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Live Online Reference Policy


Statement of Policy & Text

King Reference Unit’s (KRU) Live Online Reference service provides patrons with reference assistance through nationwide collaborative chat services. Patrons receive brief answers to factual questions, help with web-based search strategies, and information on library resources, policies, and services of libraries nationwide.

Need for the Policy

  • Staff needs to be aware of the scope of live online reference services available to library patrons.
  • Standards of customer service for live online reference need to be defined.

Requirements & Guidelines


  • Live online reference service follows the standards and guidelines established by collaborative agreements.
  • According to SJLibrary’s vision of fostering lifelong learning, King Reference Unit (KRU) librarians and staff seek the “teachable moment” in every reference transaction. Depending on the needs and capabilities of the patron, KRU librarians and staff will incorporate instruction in the use of library resources—with the goal of enabling the patron to become a more self-sufficient library user.

Basic Questions

  • Patrons will be acknowledged by a librarian as quickly as possible. The goal is to keep patrons waiting no more than 2 minutes at the onset of the session.
  • During the session, the patron should not wait longer than 3 minutes without being notified of the status of the search.
  • Sessions should normally be limited to 20 minutes at most.
    • Librarians monitoring queues should use their best judgment on amount of time spent, as long as no other patrons are waiting in the queue.

Complex Questions

Complex questions are those that cannot be completed during the initial live online transaction.

  • Patrons will be referred to their local library, a KRU subject specialist (for SJSU or SJPL patrons only), or to regional or state System Reference Centers for follow-up. Follow-up procedures established by live online reference service management will be followed.
  • Normally patrons will receive an email response within 72 hours (excluding weekends or holidays).

Applicable Personnel/Departments

King Reference Unit




Reviewed and approved by:Signature/NameDate of Approval

Head, SJSU Academic Services
Sandra Belanger

Manager, SJPL Reference & Web Services
Joan Bowlby

Ruth Kifer, John Wenzler, Mary Nino, Luann Budd, Anne Cain, Neil Rufino, Sandra Stewart, Katie DuPraw

History & Dates

Category of Policy : User Services
Author(s):Ronna Nemer, SJPL Librarian and Tina Peterson, SJSU Librarian
Authorized by: Lorene Sisson & Joan Bowlby
Date Written:8/3/05
Date Effective:12/9/05
Date(s) of Revision(s):1/24/06; 3/8/07 RN; 10/19/2012, 2/12/2013


A. King Library Reference Unit Services Policy