What are the policies for FSU Libraries' Ask Us! chat service?

Our answer:


Florida State University Libraries Ask Us! chat service is intended primarily for current, students, faculty, and staff of Florida State University as well as those dealing specifically with information about Florida State University or connecting to the service from a computer on campus. Anyone may use the service, but we can only provide limited assistance to those outside the campus community.

Email and chat reference services are designed to handle questions typically asked at our library help desks, such as questions about finding information on a particular topic, journal citations, phone numbers, and definitions. Chat services depend heavily on online resources; during chat we are unable to consult print materials in other parts of the library’s collections. Questions requiring in-depth knowledge of a subject or resource may be referred to an appropriate subject specialist, who will contact you directly. A referral may cause a slight delay in the response time.


Florida State University Libraries encourages the education of information literacy through the promotion of critical thinking, education of the FSU Libraries’ resources and guiding patrons in developing effective research skills. Our Ask Us! reference service provides information literacy, research, and reference support for all students, staff, and faculty on- and off-campus during every hour our main library is open with limited support for community patrons, as well. 

Code of Conduct

All patrons will adhere to the FSU Dean of Students Student Conduct Codes which can be found at Student Conduct Codes. Inappropriate chats and emails: Patrons are not allowed to harass, provoke, demean staff or use obscene language. We will not answer any inappropriate or intentionally off-topic questions. We will end chats if we deem a question or interaction to be inappropriate and may report the chat, if necessary.

Patron Privacy

Florida State University Libraries respect the privacy of our patrons. This privacy policy is intended to let users know what information is collected by our Ask Us! chat and email service and how it is used. All chats and emails are logged by our LibApps LibAnswers software. The library keeps a staff-use-only database of all of the logs collected by LibApps LibAnswers. The information is used to help analyze the amount and types of questions we are being asked. This helps determine appropriate staffing levels, and aids in training librarians and graduate students for the service. We do not use information collected through chat or email service for commercial purposes, including marketing. We value your privacy and would never resell any patron information. You may be asked to complete a survey on the quality of service you receive. All responses are kept confidential and are used to better our services. You are encouraged, but not required, to participate in the survey.

Additionally, our service records your IP address and browser information. The information collected is only accessible to librarians and library staff associated with the Ask Us! service. Statistics generated from chat data may be used for reports or publications but information about specific individuals including name, IP address, email, etc. will never be shared outside of FSU Libraries. Any patrons that would like a record of their chat or email deleted may email the virtual reference coordinator Lindsey Wharton to request the deletion of their chat or email transcript. 

Guidelines for Our Service 

What we will answer:

  • Questions about general and directional information about the university, the libraries and their policies.
  • Questions about the use and operation of our computers and other technological resources.
  • Questions about finding, recommending and assistance with interpreting FSU’s print and non-print resources on a particular topic/question.
  • Questions on research strategy and navigating our databases, catalog and other information services.
  • Questions on library holdings and how to obtain materials that are not owned by the university.
  • Questions on how to cite particular resources, format papers and references in different citation styles, and use citation management tools

What we won’t answer:

  • Requests for legal, medical, financial or tax advice.
  • Verification and editing services for papers, projects, citations or the like.
  • Questions that are intentionally inappropriate.
  • Questions from tests or exams and in-depth assistance with writing papers or theses.
  • Questions requiring in-depth answers on specific topics: these patrons will be referred to a subject librarian. 

Process and Procedure

Reference questions are answered as quickly and capably as possible. Please be aware that the virtual staff may also be staffing a reference desk and may need to assist others. We will notify you if we are assisting another patron. Please be patient and understanding; reference questions will be answered in the order they are received.

If possible, communicate in short sentences. This will help staff with interpreting and understanding your request. If you have a more specific subject question that requires in-depth research, we encourage you to schedule a meeting with a subject librarian at Subject Librarians. You may also email Ask a Librarian.

Diversity and Inclusion

Reference service shall be provided to all users on an equal, nondiscriminatory, and nonjudgmental basis without regard to: (1) race, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, background, appearance, or personal view of the patron making the inquiry; (2) the subject matter being researched; or (3) the purpose of the inquiry. 

Transactions with patrons will be treated as equally important. All questions and requests for information shall be treated as confidential in the sense that, except as may be required by law, the nature of the question asked and the identity of the patron shall not be discussed with other patrons, and shall not be divulged beyond that necessary for the orderly and effective administration of the Library and the Reference Service. Reference staff may consult with each other when necessary to serve the patron or consult with staff at other libraries, agencies, and organizations.

Latest Revision: June, 2019