Georgetown students can now seek help from Lauinger and Blommer librarians without leaving the comforts of their rooms. The university began a new pilot program to expand the hours of its existing LiveHelp Services available to students, faculty and staff on Monday.

The original LiveHelp system of online librarian assistance began in the spring of 2002 with limited hours. Part-time librarian in the Government Documents and Microfilms Department at Lauinger, Tom Oertel, said that the initial program was effective but there was not as much student participation as originally anticipated. “I think we are happy with [student response]. I expected more use, but it has proved helpful to students and off-campus folks too,” Oertel said.

Office of Communications Specialist Jaime Winne said that the program extension is in response to user requests for extended nighttime service hours. LiveHelp service hours are now scheduled to be 12 p.m. – midnight Monday through Thursday and 12 p.m.-4:30 p.m. on Fridays. During these times, Lauinger and Blommer Library staff will answer questions regarding the “online catalog GEORGE, selecting and searching appropriate databases, general information about the Library and the services offered and strategies for effective Internet searches,” according to a Feb. 1 Georgetown press release.

Students will communicate to the library staff through a text-based “chat” screen. The staff will also be able to send links to students as well as produce pop-up windows directly on a student’s screen. Students will be able to request a text transcript of their online conversations with staff members to be sent to their e-mail account.

Students will not be required to identify themselves in order to seek assistance on LiveHelp. The only necessary information is the student’s status – undergraduate student, faculty member or alumnus.

Furthermore, the library stresses the privacy students have while using this asset, as transcripts of chats will be purged of any identifying information before being used for training or service evaluation purposes.

“We suspect more night use. Students are night owls by and large, so we have decided to go with the flow,” Oertel said.

After a student receives the requested help, he or she is asked to respond to a brief online survey. This survey assesses if students obtained the needed information, how often they use LiveHelp, what references at the library they have used and finally asks for their e-mail address in order to send them a transcript of their conversation and follow up on any evaluating comments made by students.

This pilot program is scheduled to continue through the end of the semester.

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