Issue date: 03 October 2011
A new 24-hour online chat service for library users at the University of the West of England (UWE) has just started in time for the new academic year. This means that students and staff can access out-of-hours advice from a network of 400 academic libraries, across the US and in the UK. UWE is one of the first universities in the UK to offer this 24/7 benefit to students and staff.
Called 'Chat', the instant message service enables students to contact a member of library staff for help and receive an instant response. This is a well established mode of communicating with students and is used by many other academic libraries. What is different about the new service is that it will be available to UWE students 24/7, utilising the time difference between the UK and the United States.
Senior Assistant Librarian Sandra Clark, who led this project said, “The Frenchay Library is open 24/7 to reflect students' study patterns, with library staff available until 18.30. In order to provide support to students after that time, on a 24/7, 365 day basis, we are joining a Chat co-operative consisting of over 400 other academic libraries, most of which are in the US but which also includes the Open University which is currently the only other member in the UK.
“Students will be able to chat with one of our team Monday to Friday between 11.00 and 14.00, the rest of the time they will be able to get help via chat from a librarian who could be anywhere from Boston to Honolulu. Our staff will also contribute to the co-operative providing enquiry services to students 'across the pond' at certain times of the week.”
Services Development Librarian Amanda Conway said, “We are providing this service as part of the Academic Reference Co-operative, collaborating with library staff in US academic libraries, and building on the current library e-mail enquiry system available to UWE students, staff and external users, to provide an enhanced experience. A Chat box will sit on our library web pages where students can type in their enquiry and 'chat' live with a librarian who will respond instantly to their query.
“Our recent Library Survey (LibQual survey) highlighted that students want access to the information they need for their studies where and when they need it. We need to provide help and support to enable this flexibility in access and use. For example, we had lots of e-mail enquiries over the Christmas period when the University is closed and Chat will provide easy access to library support all year round, complementing our existing enquiry services which consist of face to face, phone and e-mail webform.”
UWE's library facilities scored 86% in the recent National Student Survey results compared with a national average of 81%.