Tuesday, April 13, 2021
National Research Tomsk State University – Research Library of Tomsk State University
Ask Stefan

Under the conditions of the remote working regime of the TSU Research Library, the demand for online communication with its patrons escalated. Along with other communication channels, the library chatbot Stefan* required a serious update. It had been answering users’ questions on library navigation and services successfully since the end of 2019 on the social network VKontakte, the employees had been constantly analyzing users’ inquires and adding new commands. Switching to the remote working regime required a strong update of the content and developing Stefan’s “word-stock” so that it could quickly respond to new inquires.

First, it was necessary to analyze the changes in the standard library functions and users’ inquires. For instance, it was no longer possible to order books as usual, because books were home delivered by library couriers, certain restrictions concerning book return sprang up as well, new digital services appeared, and so on. The analysis showed that about 60% of chat bot’s content required updating, the number of complex inquiries had increased threefold and they had to be “resolved” into simple commands. Such a great amount of work had to be done within a short period of time to avoid discrepancy between the chatbot’s answers and employees’ answers in private messages.

30 commands have been updated and 26 new commands have been added to the library’s chatbot specifically for the remote working regime of the Research Library. Now Stefan explains how to get or return a book, use the remote access, how to format a thesis or a course paper, log in to user’s account, conducts virtual tours and plays quiz game with readers. Instant, relevant, straight chat bot’s answers help users feel more confident under constantly changing conditions, and game elements help to peg the library as a kind and caring friend.

“During the period of its operation, chatbot Stefan has answered more than 570 users, on average it communicates with 10 people daily. Now it contains about 183 commands that are constantly updated following the changes in the library. The pandemic taught us to be ready for constant changes, and we, in our turn, train our chatbot Stefan. Stephan is ready to return to ordinary life as well, the necessary changes in its work have been already projected,” said Andrey Parkhomenko, an IT-project manager of the TSU Research Library.

Stefan*-is chatbot at TSU Research Library. That name is given to chatbot after the first librarian of our University Library - Stefan Kirovich Kuznetsov.