Monday, April 7, 2008

Maryland AskUsNow! Practice Session

(This is a test blog post to see how this would look on a staff e-learning page.)

Activity Title:
Maryland AskUsNow Practice Session

Intended Audience:
All BCPL Staff Members

CEU Information:
This activity is expected to take approximately 60 minutes. Participants will be awarded 0.1 CEUs.

Learning Objectives:
Customers are more likely to use our services if we can recommend and describe them clearly and enthusiastically. This is easy for staff when the service is provided within the library but is more difficult to do with virtual/online services. At the end of this activity, participants will be familiar with the Maryland AskUsNow! service from a customer perspective. Participants will be able to describe the uses of the service, explain the log-in process to customers, and describe a session due to first-hand experience.


  1. Read the "Additional Resources or Information" section below.
  2. Read the "About this Service" and the "Privacy" sections on the site. Also, review the "Tips and Tricks" section to learn about the basic help and troubleshooting information that is available for customers.
  3. Log on to the Maryland AskUsNow! service using the link from the BCPL Home Page or the web site. Be sure to enter your email address so that you will be sent a transcript at the end of the session. You may identify yourself as a library staff member if you like. Remember that you are likely to be connected to a librarian from another Maryland library or possibly from a library elsewhere in the country.

    As a courtesy, please do not ask an exceptionally difficult or time-consuming question . The goal of the exercise is for you to learn about the service from a customer viewpoint, not to test the skills of a fellow library staff member!
  4. After your session has been completed, review the transcript that will be emailed to you.
  5. Complete the Evaluation Question Form. A description of the questions and a link to the form are posted at the bottom of this page.

Additional Resources or Information:
The Maryland AskUsNow! chat-based reference service began as a cooperative grant-based project of the Harford County Public Library and the Baltimore County Public Library. Due to its success, the the Maryland Department of Education Division of Library Development and Services (DLDS) chose to fund the project at a statewide level. The statewide service began officially on March 17, 2003 and recently celebrated its fifth anniversary.

Maryland AskUsNow! is staffed by librarians from public, academic and special libraries accross the state. A full list of participating libraries is available on the page. The Maryland group participates in a nationwide cooperative. We contribute some time to answer questions from library customers outside Maryland and receive off-hours and backup coverage from the cooperative in return. This allows us to offer the service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The service uses the OCLC QuestionPoint software to allow communication between the librarian and the customer. The librarian and customer chat back and forth in one window on the screen. Another window is available to allow the librarian to "push" useful web pages to the customer's computer. If the question cannot be answered immediately, the librarian offers the customer the option of receiving a follow-up response. Librarians from the customer's home library system or from elsewhere in Maryland will work to find and answer to the customer's question and, using the QuestionPoint software, will respond to the customer via email. Since the service began in March, 2003, Maryland AskUsNow! has handled over 241,000 customer sessions.

Jim DeArmey - Information Services

April 7, 2008

Evaluation Questions:
Complete the Maryland AskUsNow! Practice Session Evaluation Form to answer the following questions:

  • What question did you ask in your practice session?
  • What was your impression of the interaction in chat?
  • List two situations where you feel you would be able to recommend the Maryland AskUsNow! service to customers.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Prize deadline has passed but the program lives on

The deadline to finish the program and qualify for prizes at Staff Day has passed. We're reviewing blogs now to make sure we have an accurate list of everyone who has finished so far.

The program continues. Finish by November 15 to qualify for CEUs and to be included in the count of BCPL staff members that we report to the state. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to work through the program!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

October 3 - This is it!

Today is the deadline to finish the 23 Things program to qualify for the prize drawing at Staff Day. We'll be reading blogs like mad today and tomorrow to see who made it. Help us out if you can and email Ellen or Jim when you make it to the end. That will save us some time!

At this moment we have 126 people who have made it to Thing #23! If you don't finish today, don't give up. Let's see how far we can get by November 15 when we report our total participation to DLDS!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Staff Day Prize Drawing Deadline Extended to October 3

This just in. We have extended the deadline for the Staff Day prize drawing to October 3. Finish the 23 things by that date and you'll be entered in the drawing.

Check the Blog Roll on the right side of this page. We have put a star next to the blog titles of people who have made it all the way through the program. If you think you have completed the program but don't see a star next to your blog title, email Jim DeArmey ( right away to find out what 'things' we couldn't find listed on your blog. Lots of people did #2 but didn't post anything about it. Check that, too.

Remember, even if you don't finish in time to qualify for prizes, we'll keep running the program through November 15 for those who want to keep working on it.

Sunday, July 22, 2007 Tutorial

It has been reported that the link to the tutorial in Week 6, Thing 13 is not working. Until that link is corrected, please use this alternative link or this one, to an 8-minute tutorial.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Joining Up

Baltimore County Public Library is very pleased to announce our participation in the statewide Maryland Libraries Learning 2.0 - 23 Things project.

The pilot program for the Information Services and Technology Support departments runs from June 4 - September 30, 2007 . They'll help us to work out the details. Registration for the pilot program runs from May 1 to May 25, 2007.

The main program is open to all BCPL staff and runs from July 1 - September 30, 2007. Registration closes on June 25, 2007 July 15th, 2007. After that you won't qualify for any prizes. Hurry and register now!

Program Registration
Register for this program after June 1, 2007. Follow the appropriate link below to register. Once you finish entering your registration information, return to this page( and choose the 23 Things link at the right to start the program! You can also use the "HandyLinks" on the right for easy access to :

  1. the Stephen Abrams article on 43 Things,
  2. a reference sheet for tracking logins and passwords
  3. a 23 Things tracking log to record your progress.
  • Register here if you are in the BCPL Pilot Group. **
    (If you're in this group, you should know it!)

  • Register here if your birthday is from January through March.**

  • Register here if your birthday is from April through June. **

  • Register here if your birthday is from July through September. **

  • Register here if your birthday is from October through December.**

  • **Once you have completed registration come back to this page, click the 23 Things link on the right side of the page, and get started!!
    **Remember, we'll be posting a link to your blog. The link will show the blog title that you select. If you don't want people on the web to know who you are, use an amusing 'handle' rather than your real name. Check the Blog Roll on the right side of this screen to see the names that some of the rest of the particpants have chosen.
    You can cancel your registration anytime.

    Week 2, Thing 4 Details - Registering Your Blog
    To complete Thing #4, you'll need to Register Your Blog. Please use your WORK email address, as registration is monitored. Remember that your blog address can be anonymous on your blog, but your liaison needs to know the address so you can be added to our Participant Blog List. He will also need your completed Tracking Log at the end of the project. You don't want to miss out on CEUs or prizes!

    CEUs and Prizes

    You can earn 1.8 CEUs by completing this program. Participants who complete this program are eligible for a drawing for prizes. The prizes include 4 digital cameras, 3 Zunes, and a grand prize of a Nintendo Wii game system! The drawing will be held on Staff Day, October 8, 2007.

    Please contact your liaisons, Ellen Ward ( or Jim DeArmey ( if you have questions about this project. Don't forget that they are not the instructors, though. They're here to facilitate and help you along. We encourage you to visit each other's blogs for ideas and help with the technologies.

    Participant Blog List
    In addition to this list, don't forget to check out the blogs from other libraries statewide. You have the opportunity to work with lots of library staff across Maryland.