Library and Academic Services


The Library’s Chatbot: Powered by “LI” Instead of AI

October 3, 2023

Background on the New Chatbot Feature

In June 2023, the RRC Polytech Library expanded our Ask Us Chat (the service) with the launch of the Library chatbot. This was the result of several months of work by Meagan Acquisto and me, Christina Janzen. The main goal of adding a chatbot to our Ask Us Chat was to provide consistent, basic help—especially after-hours. 

For those who may not know, a chatbot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users. There are many different types of chatbots, ranging from complex AI-powered chatbots that can learn and adapt to user behaviour, to simple scripted bots.  

Without further preamble, let’s jump into the chatbot’s creation story… 

Building the Library’s Chatbot

A Rules-Based Chatbot Run by “Librarian Intelligence”

Library managers took notice when the Saas library software vendor, Springshare, launched a new chatbot feature in LibAnswers.  

(Having a hard time understanding the jargon? You’re not alone. Throughout the Library chatbot development process, I learned a lot of computing language. A few definitions are listed at the bottom of this post.)

Meagan and I were tasked to build the Library chatbot; we took a deep dive into training webinars. Immediately, we noticed that the LibAnswers Chatbot is rules-based and uses simple if/then logic to link actions together. Springshare advertises this by stating their chatbot is not run by AI, but “LI” or Librarian Intelligence. Humorous. As implied, the benefit to a rules-based model is that each library that subscribes to LibAnswers Chatbot has better control over its users’ experience (this can also pose challenges, but I won’t get into that). 

Before jumping into the Chatbot application, we consulted LibAnswers statistics and came up with a list of common questions that Library users ask. Most questions fall into five categories: directions & general information, equipment bookings, printing/photocopying, tutoring & academic coaching, and referrals to College departments outside the Library, in that order. Next, we checked to make sure the answers—instructions, materials, etc.—were up to date and could be found online. Finally, we mapped out the ideal user experience in a flow chart (shown below).  

Snippet from preliminary user-experience flowchart

Building the User-Experience Flow in LibAnswers Chatbot

Once we started building within Chatbot, we hit a wall: Springshare has a maximum of 50 actions per “flow.” Initially, we thought this would limit the scope of our chatbot, but quickly found a solution by linking several flows together. Other small inconveniences in the build process were expected because software developers often lean on early adopters to find bugs and suggest new features to improve the software (which we did). 

In the end, Meagan and I chose to use self-led prompts instead of keyword searches because open-ended text input requires extensive keyword tagging. We hope to develop the scaffolding for free-response queries in the future. For now, our menu/button-based, or ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ system has enjoyed limited, yet generally positive, feedback. Staff testers reported that the bot was “a good little jumping off tool,” “designed well,” and appreciated that users could quickly connect to a live chat with staff. 

Your Opportunity to Provide Feedback

The Ask Us Chat bubbles logo that when clicked on initiates a chat.

Have you used the Library chatbot (available by clicking on the Ask Us Chat bubble)? Please rate our chat or share your thoughts by answering our survey! The survey is available here, but a link is also found at the end of every Library chatbot interaction. 


Ask Us Chat (the service)

The RRC Polytech Library’s online reference service where Library staff answer inquiries, provide research guidance, and reference assistance to the RRC Polytech community. 


‘Software as a service’ or cloud-based subscription access distribution model.


A company that sells library software.


One suite of services offered by Springshare 

LibAnswers Chatbot (Chatbot)

Springshare’s name for their chatbot feature.

Written by Christina Janzen, Reference Technician/Library Chatbot Builder

How to be an RRC Polytech Library Power User

September 20, 2022

It’s a few weeks into the school year, so it’s time to get to know all the awesome services, spaces and resources the Library offers to help you achieve your academic goals.  

Whether you’re coming into the Library for the first time, you haven’t been to a library in a while, or you’ve never used the library as a post-secondary student, find out all the ways you can be an RRC Polytech Library power user.

1. Find your spot and get comfortable
Use the Library’s spaces when on campus

First, find the Library, and get to know the space. We recently posted a great virtual tour of the NDC Library space, give it a read-through and you may feel more prepared to come in for the first time. Get comfortable using the space to meet your needs; study independently, attend your online classes (using one of the available headsets or webcams), and meet with classmates to work on projects. The Library has two locations, one each at the Notre Dame and the Exchange District campuses, both with great study spots to discover and settle into.

2. Ask Questions!
There are no silly questions, and we offer lots of ways for you to ask them!

Come find us at the front desks in the Library, a Reference Technician is ready to help you figure out anything from printing, finding your way around campus, using the Library website, to getting started with an assignment and better understanding the information resources involved in academic research. Not on campus? You don’t need to come in person, there are lots of ways to connect with the Library! Call us (204) 632-2233. Text us (204) 400-2463, or find us on the Library’s web pages during open hours by clicking the Ask Us bubble to start a chat. After hours? No problem, email

3. Get to know OneSearch
Found on the Library homepage, OneSearch is how to search the Library’s many physical and online resources.

The Library has an ever-expanding digital and physical book and media collection which can be searched using our OneSearch system. If you’ve heard an instructor tell you to search the catalogue or search for articles, this is what they mean.

Getting started is very easy, using searches that resemble how you use google. Once you have started with some search terms and you are viewing the search results, you can take different steps and adjust settings to create more accurate results. Find out more about navigating OneSearch, the basic and advanced search options, as well as the use of Boolean operators and filters to amp up your searches.

4. Find the Guide you need
Starting a research project or program of study and unsure where to get started?

The Library has Guides that can help you, ranging from Guides to your school or programs main subjects, and Guides for specific research topics. There are also Academic guides for writing, and citation styles.

Interested in broader topics and just areas of interest? There are Student Success Guides on topics including intercultural competence, employment Skills, and using Statistics Canada.

Having trouble figuring out how to use a specific database in your research? The Library’s Database Instruction Guides have step-by-step instructions for how to use many of the different databases subscribed to through the Library.

5. Use the right Database
The Library subscribes to different databases that support the colleges many schools and programs.

Available databases range from software tools, searchable collections of codes and standards within an industry, and other reference collections, diagrams, and industry reports.

When looking at the A-Z list of databases, remember that databases marked with the OneSearch icon, are searched collectively when you use OneSearch. Databases missing that icon, need to be searched and used individually.

6. Discover Academic Success Centre supports
Find the Academic Success Centre in the top banner of the Library homepage.

The Academic Success Centre’s services make up a big part of the academic support’s the Library has available to students, and is where students can access a variety of services including:

At the NDC campus, the Academic Success Centre has a new tutoring space called ATLAS – an acronym for Active Tutoring and Learning Achievement Space

Find the Academic Success Centre when entering the NDC Library by taking a right and following the signs for ATLAS.

At EDC you will also find the Academic Success Centre inside the library, when entering through the northern entrance of the Library, the ASC is located through the opening in the wall to the right.

7. Book Equipment before you need it
The Library has an assortment of equipment available from both the Notre Dame and Exchange District Libraries.

Need an adaptor to connect with the projector in a classroom? A camera for a photo or video project? A portable battery charger for your phone? A temporary laptop while your own is being repaired or replaced? A light therapy lamp for working from home on short winter days? All Library equipment can easily be booked online through the Library website, just look for the book equipment icon, or check out the Equipment Borrowing Guide.

8. Use streaming video services
Videos are a great tool in online learning and instruction, and the right videos from the right sources can be cited and used as resources in your academic writing.

The Library’s licensed streaming databases, CBC Curio, National Film Board: Campus, and LinkedIn Learning offer thousands of educational videos, documentaries, and feature films.  

Find out more by checking out our Streaming Video Guide.

9. Export citations and keep them organized with RefWorks
RefWorks streamlines research, data organization, and academic writing by providing an easy-to-use tool for citation, bibliography, and reference management.

RRC Polytech has integrated RefWorks with Office 365, it can easily be accessed and used by students alongside the exportation tools within OneSearch. If you are new to using Refworks, the Library has you covered with our Refworks Guide, and our recorded Lunch and Learn tutorial.

10. Know about academic integrity and how it affects you
Academic integrity hinges on six fundamental values, as defined by the International Center for Academic Integrity: Honesty, Trust, Fairness, Respect, Responsibility, and Courage.

As a critical piece of the learning environment and a fundamental core value of any academic institution, academic integrity directly links the credibility of an institution’s scholarship, research, certificates and diplomas. Academic integrity is essential to ensure students’ investment in their education is protected. To find out more, check out the Academic Integrity Guide for Students.

11. Explore other eLearning resources
The Library website offers many types of online learning resources that you can access and use as study aids, or in your own supplemental learning.

Check out Hybrid LEARNing Modules, a suite of self-directed tutorials housed in LEARN that provides relevant and helpful resources.

The Lunch and Learn program is a series of uploaded video tutorials covering our most popular Library subjects, including OneSearch, Nursing Reference Centre Plus, and APA 7th Edition Citation style.

Find videos and solutions on different math and science topics offered by the Academic Success Centre’s Math and Science Centre.

The Academic Success Centre has compiled the review materials for specific business math and accounting courses into one central location to help you easily access these resources at any time: Business Math & Accounting Review Self-Enroll LEARN Courses

…And finally: Follow the Library on social media
Stay up to date on the latest by following the Library on Social Media!

The Library is on Twitter and Instagram with daily tips, study hacks, events and other great need-to-know information.

Have Questions or Comments?

Library staff love to hear from the College community about our collection! Feel free to connect with us in person at the Notre Dame and Exchange District Campus Libraries or through Ask Us Chat at

Written by Artemis Hedrich – Library Technician, Information and Program Delivery

The Amazing Race Comes to the Library

June 20, 2022

The Nursing faculty invited the RRC Polytech Library to be the sixth stop on their Amazing Race team-building exercise this spring.

Participants arrived at the Library to receive an old-fashioned card catalogue card pointing them to a book on team-building on the Library’s shelves.

A clue hidden within the books pointed the teams to the sunny side of the Library to find another stop in the children’s section (too bad it rained on Tuesday). Surrounded by picture books, the nursing faculty teams found old magazines for their next task.

Fifteen energetic teams participated in the team-building exercise that involved Skills tests, quizzes, random acts of kindness, a College locations scavenger hunt, and a group project to create a creative Representation of Teamwork.

 “We are doing this to reconnect after Covid and get people team building by having fun while working on challenges. It will also assist in getting them back on campus and remembering the amazing supports and resources we have, such as the Library!”

Kim Pinel, Nursing instructor and event organizer

Connect with Us!

Do you have an opportunity to include the Library in your team-building exercises? We make a great stop on any scavenger hunt and are happy to brainstorm activities to fit your team and event.

Connect with us through Ask Us chat, our Ask a Question form, or visit one of our service desks during regular Library hours.

Written by Rosemary Woodby – Reference Technician

Library Equipment Booking is Online!

June 8, 2022

RRC Polytech staff and students can now enjoy hassle-free scheduling with the library’s new online equipment booking system.
Find out everything you need to know about the new booking system so you can plan ahead, and be front of the line for fall bookings!

What’s available?

There are many equipment categories to browse and book online:

Where to go on to book equipment?

You can navigate to the equipment booking system from the library homepage, either by selecting Book Equipment from the icon bar on the homepage, or find it under browse and borrow from on the homepage top menu.

the icon bar from the homepage showing the location of the borrow equipment icon.


The top menu bar from the homepage showing the location of the Browse & Borrow section.

Where to pick up a booking?

The RRC Polytech Library has two locations, one at the Notre Dame Campus in CM18, and another at the Exchange District Campus in room P214. Our two libraries have different equipment collections, so make sure you select the location you’ll be picking up from, before browsing and setting up bookings.

images of the notre dame and exchange district campus libraries.

Add upcoming bookings to your outlook calendar

When you create a booking, you will receive a “Your booking has been confirmed” email with an .ics calendar file. Open the attachment and add the booking to your calendar.

Graphic showing the steps to open an attached .ics calendar file in the

Make sure to add to your safe senders list so you don’t miss any important updates or reminders about your bookings!

Cancel or Change an upcoming booking

Created a booking you no longer need? Need that equipment for a different time? You can cancel an upcoming booking anytime through the link included in your booking confirmation and reminder emails.

To change a booking, simply reply to your booking confirmation or reminder email and let us know the change, you’ll get an automatic email notification confirming when the changes have been made.

Find out more!

Need some help figuring out how to book equipment? Find out everything you need to know on the book equipment help page.

Curious about the student laptop loan program? Check out the laptop loans terms of use.

Find all the loan periods for equipment on the loan period information page.

Connect with Us!

More information about our services and supports is available on our website. You may also connect with us through Ask Us chat, our Ask a Question form, or visit one of our service desks during regular Library hours.

Written by Artemis Hedrich – Reference Technician

RefWorks Citation Manager

May 24, 2022

Keeping your research organized and writing your paper just got easier!

The Library is pleased to announce that IT Services will be pushing the RefWorks Citation Manager plug-in out to all RRC Polytech users.

Offered by the Library, RefWorks is a free, web-based reference management service that simplifies the process of research, collaboration, data organization, and writing by providing an easy-to-use tool. RefWorks lets you build a collection of customized references (and accompanying PDFs), share, annotate, comment, and import directly into your writing.

The RefWorks Citation Manager plug-in integrates your RefWorks account into Office 365, allowing you to insert in-text citations easily and automatically generate your reference lists as you write with a click of your mouse.


  • Visit the RefWorks guide for text-based and video tutorials on using RefWorks.
  • Watch the RefWorks training session on the various tools you can use when writing a research paper, including RefWorks Citation Manager for Office 365, Write-N-Cite (older Word), ProQuest RefWorks for Google Docs, and Quick Cite.
  • Contact us, click Ask Us on our homepage, or visit one of our service desks for one-on-one assistance.

Written by Rosemary Woodby, Reference Technician

Standards & Codes

January 12, 2022

Do you need a standard or code? You may have free access through an RRC Polytech Library database subscription. Find them on the Library and Academic Services website under Databases.

ASHRAE – Techstreet ASHRAE is a society of heating, refrigerating, and air-conditioning engineers that shape industry through research. This database gives access to their books, standards, and guidelines. A limited number of standards are available through the library’s subscription.

ASTM Compass

ASTM develops and publishes technical standards for a wide range of materials, products, systems, and services. The Compass database gives full-text access to the ASTM Book of Standards, Research Reports, and related material.

Chartered Professional Accountants Handbook

Subscription to the CPA Canada Standards and Guidance Collection (CPACHB).

CSA Group

A comprehensive selection of CSA Group’s more than 3,000 published standards & codes.

Includes technical and management standards to improve safety, health, the environment, and economic efficiency in Canada and beyond.


A database of e-books covering a variety of engineering subjects. Includes a variety of engineering, electrical, mechanical, construction codes, standards, and guides.

National Research Council Codes

Access to the National Building Code of Canada, National Fire Code of Canada, National Plumbing Code of Canada, National Energy Code of Canada, and more.

Since the start of COVID, codes and users guides published by the National Research Council of Canada are available directly through the NRC Publications Archive in free electronic format.

Written by Bettina Allen, Reference & Circulation Coordinator

Testing the Library and Academic Services Website

November 17, 2021

Earlier in the fall term, we arranged for a small sample of students to review and critique our new Library and Academic Services website. Since we had redesigned the site last summer, we were wondering how it was performing.

In our site redesign we used principles of user centric design. In a nutshell, we attempted to create a site for our users, who were defined in two personas: “Average Student User” and “Average Instructor User.”

This particular test targeted students.

Our Academic Support Coordinator, Melissa Coyle, arranged for meetings with students. Melissa designed the test questions (with input from Linda Fox and Mark Nelson), and she facilitated the meetings, which were formatted in a focus group format, and included a standardized set of questions and a slate of tasks she asked students to perform on our web site.

The students were chosen from different programs and with varying tech literacy and language skills.

There were two sessions for each student. An individual meeting (in Webex) where each peer tutor met with Melissa for 1-hour to complete a list of twenty-three tasks. Afterward, all students met in a group meeting, where the whole group met (in Webex) and discussed, provided feedback, and shared ideas.

In some cases the questions were designed to discover the accuracy of our student persona. In other cases the tasks were prescribed to see if students could satisfy a task, again based on their persona. I.e. Average students wants to “Discover and attend Library and ASC workshops.”

The facilitator used some “Guiding Questions,” to focus on some specific topics:

  • Is the website well-organized and easy to navigate?
  • What do students expect to find on the website?
  • Which features and tools are most helpful?
  • Are the names for each service clear?
  • What tasks are most difficult for students and how can we fix this?

We immediately learned that students felt our top navigation menu was well-named, well-organized, and easy to navigate. The search panel was well-noticed and easy to interact with, and use. Students felt the icon panel presented a clear way to navigate to important places, and it broke down language barriers.

In response to the question, “What do students expect to find on the website?” we discovered many points that were contained in our Student Persona. For example “conducting research for a paper that requires sources for information,” “asking a question,” learning about “copyright,” discovering “Library hours and locations,” “finding a tutor,” and “learning about Library services.”

Students felt the icon panel presented a clear way to navigate to important places, and it broke down language barriers.


The facilitator asked the students to attempt a slate of twenty-three tasks. The tasks were important, because they showed whether a student could actually use the website for the purpose it was intended. Interestingly, the technology for accomplishing this type of test was made easy by WebEx and the ability of the student to share their screen while the facilitator monitored their progress.

Our facilitator was able to follow the student’s progress as they worked through web site tasks. Problem areas became obvious, and changes required for resolution sometimes became apparent. (Note: Facilitator and student images have been obscured)

In our testing, some of the tasks we asked students to complete immediately indicated that adjustments were necessary.

In trying to find the “Inter-Library Loan” service, we discovered that students simply identified it as a “request” service, which we also have a page for on our web site. Of course, from a student’s point-of-view these are both “requesting” services, and should be found in the same place. It seems it is only Library staff who consider these two services to be vastly different.

Our new icon bar was well used, however we discovered some changes were necessary. For example, the “Book Equipment” icon took our patrons to a booking form, when it would have been better to send users to a page that described what equipment can be booked (which has a link to the booking form.)

On pages like “Browse & Borrow,” we discovered there is a perception of the importance of the photo tiles being much greater than the icon panels. We thought this was probably true, but it just confirmed that we need to keep important items as photo tiles and move less-important options into the icon panel area.

We also discovered that “Guides” is a generic term used by Library staff, and a student does not know to click “Guides” unless an Instructor had previously used that term to describe the content on the web site. Students felt that the term “Program Guides” might alert them that there are program specific resources on the site.

Students looked for past events on our web site, especially when looking for workshops or sessions that may have been recorded. We did not have a good way for students to accomplish this task.

It was not all bad. We did discover that students found many tasks easy to complete. (Graphic by Melissa Coyle)

It was also noticed that the easiest to complete tasks had an icon or image tile available on the homepage, demonstrating the power of these sub-navigation areas.


When we build a web site, we think we can do plenty by considering how users will interact with the site. However, until we have some real users try the site, and we watch how they do it, we cannot know the whole story.

At RRC we did this testing with a relatively small set of four students. Truth be told, we may have learned more if we had included more students in our test. However, a study by the Nielsen Norman Group discovered that the amount discovered in such a test does not greatly increase when you add more individuals to the test. In fact, they found the magic number is five.

So, grab some users and test your web site. You will learn so much!

Mark Nelson
Library Systems Specialist
Red River College Polytechnic

Library Website Built with Users in Mind

September 15, 2021

New Library Website - September 2021

Last spring, if you were to look at our old Library website, you would be looking at a somewhat dated “Library-centric” web, with two Academic Support departments, and new features, i.e., LibAnswers and LibCal, tacked on. We knew our web site was due to be reorganized, and at the same time given a fresh look and feel. As with many changes, the summer period  gave us a window of opportunity when there was a break in classes. How could we take advantage of this opportunity and create a new-look website designed with our users in mind?

User-centric Design

We began by looking toward user-centric design principles that have been the cornerstone of effective web design for decades. Some web sites look great, but are completely ineffective to their users. We wanted to avoid this, and achieve a greater level of usability. So, we began by studying users.

On our Library web site, the greatest metric we had were analytics of what users did on our site. Where did they go? What did they click on? Generally, top traffic resources on our website were: OneSearch, A-Z List, Ask Us, the Academic Services landing page, Tutoring, Supports for Students, Library Subject Guides, Workshops, Self-Directed Learning Modules, Stem Centre, and College Readiness.

We took this information as a starting point, and began to develop two personas that represent Library web users: Average Student User and Average Instructor User.

Built with Library users in mind

Average Student User
wants to…

  • Average Student UserDiscover and borrow Library materials.
  • Browse for Academic Supports.
  • Access digital resources such as electronic articles and databases.
  • Discover and attend Library and ASC workshops.
  • Refer to a course-related subject guide.
  • Access Tutoring services.
  • Access a Library service.
  • See when the Library is open.
  • Find study space.
  • Book AV equipment, laptops and chargers.
  • Locate an instructor-recommended resource.
  • Ask a question or get help.
  • Learn how to cite.

Average Instructor User
wants to…

  • Average Instructor UserDiscover Library materials and resources for planning, research
    and teaching.
  • Set up course reserves.
  • Access a Library service such as ILL or Digitization.
  • Refer their students to Library or ASC workshops.
  • Refer their students to specific ASC resources.
  • Request materials for their courses and students, i.e., Suggest a Purchase.
  • Book AV equipment, laptops and chargers.
  • Find copyright information and help.
  • Get Academic Integrity advice and assistance.
  • Ask a question or get help.

Redesign Process

With these two personas in mind, we began a three phase process.

Phase 1: Content reorganization. A cross section of library staff were brought together to make decisions about the web site organization and hierarchy. With our user personas in mind, staff individually performed card sorting exercises and compared results. This group also investigated other academic Library web sites. The final product was a new main menu structure, built with users in mind.

New Library Nav Bar

Phase 2: Home page re-design. With our users in mind, a second working group reviewed the information and features on the current Library home, and formulated a plan to build a more modern and concise home page. This group also took the time to review other academic websites, and recommended features which we could adopt for our new home page.

Phase 3: Overall web site re-skin. A smaller team of experts worked on a new header, footer and colours for the new site. The goal was to give the new Library web site a fresh look, new colours, and improvement in accessibility.

A cornerstone of this project was to involve many people from across Library and Academic Services. Each one of the above teams consisted of different people, thus enhancing our staff’s ability to influence decisions made in the new web site design. Their awesome contributions are reflected throughout the new web site.

Technical Details

The website is built on the LibGuides CMS platform by Springshare. Pages on this platform are responsive (mobile-friendly) through the Bootstrap framework. We have also taken advantage of other Springshare platforms such as LibAnswers, LibWizard and LibCal. We needed to add custom CSS and JavaScript for many of the features we built, however the Springshare platform allows for a sufficient level of customization.

The site is built with accessibility in mind, and accomplished through accessibility features built in to the LibGuides platform, and attention to detail in the added customizations. Our current home page tests as 100% accessible in the Google Lighthouse tool.

Looking Forward

We are planning focus groups this fall, where we hope to further determine how our patrons use our web site, and gauge the effectiveness of our new site design. In doing so, we expect slight revisions to the current web site, and an update of our personas.

Story by Mark Nelson ~ Library Systems Specialist

RRC Polytech campuses are located on the lands of Anishinaabe, Ininiwak, Anishininew, Dakota, and Dené, and the National Homeland of the Red River Métis.

We recognize and honour Treaty 3 Territory Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, the source of Winnipeg’s clean drinking water. In addition, we acknowledge Treaty Territories which provide us with access to electricity we use in both our personal and professional lives.

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