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Wayne State librarians are only a text away with innovative new service

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January 26, 2017

Over the coming months, look for videos, stories and events that feature some of the many Wayne State initiatives and passionate individuals committed to impacting their communities through innovation and entrepreneurship. This content is part of WSU's Warriors in Action campaign highlighting how Wayne State is making a difference.

Students and faculty members seeking library assistance used to be bound to the hours of the library, but now the services and resources of the Wayne State Libraries are available whenever and wherever users have a need.

In late 2015, the Wayne State University Libraries launched a 24/7 chat service, allowing librarians to virtually help users with questions, assignments and projects any time, day or night. Earlier that year, Wayne State librarians sought out ways to expand services to address student needs. They came to the realization that the reference services offered in the libraries had major time gaps that were not being filled. Though the libraries were offering a virtual chat service, it only operated during business hours and did not include evening, early morning or weekend hours — all peak times for students who are up late studying for finals or working on research papers and projects.

In response, WSU Libraries connected with Chatstaff, a service designed to provide after-hours coverage for virtual reference service. Chatstaff’s team uses American Library Association-accredited librarians from across the country, who work within the Wayne State Univerity Libraries’ resources to provide customized advice about using Wayne State collections and services. “In many ways, the library never closes now,” said Librarian Katrina Rouan, coordinator for reference services and graduate student assistants. “Even if the building isn’t open, there’s always assistance available.”

Not even two years old, the 24/7 chat service has continued to gain popularity. In 2016, reference chats were held with nearly 2,500 people — a 40 percent increase from 2015. “Since about half of our chats are happening during hours that the service was previously unavailable, over 1,000 patrons benefited from the expanded service last year alone,” said Rouan. “We’re seeing just how much a gap this service is filling for our users.”

The students’ response to the service has been remarkable, proving how beneficial 24/7 chat has been. The chat transcripts speak for themselves:

“You are a great Reference Librarian!!!!!!! We are in awe of you right now!!!” 
“I've never used this Library Chat before. It's quite convenient!”
“Thanks for being available on a Sunday!”
“This Ask-a-Librarian is an amazing feature.”
“Thank you for being available for questions the Saturday night after Thanksgiving.”
“This online chat is the best resource EVER. You folks rock!”

In late 2016, WSU Libraries added texting to its virtual lineup. Now students and faculty members can text 313-228-3WSU to get help right from their smartphones. “We know students and faculty have a lot of demands on their time. The Libraries provide a solution to this by always being available, whenever and wherever our users need us,” said Rouan.

To try out the 24/7 chat service, visit library.wayne.edu/services/ask-a-librarian or text 313-228-3WSU.

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