picture of students at reference desk 1947, University of Illinois Navy Pier Campus
image credit: uicdigital on flickr (CC by-nc-nd)

Summer is a time for dreaming. Every year as the Spring semester comes to a close, I begin to lust for the coming months and all the free time they promise to provide for catching up on projects and starting new ones. Yet without fail, the daydream dissipates in a puff of smoke and before I know it the summer is half over. This year is no different but I have managed to squeeze in a few new projects, one of which is a redesign of our reference services model.

Currently, we primarily provide reference help via our Info Desk which is staffed by both peer mentor students and librarians (though, not at the same time). Our statistics show that over 90% of the questions that come to the desk are non-reference related which calls into question the judiciousness of staffing the desk with librarians. We additionally provide chat, text, and email reference but these services are rarely used probably due to a lack of awareness (we did surveys to determine this). All these things considered, I’m planning to make the following changes starting in the Fall.

Here are my objectives:

  1. Utilize librarian time and attention more efficiently.
  2. Properly train students to triage and refer reference questions to library staff.
  3. Increase the awareness and accessibility of library reference services among students.

My primary areas of focus are the Info Desk, our Libraryh3lp chat service, and a Research Consult by Appointment services (yet to be established). These are the three areas where I think reference services can have to most impact on student learning at my institution. I’ve also outlined specific goals for each:

Info Desk

  1. Develop a student training program  that includes the technical knowledge necessary to perform most common computer/printer-related tasks, how to properly triage and refer reference questions, and best practices for customer service.
  2. Develop a schedule the makes more efficient use of the time librarians spend offering reference services.
  3. Adopt a system for tracking reference statistics online that enables quick and easy logging but also allows for more complex information to be tracked.
  4. Purchase a new sign for the Info Desk.

Libraryh3lp Chat Service

  1. Develop a staff training workshop for Libraryh3lp that includes best practices and how-tos.
  2. Create a weekly staffing schedule for Libraryh3lp.
  3. Work with librarians to create questions and answers for the FAQ page.
  4. Add links to the FAQ to the Ask-a-Librarian page, LibGuides, and the chat module.
  5. Set up the 3mail functionality.
  6. Create marketing materials (esp. for txt service) and develop a marketing plan for the Fall semester.
  7. Create additional canned messages for common questions.

Research Consultations

  1. Create a mobile-friendly online form for scheduling research consultations.
  2. Develop a marketing plan to advertise research consultations to students and faculty during the Fall semester.
  3. Create a workflow that ensures a librarian will always be available for research consultations Monday through Friday between 9a and 5p.

I’ve only just now begun to focus on these projects, but I am confident that I can accomplish all my goals in the two months before the Fall semester begins. I’m also planning to meet with some of my colleagues one-on-one to get their feedback on these goals and how best to meet them.