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24 7 Coop FAQs

Page history last edited by Wren 7 months, 3 weeks ago



Frequently Asked Questions



What is the 24/7 Reference Cooperative?

The 24/7 Reference Cooperative (the “Cooperative”) provides an around the clock reference service, built by a cooperative of participating libraries. Libraries agree to answer questions for each other in real time, using our virtual reference software.


The Cooperative helps supplement your hours of service by being available to your community 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including holidays.


How are other libraries able to answer questions for my users?

Two tools have been developed by 24/7 Reference and QuestionPoint to enable libraries in the Cooperative to answer questions for each other: policy pages and scripts.


The 24/7 Reference Advisory Board highly recommends that you provide Cooperative librarians with access to your databases via the policy page so they can better assist your users. See the Best Practices for Database Access document for more information.


Policy pages

Each library that joins the Cooperative agrees to provide information on its policies and procedures. Each library or group must maintain an up-to-date policy page, in order to facilitate the smooth working of the Cooperative. Out-of-date policy pages will result in users receiving inaccurate information from the Cooperative.


Upon joining the Cooperative, each library is given access to a web-based template and asked to fill it in. This template contains fields such as: library catalog, databases, late fees, renewals, course reserves, and other topics which users tend to ask about. Once the library fills out the template and submits it, this information is added to the online library policy page database, and is available to online librarians when they answer questions from your users.


The common format of the policy pages allows librarians throughout the Cooperative to answer questions about your library quickly and easily, without having to go to the library website itself to find the information. Each library is responsible for keeping its policy page updated.





Each library and library group is encouraged to develop its own scripted messages, to relay information specific to your library (such as homework help, course reserves, and so forth). These scripts are available to any online librarian covering for your library, through the chat console. This allows the librarian from the Cooperative to send your scripted messages while answering questions from your users.


What libraries belong to the Cooperative?

Currently, over 500 libraries participate in the 24/7 Reference Cooperative. Libraries participate in the Cooperative either individually or as part of a larger group, such as a regional service or a statewide service. The Cooperative also includes special libraries that provide subject expertise. Collectively, libraries that participate in the Cooperative, whether as individual libraries or as part of a larger group, are referred to as “Members.”


How is the Cooperative governed?

All Members agree to adhere to the 24/7 Reference Policies, as well as a set of guidelines for successful chat sessions: the 24/7 Reference Best Practices.


These policies are promulgated by the 24/7 Reference Advisory Board, which consists of selected statewide coordinators as well as academic and public reference librarians from various libraries or groups in the Cooperative. The Board also provides advice and guidance to the QuestionPoint Cooperative Coordinator.


The QuestionPoint Cooperative Coordinator is responsible for:

  • scheduling Members for the cooperative virtual reference service,
  • overseeing quality-related issues,
  • and interacting with others regarding other processes essential to the smooth working of the Cooperative.



How much does it cost to join the 24/7 Reference Cooperative?

For public libraries, the initial price is based on the population served.  For academic libraries, the pricing is based on your FTE (fulltime equivalent enrollment).  If your library decides not to contribute staffing to the Cooperative, such that your librarians only answer questions for your own patrons and the Cooperative librarians pick up when your librarians are not available, then there is an extra charge.


This price may be increased (or decreased) at renewal time, based on your library's Contribution Percentage (CP).  The CP is a measure of Cooperative equity:  libraries with more traffic are encouraged to staff more. The CP is calculated by dividing the number of chat sessions your librarians join (or "chats accepted", in the QuestionPoint reports) -- regardless of who the patron is (whether local patrons or Cooperative patrons) -- by the number of total "chats requested" (which represents the number of incoming chat sessions initiated by your patrons).  Example:  your students ask 100 chat sessions in a month, and your librarians join 50 chat sessions during that same time period, then your CP is 50%.   The purpose of the CP is to provide a metric to determine if the Cooperative contribution is in line with the Cooperative subscription price for your library, given your library's chat traffic and librarian activity, as a percentage of the Cooperative as a whole.  


What are the responsibilities of a 24/7 Reference Cooperative Member?

Each Member agrees to adhere to the 24/7 Reference Policies and the 24/7 Reference Best Practices.



Each Member agrees to contribute a certain number of hours to staffing the Cooperative, as determined by the FTE or population served of the library or group. Academic libraries will contribute staffing to the Academic Cooperative, and public libraries will contribute staffing to the Public Cooperative. Members are encouraged to staff their local service for as many additional hours as possible. 


The staff selected by the library to provide service for the Cooperative must be qualified to provide information services at their local library, demonstrate good reference behaviors (including those behaviors established by the 24/7 Reference Cooperative Best Practices, and be adept in using the Cooperative’s software, QuestionPoint.



The Cooperative relies on each library or group administrator to systematically review the service provided to its users by Cooperative members and back-up staff librarians. Administrators should regularly review session transcripts and survey results from their users, and any issues or concerns should promptly be brought to the attention of the Quality team, using the procedures outlined in the 24/7 Reference Policies.




Follow Up

Each library agrees to promptly follow up any sessions with their users that require it. Once follow up is completed, sessions should be closed, thus removing these sessions from the active question list of the chatting librarian.


What if I don't agree with the way another librarian from the cooperative answered a question from my user?

Your library has access to the complete transcripts of all chat sessions that come in through your library's chat service. Each library is expected to review these transcripts on a regular basis. If you are concerned about a particular session, you may forward the session to our Quality team. The Quality staff will review the session and send appropriate comments to the librarian who handled the session. You may also follow up with the customer as well, to provide information that the online librarian may have missed.


In addition, the Quality team may proactively review a set number of sessions from each library in the Cooperative, on a rotating basis. While not every session will be reviewed by Quality, we have the option to try to review a sample of sessions from each librarian. The Quality process ensures that librarians use the 24/7 Reference Cooperative Best Practices in providing answers to the community served by the cooperative members.


Do I have to answer questions for other libraries?

If you join the 24/7 Reference Cooperative you will be answering questions from libraries like your own. There are currently two cooperatives, one for public libraries and one for academic libraries. Reciprocity in staffing is not required:  If you prefer to answer questions just for your own patrons, then it is possible to arrange for the Cooperative to pick up when you are not available.  However, if your library does not staff for the Cooperative, then your fee to join the Cooperative will be higher than if you did contribute staffing.  


What if the question cannot be completely answered online?

Questions that cannot be fully answered online are marked for follow up, which enables the local library (the user's home library) to answer the question, refer it to our network of subject specialists, or send it to any other partner library. You can refer a reference question to another library using the QuestionPoint referral tools. If that library is not part of the Cooperative or is not using the QuestionPoint software, the referral will come to them in an email.




How is the schedule maintained? How many hours do I have to staff? What if I can't staff?

If you elect to contribute staffing to the Cooperative, you will initially be asked to contribute a set amount of hours per week. Your weekly contribution is based on your population served (for public libraries) or FTE (for academic libraries). You will work with the QuestionPoint Cooperative Coordinator to determine which hours your library or group will staff. You will then be added to the schedule, available on the web. We encourage you to have back-up staff available, so that if one librarian is unable to make his/her shift, you can arrange for someone else to cover it. If you are unable to cover your shift, we ask you to make it up at a later time.


Once you have established your service and have been a Member of the Cooperative for at least one year, we may ask you to increase your staffing, depending on your Contribution Percentage.


What software does the 24/7 Reference Cooperative use?

The 24/7 Reference Cooperative uses OCLC’s QuestionPoint reference management software.


How do I find out more about joining the 24/7 Reference Cooperative?

For more information, please send an inquiry to qp@springshare.com.



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