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Answerland Staff Toolkit

Help, information, and resources for library staff participating in Answerland, Oregon's statewide reference service.

Best Practices for Quality Chat Reference

Updated December 7, 2018 by the Answerland Quality Team

Each year, Answerland’s Quality Team requests that librarians send us transcripts that highlight the best of the best in chat reference. We use the Rubric for Quality Chat Reference (aka Chat Rubric) to evaluate chat sessions. Since the rubric is very simple, we’d like to provide some in-depth Answerland chat reference best practices for new librarians, long-time Answerlanders, and volunteers. Please contact a member of the Quality Team with any suggestions or questions.

For more information on chat reference best practices, see the More Resources section.

Best Practices

Click on the rubric steps below to expand/collapse each section.

1. A cheerful, welcoming tone

2. A good reference interview (asking clarifying questions)

3. Use of authoritative resources

4. Good general communication skills

5. Offering more help

6. Gracefully concluding the chat transaction

Click on the tips below to expand/collapse each section.

1. Crisis Calls

2. Prank Calls and Rude Patrons

3. Working with K-12 students

4. Helping non-local patrons

5. Ethics

6. OCLC Guidelines for Mitigating Microaggressions5

In addition to the best practices for chat interactions, here are a few tips specific to email interactions:

  • Answers should include a greeting
  • Sign with a signature that includes a name


  1. “Public Services Standards from the University Libraries.” University Libraries, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Accessed February 28, 2018.
  2. Springshare Help Center. “Springshare 24/7 Reference Cooperative Policies: 4.1 General Chat Guidelines.” Accessed February 10, 2023.
  3. Springshare Help Center. “24/7 Co-Op: Best Practices for 24/7 Co-Op Chat Sessions.” Accessed February 10, 2023.
  4. The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions. “IFLA Digital Reference Guidelines.” Last modified 2014.
  5. Radford, Marie, and Lynn Silipigni Connaway. “Mitigating microaggressions in virtual reference.” Webinar, OCLC online, February 21st, 2018.
  6. Springshare 24/7 Reference Cooperative. “Springshare 24/7 Reference Cooperative Policies: 5. Followup/Creating Tickets.” Last modified February 1, 2023.

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