Virtual Reference Policy (Ask a Librarian @Alkek)

    • The Alkek Library Virtual Reference Service uses Springshare's LibAnswers software to manage and provide online research and reference assistance to Texas State students, faculty, and staff.
    • Use of our electronic and print resources of the Alkek Library will be emphasized, and authoritative Internet sites will be recommended when appropriate.
    • Users will have the choice to chat, send email or search the knowledgebase of questions previously submitted.
    • Chat reference is typically limited to the Texas State University community e.g. students, faculty and staff.
    • Patrons not affiliated with the university may be redirected to email reference at the discretion of the librarian/assistant on duty.
    • Issues such as business at the desk, time of semester, and time of day will determine whether or not the operator will redirect the chat patron.
    • Email reference is open to everyone, but with the Texas State community receiving preference over other patrons at times of heavy email activity.
  • Service hours reflect the hours of the main reference desk.

    During Fall and Spring Semesters service hours are:

    • Monday-Friday 9am-8pm
    • Saturday 2pm-6pm
    • Sunday 12pm-7pm

    Email reference service is available when the Ask a Librarian service is closed but will be answered during working hours. Hours will vary during times of Interim, Summer 1 & 2 and holidays and will usually reflect the hour of the reference desk.

    • The virtual reference service is staffed by reference librarians and reference assistants while on duty at the Research and Information desk on evenings and weekends.
    • Starting January 2014, chat reference will be monitored by librarians in their office in order to provide a better experience for the patron with less interruption.
    • In-depth reference questions may require a reference librarian to email a response to the user or an individual research consultation is available for more extensive questions.
    • Level of service to the Texas State Community will be the same level offered at the main Research & Information desk.
    • Staff on duty will determine the amount of time spent online with a patron and may refer the user to email, follow-up via email or phone, or offer in-depth research consultations and library instruction as needed. 
    • For patrons with simple ready reference or directional questions, there is no need to initiate a video-conference session.
    • Video-conferencing should be reserved for questions requiring the library staff to instruct the patron to find the resources or how to use the resources recommended.
    • Alkek Library‚Äôs mission is to develop information literacy skills of patrons during the chat transaction if possible.
    • Instruction can be carried out in an interactive digital environment during the reference interview and can be highly valuable to patrons.

    **Referrals and follow-ups are the discretion of the staff on duty.

  • All users must comply with university policy on computer use, Appropriate Use of Information Resources (UPPS No. 04.01.07).

    Chat Etiquette

    • Be patient. Network traffic may affect response time. A reference librarian will respond to your question as soon as possible. If your question is urgent, you may send your response by email.
    • Communicate in short sentences.
    • Reference questions will be answered in the order they are received.
    • Inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated. Common courtesies are expected and appreciated.
    • A survey will be available at the end of each chat session for users for feedback and comments about the service.



    • The Alkek Library Ask a Librarian service records all reference transactions, including the chat conversation and the URLs for all the web sites visited.
    • At the end of the session, you have the option to have the transcript emailed to you and a copy will be stored in our database for a period of one year.
    • Transcripts maintained by the library will be used for assessment and training purposes only.
    • We will not disclose any personal data we collect from you to any other party in a manner that would identify you, except where required by law, or in order to fulfill your service request.