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Library Policies: Virtual Research Help

Virtual Research Help

The purpose of the LaChance Library Ask a Librarian Virtual Research Help Service is to provide real-time, easy access to Research Help for Mount Wachusett Community College students, faculty, staff and the community. The LaChance Library currently uses LibChat from Springshare as its Virtual Research Help and messaging platform. Virtual Research Help allows the LaChance Library to provide on- and off-campus student with access to our services.

Virtual Research Help is a research help service initiated electronically by patrons who are not physically present in the interaction. These patrons are using computers, tablets, smartphones or other internet technology to communicate with research help staff.

The LaChance Library Virtual Research Help Policy follows the recommendations outlined in the Reference and Users Services (RUSA) Guidelines for Implementing and Maintaining Virtual Reference Services of the American Library Association.

What kind of help is available?

The LaChance Library offers the same level of service offered at the LaChance Library Research Help Desk. Staff on duty will determine the appropriate amount of time that will be spent helping a patron through Virtual Research Help. Staff may refer the patron to email or follow-up research help via email, phone or an in-person consultation for more in-depth responses. 

IM/Chat and E-mail Research Help are designed to handle questions typically asked at the Research Help Desk. Some examples of these questions are: finding information on a particular topic, searching the library catalog, selecting and searching appropriate databases and questions about the library and its services.

Virtual Research Help is staffed by librarians whenever the library is open. Please visit our website for our hours. Most questions received Monday through Friday will receive a response within 24 hours. Questions requiring in-depth knowledge of a subject or resource may be referred to an appropriate subject or resource specialist, who will contact the patron directly. A referral will delay the response time.

Virtual Research Help Options

  • Email the Research Help Desk at library@mwcc.mass.edu.
  • Chat with a librarian using Ask a Librarian when the library is open.
  • Ask a Librarian Virtual Research Help Service compliments other Ask a Librarian Research Help services. Patrons can stop by the Research Help Desk or contact us by phone at 978-630-9338. 

If a question would be better addressed by a different Mount Wachusett Community College department or office, patrons will be transferred to that department or office or given the appropriate contact information.

What kind of help is NOT available?

Most requests submitted through our Virtual Research Help can be accommodated. Here are some examples of what cannot be provided:

  • Virtual Research Help will not send articles accessed through the article databases to users unless their status as a member of the MWCC community can be verified. Articles will only be sent from Virtual Research Help to a valid MWCC email address.
  • Patrons will need to access electronic databases off-campus to view full-text articles.
  • Virtual Research Help staff will not do your research for you. Librarians will help by suggesting and demonstrating research tools and strategies to conduct research. It is part of the LaChance Library’s mission to help develop the information literacy skills of its patrons during chat transactions.
  • Virtual Research Help will not provide medical, legal, or financial advice.
  • Library Research Help staff will not answer questions about patrons’ library transactions (overdue fines, material checked out, renewals, etc.) through Virtual Research Help. These questions will be referred to the Circulation Desk for an appropriate response.
  • Virtual Research Help reserves the right not to answer any question.

Virtual Research Help Privacy Policy

The LaChance Library respects the privacy of users, but cannot guarantee the confidentiality of files, email or other information stored or transmitted electronically. The LaChance Library will collect data on each chat transaction for statistical purposes only. In addition, each chat log may be saved to improve our services. At no time will any personal information be given to persons outside of the LaChance Library

Chat transcripts and e-mail messages are retained for one year and then permanently deleted.

Transcripts for frequently asked questions or for complex questions may be saved or adapted for LibAnswers or for training purposes.

Behavior and Etiquette

Virtual Research Help staff will not tolerate inappropriate behavior. Inappropriate behavior constitutes, but is not limited to, any action that is illegal, threatening, harassing, obscene, derogatory, objectionable or a violation of federal, state or local law. No solicitation of goods, services or “spam” will receive a response.

Chats determined inappropriate will be terminated. Inappropriate behavior will be determined by the staff member handling the interaction. A warning message may or may not be given to users who violate this policy. Users who fail to comply with this policy may be blocked from Virtual Research Help in the future.

The LaChance Library recommends that patrons do not give out personal information such as credit card numbers or social security numbers.

Please be patient. Virtual Research Help questions are often handled by the staff member who is also handling in-person questions at the LaChance Research Help Desk. Network and in-person traffic may impact response time. A research help librarian will respond to your question as soon as possible.

Virtual Research Help questions will be answered in the order they are received. Patrons visiting the library in-person receive priority.

If a research question comes from a patron who is matriculated at another institution, that patron may be referred to their parent institution to better address their needs.

Please CONTACT US if you have questions.