Monday, November 12, 2012

Conference Notes LAC 2012: Parallel Session I (Information Services)

Parallel Session I: Information Services
Date: October 29, 2012, 1:30p

(The parallel sessions featured three or four speakers. They usually had a track/common theme. Sadly, there often were papers/presentations in other tracks I wanted to hear, but they were in a different room. Since the timing was not consistently maintained--a paper could run over, or the order of speakers changed--running from one room to another was not always desirable. Oh well. At any rate, I will be jotting down notes for each presentation I listened to. As usual, my comments are in parentheses).

I. Topic: "Using a Mixed Method Approach to Assessing Roaming Services: A Case Study."
  • This was the case study from Florida International University. They implemented a roving service for reference. (I will admit interest in this session as I think there are some ideas on roaming that we could adapt here at Berea with our reference students. The presentation did give me some things to think about). 
  • Surveys revealed a preference for face-to-face assistance versus virtual options. 
  • Any reference performed beyond the reference desk is roaming. 
    • The program was funded by a student technology grant that allowed the purchase of iPads for participating librarians. (This is one option I am intrigued about since I do have the option of requesting an iPad in my workplace for instructional use. More on that later I hope). 
    • They established guidelines of practice for the librarians. They devote 2 hours a week to roaming. They also participate in campus events as the library representative (a.k.a. as outreach. This is the kind of work I used to do at my former workplace, and no, they did not provide an iPad. It was not for lack of me asking for one. At my current place, outreach is an area we have barely touched, so things can get interesting). 
    • You can learn more about the ipads at FIU at this link.
    • The library literature has been very sparse on the topic of roaming. The presenters claim they found 3 academic and one public library program described. The articles found mostly discussed pilot programs. Most of the data from such articles were basic statistics, things like number of roamers, transactions, and other reference statistics. 
    • They recorded 140 transactions from roaming at FIU for the Fall of 2012, as of the time of the presentation. Most questions do fall under directional, informational, and some tech issues categories. Transaction length varied from one to ten minutes mostly. 
  • They implemented a small student survey of why they came to the library. They used the librarian's iPad to get students to complete it during roaming (the librarian, after providing an answer would get the student to answer the short survey on his/her iPad. I thought this was kind of neat, but I now wonder how much students might feel pressured to do the survey or free to decline doing it). Questions in the survey included: 
    • How often do the students ask the librarian for assistance? 
    • Satisfaction with the service. 
    •  Would you be inclined to ask for assistance more often? 
    • The location of the reference transaction. 
  • The presenters said they also sought qualitative data. 
  • They note that roaming is not a replacement for a reference desk. It is a tool for additional help for the students. 
  • From the Q&A: 
    • On using the iPad's camera: One idea is to do that "Day in the Library" activity, like ALA's Snapshot Day.  You can also use the iPad's camera for documenting space issues in your library building. (For the latter, you can probably do that with any camera, but I get we are showcasing iPads now). 
    • Look to have a roamer and a reference person at the desk. (This is what got me thinking. We could have a librarian roam and the student worker at the reference desk, or viceversa). 
    • How are the roamers identifiable? Roamers could have larnyards, name tags, maybe a tee shirt. 
    • There was a question on how to contact a roamer if a student wanted to do this. (Not fully answered/settled). 
 II. "Shop Your Way to Service Excellence: Secret Shopping for Academic Libraries."

  • This was the case study from UNC-Greensboro. 
  • See also following article: Elizabeth Kocevar-Weidinger,, "Why and how to mystery shop your reference desk." Reference Services Review 38.1: 28-43. (They just mentioned the issue and volume number. I assume this is the article in question after doing some searching. The whole journal issue deals with research post-Google, by the way. Again, would it kill people to provide a useful citation now and then?) 
  • They decided to implement their mystery shopper program after their library did LibQual+ in 2008. 
  • Initial outcomes: 
    • Develop customer service values. 
    • Conduct mystery shopping in the library. 
    • Determine if training is needed on the basis of the mystery shops. 
    • Repeat to see if the training had an impact on service. 
  • Procedure: 
    • A survey team was created. 
    • The staff was told the mystery shops would happen, but not when they would happen. 
    • The library got "shopped" in person, over the phone, and via online chat. 
  • The focus was on the customer service experience. 
    • Shoppers were trained. They were recruited from the UNC-G Department of Hospitality. 
    • Anonymity was protected. Shoppers would not collect names of staff responding to a transaction. 
  •  What was asssessed? 
    • Greeting, follow-up, confirming satisfaction, appropriate referrals were done on a 1-3 scale where 1= poor, 2= satisfactory, 3= very good. 
    • Respect, avoiding jargon, and "did we go the extra mile" were done on a yes/no scale. 
  • The presenters argue that this process can provide better evidence than just a satisfaction survey. It can help enhance the "culture" of excellent customer service. 
  •  Step delicately. Again, assure staff that this is not part of the performance evaluation. (In other words, you are not supposed to use or bring up mystery shops as part of annual performance reviews or such, tempting as I am sure some managers may find the idea). 
  • You can also see their LibGuide for teaching customer service skills to student workers.
  • From the Q&A: 
    • You may have to check with your campus IRB before you try this on your campus. 
    • On the question of a librarian teaching versus "just giving them the information/answer." The presenters were aware this could be an issue, but it was not a focus of the study. The sample questions for the shopping were made as generic as possible. 
    • Note their library opens 24/7 (something that is unrealistic in a lot of places for various reasons), so effort was made by the shoppers to vary their hours.
    • For incentives to the shoppers, there was some extra credit in one of the hospitality classes. They also got a small bag of goodies that included $10 in their student ID accounts. 
III. "Secret Shoppers in the Library"
  • This is the case study from Georgia State University. 
  • Often, reference services quality is assumed, but it is not measured. 
  • Their "shopping" program was implemented to assess library employee reference skills. It sought to identify weak areas as a whole to inform employee training. 
  • The project took place in 2010 for the library. In 2012 for reference services. 
  • The evaluation form was based on RUSA guidelines with a rating scale and open-ended comments. 
  • The students recruited for the mystery shopping came mostly from their LIS school. However, given the campus has a large, non-traditional population, a grad student in the library would not be unusual. 
  • A result of the program was implementation of regularly scheduled reference interview training. There is an emphasis on reducing referrals. 
  • Hiring for personalities (which a colleague and I could not help but say to ourselves, "wow, what a concept." Imagine that, hiring for things like personality and attitude, but I will not digress further). 

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