:52  Hi X,

Librarian 1:01:37:10  Thanks for your patience

Librarian 1:01:37:37  There are no librarians from the UK monitoring the service tonight and I am from the United States

Librarian 1:01:38:13  We monitor the international reference service.

Librarian 1:01:38:25  I do not have access to your patron records.

Librarian 1:01:39:12  Also, most libraries, at least in the US, do not keep patron’s circulation records once items are returned in an effort to protect your privacy. I am not sure if the same practice happens in the UK.

Librarian 1:01:39:53  Did you have a specific question regarding a particular book that you can’t remember taking out. If you describe it I may be able to track down the title for you.

Patron:01:41:38  hi Beverly, it was a music cassette that i`m trying remember, and catford libray was only place i heard it

Librarian 1:01:41:50  I see.

Librarian 1:01:42:07  Can you describe it to me. I may be able to do figure it out

Librarian 1:01:42:49  things like whether it was music or spoken would narrow it down a little 🙂

Librarian 1:01:43:15  or was it a recording of a local performer of some sort

Patron:01:43:24  i dont remember title or artist, just the lyrics are driving mad!

Librarian 1:01:43:36  Do you remember any of the lyrics

Librarian 1:01:44:02  or even a few words from the song

Patron:01:44:10  yes, wes some

Librarian 1:01:44:15  great

Librarian 1:01:44:18  I can try to help

Patron:01:44:28  sorry, not good at typing

Librarian 1:01:44:47  That is oK I am really not very good either. 🙂

Librarian 1:01:45:06  I use the backspace key more than any of the others

Patron:01:45:43  “you kow the words you speak are truthful, but you hurt me when you say”

Patron:01:45:59  haha!

Patron:01:47:01  “that the time you spend with me, is but a small part of your day”

Patron:01:47:28  more?

Librarian 1:01:47:58  I can work with this for a while if you can give me a couple of minutes

Patron:01:48:23  oh, please do!

Librarian 1:01:48:26  Do you remember if it was a rock and roll song or jazz or a hymn

Patron:01:49:14  more pop, folk. dont think it charted

Librarian 1:01:49:52  Ok. that helps. I will be working on it. I know this doesn’t tell you that I am still here but I will check in every few minutes

Patron:01:50:15  thakyou!

Librarian 1:01:50:24  male or female performer?

Patron:01:51:12  female lead vocal(beautiful voice)

Librarian 1:01:51:45  Ah…annie haslam from renaissance perhaps

Librarian 1:01:51:55  or sandy denny

Librarian 1:01:52:03  still working on the lyrics

Patron:01:53:12  not sure but think `Begin` was in titlle

Librarian 1:01:53:46  Ok. That helps. sometimes it is one little word that will help me get it. I love doing these kinds of questions

Librarian 1:01:53:59  And if I can find it tonight I will keep working on it for you

Patron:01:54:19  then you must love your job…

Librarian 1:01:54:39  I DO!!!

Librarian 1:01:55:03  Was the performer British or American

Patron:01:55:12  then i`m a lucky bloke!

Patron:01:56:24  erm, english i`m sure, but back then english artists tried for the ¬mid atlantic` sound#

Librarian 1:01:56:50  I see. That helps too. I will get this for you…It may take a couple of days – but I haven’t failed yet

Librarian 1:01:57:16  any other little words or snippets will help

Patron:01:57:47  thinking…

Librarian 1:01:58:29  Could it be “Beguiling Eyes”

Patron:01:59:18  “and it seems that I`m the one, that always comes a`calling, and i`m asking you away from other frieds”

Librarian 1:01:59:40  Stephen Fearon.

Patron:01:59:55  cor! that sound s familiar!

Librarian 1:02:00:06  Fearing

Librarian 1:02:00:10  sorry

Librarian 1:02:00:15  See I am a bad typist also

Patron:02:00:32  lol

Librarian 1:02:01:28  That’s it…It is “The Most Beguiling Eyes” by Steven Fearing.

Librarian 1:02:01:33  Here are the lyrics.

Patron:02:01:36  now i`ve got to go on than i`v had for a long time

Librarian 1:02:01:51  THE MOST BEGUILING EYES (Stephen Fearing) Clive Cregson You have the most beguiling eyes, that I have ever seen They can catch me up and spin me, and leave me in a dream Though the words you speak are truthful, you know, you hurt me when you say that the time you spend with me is but a small part of your day It seems that i’m the one that always comes a calling, and I’m asking you away from other friends but I’m waiting for the sounds of your step outside my door when the sun is setting low and the evening ends … I have always thaught, that the picture’s what you make it, and I’ve always believed that my actions were my own Tell me can you see, that to give without recieving is bound to leave my heart like a piece of molten stone Because it seems that I’m the one, that always comes a-calling, and I’m asking you away from other friends But Im waiting for the sounds of your step outside my door when the sun is setting low and the evening ends …

Librarian 1:02:02:26  Do you want me to see who has recorded it?

Librarian 1:02:02:38  Who is female with a beautiful voice?

Patron:02:02:39  Yahooo! you are the biz!that`s it!

Patron:02:03:02  oh pleae

Patron:02:03:17  PLEASE

Librarian 1:02:03:23  Ok I will check the WorldCat which lists recording.

Librarian 1:02:03:38  BTW you will get a copy of this transcript in your email

Librarian 1:02:03:45  So you don’t have to write anything down

Patron:02:05:41  i`m so i pleaed icould kiss you!

Librarian 1:02:06:01  Could the album be Strange Hotel by Clive Gregson and Christine Collister.

Librarian 1:02:06:04  Haha

Librarian 1:02:06:33  1990\

Patron:02:06:50  Bingo! i`ve been trwing the net for weeks…

Librarian 1:02:06:53  http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Hotel-Gregson-Christine-Collister/dp/B002HM6AS0

Librarian 1:02:07:06  Let me know if you can see the Amazon Link

Patron:02:07:24  yes

Librarian 1:02:07:45  Great

Librarian 1:02:07:58  I am going to see if there is a old video on YouTube

Patron:02:08:35  blimey, dont know what to do with myself now, i`m grinning like mad!

Librarian 1:02:08:54  That is wonderful!!!!

Librarian 1:02:09:01  See why I love my job?

Librarian 1:02:09:10  I get to help people across the pond….

Patron:02:09:17  oh yeah!

Librarian 1:02:10:00  no Youtube. Just a couple of cover versions

Librarian 1:02:10:25  Well, X….I am glad to have helped.

Patron:02:10:35  dont matter, you did real good!

Librarian 1:02:10:40  One of my questions took me five years to find, but I never gave up

Librarian 1:02:10:42  hah

Librarian 1:02:11:07  I never give up

Patron:02:11:31  Beverly, i am in awe and very, very grateful

Librarian 1:02:11:41  Is there anything else I can help you with>

Librarian 1:02:11:53  And I am very very happy to help. You have made my day, X.

Librarian 1:02:12:07  Now I am going to go find a copy and listen to it.

Librarian 1:02:12:23  BTW if you can’t get a copy online, your library may be able to borrow a copy for you

Patron:02:12:35  hope you like it…

Librarian 1:02:12:48  It sounds like a beautiful heartbreaking song

Librarian 1:02:12:56  from reading the lyrics

Patron:02:13:29  oh thats why its been driving me mad

Librarian 1:02:13:53  I have songs like that from days past also.

Librarian 1:02:14:31  I hope the memories are not too painful for you, but am glad that I was able to bring you some peace in the effort of remembering

Patron:02:16:09  well it was a story from a long time ago, but well, i`m smiling now!

Librarian 1:02:16:18  That is GOOD!

Patron:02:17:17  `spose i`ll have to say goodnight now,but dont want to1

Librarian 1:02:17:18  Well I had best go help the next person smile….It was a pleasure to help you and I hope you have a grand day. And thanks for introducing me to this music.

Patron:02:17:50  pleasure, and many thanks

Librarian 1:02:17:56  Take care and if you ever need to find anything else out feel free to give me an email jingle

Librarian 1:02:18:03  I will get the message.

Librarian 1:02:18:33  You are welcome

Patron:02:18:58  thats an invite i`ll be happy to keep. thanks Bev xx

Librarian 1:02:19:08  take care, X. You are very welcome.

Librarian 1:02:19:20  bye

Patron:02:19:41  bye!

Librarian 1:02:19:47  🙂

Librarian 1:02:19:51  Librarian ended chat session.

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