Ask a Librarian is a collaborative virtual reference service, offered in English and French, that connects students, faculty members, and researchers from participating university libraries across Ontario with real-time library and research assistance through chat. The service is offered by Scholars Portal, the digital service arm of the Ontario Council of University Libraries (OCUL).
Ask a Librarian is available 67 hours per week during the academic year, including on evenings and weekends.
Ask a Librarian provides online, on-demand assistance from your library website, allowing users to get immediate help no matter where they are.
Our expert staff are trained to provide local, trustworthy answers to library- and research-related questions.
Chat support is available in both English and French during all service hours.
Ask a Librarian is powered by Nub Games’ LibraryH3lp, a flexible, scalable chat platform designed for libraries. LibraryH3lp has a simple, user-friendly interface, ample customization options, and a responsive customer support team. The platform has proactive chat functionality and offers unlimited knowledge bases and an optional add-on for text messaging.
Scholars Portal offers a comprehensive training program for new chat operators. Sessions include an orientation to the service, hands-on training on the chat platform, a review of best practices for virtual reference and online communication, and an introduction to service policies and procedures.
The Ask a Librarian service is coordinated by a designated Scholars Portal librarian, who supports local chat coordinators and manages daily operations, including scheduling, training, communications, assessment, and user support. The coordinator also maintains the chat software, liaises with Nub Games, and hires and supervises student and casual workers who contribute to the service.
Participating libraries can track local service usage and operator activity through statistical reports available in the LibraryH3lp admin console. Exit survey results are also available to evaluate user satisfaction and service quality. The Ask a Librarian coordinator can assist with statistical tracking, custom reports, and assessment and evaluation projects.