Latest service and space updates: VCU Libraries COVID-19 response

Health sciences librarians now available on chat and text

August 10, 2020

After many years of offering chat and text services staffed by librarians and information associates working in Cabell Library, VCU Libraries has expanded the service to include health sciences experts at Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences. 

“We understand that our students, faculty, and staff may be juggling classroom, lab and clinical work. By expanding to chat and text services we hope we will be able to better provide assistance to our users at their points of need. This is a long awaited service that we are proud to begin offering to our health science community,” says Interim Director of Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences Emily Hurst.

Last year, library staff responded to more than 2,700 chats and texts on a variety of questions. Examples include:

  • “How do I find peer-reviewed journal articles?”
  • “Can you help me use the scanner?” 
  • “Do students have access to the database Anatomy.TV?”
  • “Who is the librarian for dentistry?” 
  • “Where is the gender neutral restroom?” 

VCU Libraries staff respond in real time to these user questions. If a patron has a complex research question, they can be transferred to a librarian with expertise in that particular subject area. Or, the patron is told how to get in touch with the most appropriate librarian for a consultation by phone, email or Zoom. 

Now health sciences questions received via chat or text are immediately transferred to Tompkins-McCaw Library staff during most of the hours chat is available.  “When we receive questions about a health science database, resource, app or journal, we can now seamlessly transfer those questions to someone with more knowledge,” says Teresa Doherty, who manages chat and text services as interim head, Information Services and Learning Spaces in Cabell Library.

As more students, faculty and staff are working remotely, VCU Libraries wants to make sure users can get information at their point of need. “While we missed interacting with our patrons face to face, it’s been great to offer another way that we can quickly answer questions” says Stephen Barkley, head of operations and coordinator of the Service Desk team at the Tompkins-McCaw Library. 

You can find out more about VCU Libraries chat and text services and all the ways you can get help from VCU Libraries.


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