Using LibAnswers to manage e-resources user enquiries at DMU Library

The Content Delivery Team at DMU Library & Learning Services have recently started to trial Springshare’s LibAnswers service, in the hope it will assist the library to manage its e-resource troubleshooting activities more effectively and seamlessly.

Previous to using LibAnswers, Microsoft Outlook email was used to contact DMU students and staff who reported database/e-journal/e-book access problems to the library. Content Delivery’s E-Resources Mailbox email account, eresources@dmu.ac.uk, was created several years ago and allowed library staff to forward user emails that highlighted access difficulties to online library content. The forwarding of these emails was usually completed by staff working in the library’s Just Ask Team (if initial “triage” of the access problem from the helpdesk could not be fixed) or by DMU subject librarians in teaching/1-2-1 sessions with students/staff. Once the E-Resources Mailbox had received a new email message, Content Delivery staff would investigate the access problem and take action as appropriate.

It soon became clear that there were limitations in using Outlook to manage troubleshooting enquiries efficiently. A number of Content Delivery staff had access to the E-Resources Mailbox. Efforts were made to keep the mailbox uncluttered, but this became an onerous task to keep up with, especially during busy times of term. E-resource enquiries can often be complex and may require several different stages of investigation by different library staff before they are resolved. The library may also need to liaise with content and systems providers to log errors and request support. Tracking the status of these enquiries in Outlook could be difficult and time-consuming (especially if the library was waiting for external providers to communicate progress). The team did experiment with using the “Categories” and “Flags” options in Outlook to try and better organise the administration of responses, but building this into already set workflows was a challenge.

So, the team decided to look at LibAnswers as a potential alternative to Outlook. DMU Library had already purchased LibGuides and LibCal from Springshare, so there was a degree of familiarity with aspects of this service (look of the site, functionality etc). The team had already created an e-resources troubleshooting LibGuide for example. A fellow colleague from Content Delivery and myself created LibAnswers accounts and started to see how we could utilise the resource to better manage e-resource troubleshooting.

The E-Resources Mailbox (eresources@dmu.ac.uk) address had become somewhat familiar to library staff who regularly reported student/staff access issues, so we wanted to keep this account if at all possible to minimise confusion. LibAnswers allows us to redirect email traffic from the E-Resources Mailbox within Outlook to be active in the LibAnswers dashboard – individual enquiries in LibAnswers are called “tickets”, and each ticket is assigned an ID. Once logged into the LibAnswers site, we can view these tickets and work on them as needed.

We have been trialling the LibAnswers service for several weeks now. Early evaluation of the product has been promising, even if we haven’t had time to review/test every single part of the admin portal. Features/options we currently like are:

  • Ability for library staff to “claim” tickets when they start work on an enquiry (and also potentially “unclaim” at a later date if the ticket is passed on to another member of staff). This “claiming” of the support ticket is then highlighted in the central dashboard, so other colleagues who may be logged in to the dashboard concurrently can see which tickets are being currently worked on, and others which require potential attention.
  • Allow other team members to check and answer LibAnswers tickets in times of staff absences (illness, holidays). This means DMU students and staff can be contacted in a timely manner.
  • Assign or transfer the ticket to relevant library staff if added expertise is needed.
  • Add an internal note to support tickets if certain actions are required (e.g. removal of login details from a library access point). These internal notes are not communicated to the user making the enquiry, but stay logged in the dashboard for library staff to view.
  • Easy-to-view history of replies in any one support ticket (the most up-to-date correspondence between library and enquirer is displayed at the top of the ticket).
  • Set different ticket categories dependent upon the status of the support call (new, open, pending, closed).
  • Closing a support ticket removes the enquiry from the current log of open/pending calls in the dashboard, but are still easily accessible in the “Answers” tab if further analysis/comment is required at a later date.
  • Having an alert display when a new ticket/new reply is received.

Problems we have faced so far are:

  • Adding a document or attachment to a LibAnswers ticket which can then only be opened if you have a LibAnswers account.
  • Users or staff who copy (Cc) the eresources@dmu.ac.uk mailbox in with related support replies/correspondence show up as new (separate) support tickets in the dashboard (there is a “merge” option in the LibAnswers admin site which we are looking at as a potential way around this).
  • If an already created message is resent, there is no log in the system of who this was sent to.

Features we hope to add in the future:

  • Look at using the reusable answers option to save time when replying to tickets that cover already reported or similar access problems.
  • Add category tags to ticket replies to further refine our processes and ability to filter the dashboard (e.g. e-books, e-journals, databases, authentication issues).
  • Use the popular links section to add pre-set URLs which we may need to refer to in ticket replies (DMU Library webpage, Subject Guides, E-Resources troubleshooting LibGuide). This will save time when constructing replies to support tickets.
  • Create a generic Content Delivery signature which we can add to all ticket replies.

We will continue to work with LibAnswers and see if we can fully integrate this service into our daily troubleshooting activities. Watch this space!

About Mitchell Dunkley

I work in the Content Delivery Team at De Montfort University Library. I manage DMU Library's e-resources portfolio and I am involved in library systems admin, collating resource usage statistics and troubleshooting. All comments are my own.
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