Library Adapts New Web Chat Option

<b>BMCC Library staffers Susan Thomas, Linda Wadas, Flor Hernandez and Dr. Kanu Nagra</b>

BMCC Library staffers Susan Thomas, Linda Wadas, Flor Hernandez and Dr. Kanu Nagra
October 15, 2008

The A. Philip Randolph Memorial Library at BMCC has over 120 databases and academic journals available for student use, which can be accessed via the school;s Library Web site. 

These databases range from Encyclopedia Britannica to Ethnic NewsWatch (ProQuest) to Health & Wellness Resource Center (InfoTrac) and many more. BMCC’s Library Web page is truly a hub for academic research.

But navigating through the school’s databases can become an overwhelming, and even daunting, task. Students are virtually swimming in a sea of information. So, where to begin?

BMCC’s Library now uses Questionpoint, a national program that started with the Library of Congress that allows students to chat live with a Librarian who can assist them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

When a BMCC student has a question, be it about their academics, a course at BMCC, or anything else academic—they can “Ask a Librarian” via cyber chat, at any time, day or night.

Chat is “Instant Gratification”

In order to access “Ask-a-Librarian” a BMCC student must go to the Library’s Web page, and click on “Ask-a-Librarian.” Then, the student clicks on the ‘Chat’ link and communicates live with a Librarian in a fashion similar to an “Instant Message.” A Questionpoint-trained Librarian will answer their question within a matter of minutes.

“Students like that ‘Chat’ is instant gratification. They’ll have a fast response back from a librarian in a matter of minutes,” says Flor Hernandez, a BMCC Library staffer who works on the technical side of Questionpoint. “We get lots of Chat questions on holidays and weekends—when classes are not in sessions and students are generally home working.”

The BMCC Librarian directly involved with Questionpoint are Susan Thomas, Linda Wadas, Dr. Kanu Nagra and Phyllis B. Niles, all of whom ‘Chat’ with students.Students can also “Ask-a-Librarian” via email, an option that is also on listed in the “Research Help” box on the Library homepage. Emailed questions are generally answered in less than 24 hours.

BMCC Only CUNY Community College that ‘Chats’

According to Thomas, Sidney Eng, BMCC’s Chief Librarian, was the one who encouraged BMCC to utilize Questionpoint. “We are the only community college in CUNY that participates in Questionpoint, and we are proud of that,” she says.

Other CUNY schools using Questionpoint include Brooklyn College, Baruch, John Jay, Hunter College and The Graduate Center.

Sometimes, the Librarian on the other end of the Chat will be one of the CUNY Librarians, but not always. Because Questionpoint is nationwide, a Librarian from another college in the country can answer questions from a BMCC student. It really depends which Librarian happen to be on-call at the moment. 

Rotating shifts with Questionpoint Librarians from all over the U.S. makes it easier for the Chat option to be available 24/7.
Librarians will also send follow-up email to students to find out if they need any further assistance.

Chat Beneficial for Students Off-Campus

In order to access Chat off-campus, the BMCC community has to log on to authenticate.  “The Log-On is the same log on for BMCC email accounts,” says Hernandez. “So students can take advantage of the amazing resources from home, work, wherever they are with an Internet connection.”

Since most BMCC students work during the day and don’t start their homework until later at night, 24-hour chat is perfect for those who need assistance late at night, or on the weekends. It’s also an attractive option for distance learning students who need help offsite.

Chat transcripts emailed directly to the students, to keep as a future reference. There is no limit on the number of times a student can use the Chat feature, or email questions to a Librarian.

“The chat option is the main appeal of Questionpoint for BMCC students,” says Thomas.  “We really want students to be aware of it, and not be afraid to use it.”

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