Library Services


Supporting students and staff through Library Chat

25 June 2021

Our online chat service was implemented during the pandemic to support UCL students and staff studying and working remotely.

Student sitting at desk in cafe

UCL students, staff and others can now communicate directly with us through our chat service 12:00 – 19:00 Monday to Friday. Support is available in every discipline and multiple staff are available to answer queries on all aspects of Library Services, including E-resources, Open Access and LibrarySkills@UCL.

We’ve also developed a knowledge base of FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) which means that answers to common enquiries can now be found at any time of the day or night.

Chat has grown to be one of our most effective ways to support our community, and since it launched in Spring 2020, we have answered thousands of enquiries.

The above chart shows the number of answered queries received via the library chat service, by month, from April 2020 to March 2021. Usage continues to increase, with a peak of 878 queries answered in March 2021.


Feedback has been positive:

"Very efficient first time I have used this chat and feel happy to have the help will definitely be using this chat again thank you."
“Brilliant support for on-line at home teaching & leaning."
“Great way to get quick answers and support. Very efficient.”
“New knowledge about the library service: great! Thank you!”
“Enormously helpful - and friendly too.”

We're "here" to help

When lockdown was announced in March 2020, we responded quickly to adapt our ways of working to ensure that we could help students and staff during this difficult time. We needed to replace our face-to-face Research Desks, with an equally dynamic service for more immediate support.

A Project Board was created to work with the supplier of an Enquiries Management System, and a Microsoft Team was created for everyone to share information. Training materials were prepared and delivered, and as soon as the system was live, librarians from across our libraries were all set to answer enquiries to our chat service within a short space of time.

Since the service was launched, we have trained many staff from different Library teams. This means we can have several colleagues online at the same time to answer the growing number of enquiries. Staff who are working the same shift can chat internally and communicate with one another during the course of a chat for advice, and can also transfer queries to colleagues who may have more knowledge of the topic. Otherwise, there is also a facility to redirect queries to specific sections of our service, as well as various other teams who work behind the scenes to ensure that our students and staff have access to material that they need for their study and research.

During the chats we’re able to highlight the many different aspects of our service such as our Subject Guides and librarians who are responsible for managing collections and advising on the best resources for essays, dissertations and projects, as well as promoting LibrarySkills@UCL on how to use these resources.

Debs Furness, Head of Help Services:

"So, even though many of us are no longer sitting at a desk helping people with their enquiries face to face, we are online and waiting to point people towards resources, explain how things work, and demystify all manner of topics."

This is just one of the many new services we rapidly developed to support you during the pandemic, which you can read about in our Annual Report.