Spotlight Remote: PUL's live-chat service expands to serve remote learning and research

Live chat on laptop

Spotlight Remote is a feature series highlighting the new ways in which Princeton University Library staff are working with our patrons and community in a remote environment. 

On March 20, 2020, Princeton University Library (PUL) officially transitioned to virtual-only operations in response to the COVID-19 virus. PUL now serves patrons through expanded online services, including longer hours and additional staff for “Ask Us,” a live-chat run by Library specialists who answer questions in real-time. 

The number of weekly chat sessions almost tripled in March, said Jen Hunter, librarian for reference and research services. 

PUL introduced Ask Us more than a decade ago as another avenue to serve patrons’ needs, in particular, a younger generation of Library users who often expect and prefer communication via instant messaging.

“I’m glad we can provide this general outreach and lifeline for students,” said Hunter. Many patrons appreciate one-on-one guidance to navigate the Library’s extensive resources, especially with the shift to a virtual Princeton campus.  

One patron who used the service wrote in a chat: "Very thankful that this chat exists from 9am-10pm with very helpful and quick responses. I thought nobody would be on the chat but both times I opened it today they responded immediately."

Any Library patron, including students, staff, faculty, and members of the public, can access the chat service from PUL’s homepage by clicking the orange Ask Us chat box displayed on the bottom-right corner of the screen, via desktop or mobile. 

The Ask Us service is currently available Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. During off hours, patrons can submit a question via email for a response within 24 hours. 

Learn more about the Library’s virtual services at PUL Support for Remote Research, Teaching, and Learning.

Written by Emily Judd, Communications Coordinator

Media contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications