Wednesday, December 13, 2006

QuestionPoint's strengths and weaknesses

With his latest post about using enterprise IM as a proof-of-concept project for chat reference, Caleb Tucker-Raymond shows himself to be one of the most thoughtful and innovative persons around working in chat reference. How did I learn about this great idea of his? By reading this well-reasoned blog post about "the problem with QuestionPoint," which itself was crafted in response to Rikhei Harris' post, "No Love for QuestionPoint."

I'd have to say that if there's one thing that I am most annoyed about with QuestionPoint, it's the buggy co-browsing feature. Yesterday, while doing a training session at Brooklyn College to help set up a chat reference cooperative consisting of the library at my school (Baruch College) and at three other CUNY schools (Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and the CUNY Graduate Center), all was going well with co-browsing demos with web pages and our catalog. Trying to co-browse an authenticated database (most of us at CUNY use EZ Proxy for authentication) was a typical mess: all the gifs from the patron's and librarian's interface for the database (in this case, Academic Search Premier) were missing from our screens, making navigation nearly impossible.

How do we get around co-browsing's funkiness (a work-friendly euphemism) when we need to teach a patron how to run a search in a database? We ask the user to open another browser on their screen, navigate to the database, and then follow our step-by-step instructions typed into the chat window (something that we could do with IM software, too).

Our patrons at Baruch absolutely love that we can offer the service 24/7, and our patron surveys reveal a high satisfaction rate with the service overall (83% say they are "very likely" to use the service again). Without QuestionPoint, it would be very hard to give them the round-the-clock service they need (our students are all commuter students with busy schedules, as most of them work part-time or full-time). For me, the ability to offer cooperative reference around the clock is the biggest reason why we stick with QuestionPoint. But I am also completely sympathetic to the kvetching among librarians about the software itself. In short, I love the service, not the software.

Labels: , , ,