LibAnswers Turns One

LibAnswers is an FAQ/Knowledge database platform that has been in use by the Penn Libraries for the past year. The questions and answers in the FAQ database are supplied by Penn Librarians familiar with the typical queries of students, faculty and staff. The Business FAQ, Instant Answers, replaces a decade-old FAQ interface that was developed by Penn’s Library Technology Services.

The Business FAQ questions in Instant Answers  range from the routine (“Where can I find the Wall Street Journal”) to the specialized (“How do I Construct a Currency Futures Contract on Bloomberg”). In the past year, business FAQs were viewed 10,000 times.
To see how the FAQ works:

FAQ Screen1



From Lippincott’s home page  type a question or a series of key words in the search box (located on the upper right of the screen) and click on ‘ASK”.   Then click on any appropriate FAQ retrieved.




Answers typically provide definitions and a variety of links to sources.

FAQ Screen2

When a questions is broad or complex, links are often provided to a Library Guide or to a Blog post that treats the topic in depth and which provides the name of a Library subject specialist.

Here, for example, is a Guide to Health Care which was linked from a FAQ on the subject. Notice that the Guide also includes an FAQ “widget” that will allow you explore further.

FAQ Screen3

The distribution of FAQ questions and the number of views follows a typical 80/20 pattern; about 80% of the FAQs viewed are from 20% of the FAQs in the database. (See this article
for a discussion of the 80/20 distribution)
TAB FAQ Cum percentage graph for blog


The 80/20 ratio implies that about 64% of the views will come from 4% of the FAQs, but the actual distribution is 64 to 1; that is, 64% of the views come from 1% of the FAQs. The single most heavily viewed FAQ (“Where can I find Analyst Reports?”) was viewed more than 2,700 times in the past year, about 28% of all business related FAQ views.


The word cloud below shows the relative importance of the FAQ questions.


FAQ screen 4



The FAQ is just one way the Library can help you with your research. Here are some additional options.