VCU Libraries offer students interactive chat system

Sam Isaacs
Contributing Writer

VCU students no longer have to set foot in the library to get help from research assistants.

VCU Libraries initiated an interactive chat service in July to help students navigate the seemingly endless realms of research material the library offers. The chat allows students to talk to research assistants in real time to ask questions and get help with finding information.

“We tried to do something like this several years ago, but with a joint system with other universities,” said Kristina Keogh, a research librarian for the arts who has coordinated the chat efforts. “It was too vast so this time the system is just for VCU.”

The system can be accessed from the VCU Libraries web page under the “Ask Us” tab. There, a student can ask a general question or hone into a specific topic for immediate consultation. The service is available Monday-Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday
from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Research assistants work out of the Cabell Library, but the service is offered at both campus libraries and through the library system’s web page.

In addition to the instant chat, students can send emails or schedule in-person meetings with assistants through the “Ask Us” menu. Keogh, who both oversees and coordinates the service, and specializes in fine arts research, said that the immediacy of a chat system has several advantages.

“Students don’t have to lose their spot or stop what they are doing. They also don’t have to worry about leaving their things unwatched to get up and ask a question,” she said.

According to Keogh, most questions come from UNIV 200 classes.

The system went up with a “soft launch” in July and saw an increase in use as the semester progressed.

“We didn’t do a market push until recently, and even without a lot of promotion, the word got around via word of mouth,” said Laura Gariepy, assistant lead of instructional
services. “We expect to see a huge increase in use next semester.”

The service started seeing about 25 uses per week recently with the overall number growing throughout the semester.

Gariepy anticipates that February and March will be the two busiest months because students are in the middle of the semester, before the rush of finals.

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