Denver Public Library

Provide personal reference service quickly whenever it's needed

Frank Wilmot helps a library user at the Denver Public Library Reference Services Department
Photo by Sherry Spitsnaugle, Denver Public Library

"What we really like about QuestionPoint is that the wait time is very low for our customers. The service is always available for them to use."

Frank Wilmot
Senior Librarian in Reference Services, Denver Public Library

Reference librarians often help students down a research path without learning the outcome of the research. So when a high school student brings his reference librarian a thank-you card, something has gone perfectly right. When this happened to Frank Wilmot, Senior Librarian in Reference Services at the Denver Public Library, however, he didn't recognize the student, because they had never met.

Denver Public Library's Reference Services Department supports students of all ages, especially middle school through college students, using the QuestionPoint® reference management service. "Denver's a big city, and it's hard for some kids to get downtown" to the Central Library, Frank explained. "So we decided to expand the in-person, one-on-one student research appointments to one-on-one scheduled chat appointments." Two months after walking a student through a pathfinder on chat one Sunday afternoon, the student visited the library. "He brought a card to thank me," Frank said. "He told me how much our chat appointment had helped him and said that the project helped him get an A in the class. That's amazing that he took the time to come back."

"Our reference librarians love staffing chat. They like the software, and it's easy to use. There's a core team that really likes reviewing the questions and doing follow-up in the morning."

The chat service, which is called "ASK US!" on the Denver Public Library's website, has seen steady increases in usage. "We think our customers are using it more because they can always log in," Frank said. And because QuestionPoint stores transcripts from all chats, "it's a really great learning and teaching tool," he added. "We look at the transcripts for quality control, to see how other people answer questions and to follow up where we need to, which is great."

As the library continues to reach out to users, they continue to reach back. "Every month, we get another stack of positive survey results. It doesn't slow down," Frank said. "I keep a spreadsheet with customer comments that I send around every month to staff and supervisors. It's great for morale. It really tells us what people value." He added, "We've had such a great experience. I wish more libraries were doing chat."

Map showing locaation of Denver Public Library

Library at a glance

  • Consists of a downtown central library, 25 branch libraries (including the Blair Caldwell African American Research Library) and two bookmobiles
  • In 2014, counted more than 4.4 million visitors, served more than 42,000 children through the Summer of Reading program and taught technology classes to more than 9,500 adults
  • The Central Library includes a large circulating fiction and nonfiction collection, a Children's Library, the Western History/Genealogy Department, the Community Technology Center with an ideaLab and Reference Services Department
  • The Central Library's Reference Services Department is a Federal Library Depository, a Patent & Trademark Research Center and a Foundation Center Network Library
  • Reference Services houses a large retrospective and current magazine collection
  • Reference Services provides one-on-one appointment services for entrepreneurs (BizBoost), students, nonprofits and inventors

Related stories

University of Washington, Suzzallo Reading Room

Create a 24/7 library, no matter the weather

Learn how the University of Washington kept its library open even during a weather-related campus closure.


Point patrons in the right direction

Hear how the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library helps patrons locate resources they don't yet know they need.