Research help now 2008 fall meeting--how do we help your patrons?


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  • By the end of June 2004 I had a critical mass of transcripts that were rated Excellent by patron surveys, with the majority of the rest rated as Good, and examination of my transcripts by the personnel director of the service as well as my mentor through my directed fieldwork. I received my MLIS in June of 2004 and was offered a position as backup librarian. It is unusual for someone to be hired out of school—I had a year’s supply of combined academic and public transcripts that they could review.
  • Those surveys show up in our email boxes, and we get comments and corrections from librarians from the patrons’ home institutions as well as the QP quality management team.
  • This last is what we have to do when we cannot even get into the database list……
  • If we draw a blank, there is almost always somebody else we may collaborate with
  • See transcript
  • If there is, we can direct an in-house patron to the copier or the restroom
    This can be the cooperative librarian’s very best friend. We will use it to find copier prices, e-reserve lists, how to reserve viewing rooms, privileges for local residents, whether or not graphing calculators are available, which library printshop has the plotter if you have to print something that is 36 inches wide….
  • When it’s good, it’s very very good but when it’s bad, it’s horrid
  • The average backup librarian does end up having to deal with multiple simultaneous sessions on a regular basis. Multiple means two or three at a time, though I have dealt with as many as 6 simultaneously. My boss has done 10. If we totally avoided that we would probably have to staff very heavily and the service would cost you more
  • ”—30 seconds with an unchanged screen is an eternity to the patron, though it seems to go by in a flash when you are looking for a 1930s soap powder slogan for somebody’s marketing project
    ”—30 seconds with an unchanged screen is an eternity to the patron, though it seems to go by in a flash when you are looking for a 1930s soap powder slogan for somebody’s marketing project
  • Research help now 2008 fall meeting--how do we help your patrons?

    1. 1. Help Me Help You: Notes from a Backup Librarian Research Help Now Fall Meeting Nicolette Warisse Sosulski Business Librarian, Portage District Library Staff Reference Librarian, OCLC Questionpoint
    2. 2. Who are we and where do we come from? Me:  Cornell-University of Washington queue in library school  email reference in classes through work on the Internet Public Library  Washington State Virtual Reference project  training as an evaluator on the Librarians Index to the Internet  public library chat reference internship with 24/7 March 2004-June 2004, hired as staff librarian June 2004  Day job business librarian in a public library, where I field academic reference questions each day as well as those by members of the general public
    3. 3. Where do we come from My other experience:  Secretary: Genetics department/yeast lab  Training in medical field as a health insurance counselor  Degrees in English literature and government  Marriage to a German studies /film studies grad student /professor  And for 5 years I was a dorm mother at the University of Chicago…
    4. 4. My Colleagues include     University subject bibliographers in religion, Chicana studies, Romance Languages and business Librarians who have “hit for the cycle”: public, school, academic & special libraries Librarians married to faculty Public librarians trained in the academic reference milieu in a program developed with input by librarians such as Stephen Francoeur and Nancy Huling All of us have our transcripts evaluated by 1. The patrons, when they fill out a transcript 2. The quality control staff on QP 3. The home library of the patron
    5. 5. My Colleagues, or How is a non-academic librarian prepared to assist my patrons Public librarians receive training in how to handle academic questions    More “source” questions than “answer” questions more BI—What is the process of getting to the answer? What is the reason that we chose that source? What search terms did you use? Which would we have used? We also have a probationary period during which we are paid less and during which our transcripts have a higher degree of scrutiny
    6. 6. How do we know what sources to use? After all, few public librarians have subscriptions to America History and Life, Psych Info Abstracts, or Biosis      Prior experience Patrons on our day jobs—we often encounter patrons intimidated by or oblivious to academic libraries Colleagues (backroom chat) Some of us are pathological browsers at nearby research libraries Cobrowsing (though sometimes that may be problematic, depending on the patron’s security settings, browser choices, or a multiplicity of patrons)
    7. 7. How do we know what sources to use? After all, few public librarians have subscriptions to America History and Life, Psych Info Abstracts, or Biosis  When coaching a patron through database access does not work (imagine coaching somebody through the thesaurus of psych info extract sight unseen—sometimes it works), and when cobrowse does not work a one-two approach of Google scholar combined with your e-journal finder will help us locate articles for your patrons
    8. 8. How do we know what sources to use? After all, few public librarians have subscriptions to America History and Life, Psych Info Abstracts, or Biosis  And most importantly: Your Research Guides--If you say that A, B, and C databases are the top three for Women’s studies, chances are that we will be recommending one, or two, or three of them as jumping off points, as well as your most recommended general info databases
    9. 9. And if all those fail, we have backup—We collaborate/ communicate during all shifts  Ipswitch, a freestanding IM program--we log in during each shift  IM imbedded in the Questionpoint program
    10. 10. So what is it like when a backup librarian logs in? There are the queues (I man 68 including the UK during their middle of the night) Chat monitoring tool The institution’s policy page—we open this immediately And of course the library web page, google, etc. The institution’s databases
    11. 11. Policy Pages and Library Websites are Critical We look at everything…
    12. 12. Can the backup librarian get into at least the catalog and list of databases? Or are they hidden behind a login? Have you given her an ID or library card number? We promise we will not give it out  If not, it can be…challenging
    13. 13. Of course there are some things that only you know or can access        Is there good parking today? Why doesn’t my library card work? Can you override it so I can renew all the books I have checked out? What do I have checked out? Why do I show 58.00 in fines? Why don’t you have all the required texts for for my class? Why is there no paper in the copier on 4 North? We will refer to the local institution by phone or email, especially to a subject bibliographer when appropriate. We check library hours to see when the soonest the patron can reach somebody will be.
    14. 14. But sometimes we can fake it… Is there a map of the library on your site? Do you have a site map or search box for the library page?
    15. 15. Sometimes there are technical difficulties 
    16. 16. If your catalog or web page is down the same time every day for updates, please put that on your policy page. If you are having longterm problems with a database login—put the workaround on the policy page or on your site.
    17. 17. And about Cobrowsing… Cobrowsing can be problemmatic due to  the patron’s security settings, especially if the patron has no clue what they are Different browsers Firewalls at an institution multiple patrons being handled by the same librarian at the same time—if one or more patrons is in cobrowse, whenever they respond that window goes to the forefront, possibly causing the librarian to respond to the wrong patron.
    18. 18. And speaking of Multiples Multiples are not a horrible thing     If we are “in the zone”, patrons may not even realize that we are dealing with someone other than they. If we are going to have delays we will advise that there will be delays and the interchanges will be slower. They then have the option to wait, call back later, or sometimes wait for an e-mail response, if this is not an assignment due tomorrow. Often the ones who cannot wait and have something due that day may be logging in at a time when there would have been no bricks and mortar reference possibility whatsoever—one third of a librarian is way better than one hundred percent of zero. Multiples will occur more and more as traffic grows faster than HR budgets.
    19. 19. Multiples: Continued Techniques:  Intermittent post source reference interviewing—sending the patron and querying him on how it meets his needs.      Statements like “I am going to send you several sources— let me know which is closest to what you were looking for, since I am working with several of you. Avoiding one patron’s dominating the entire librarian pool on staff (“if I open 4 sessions I can get 4 librarians to each do one of my assignments, thus leaving me more time…”) Apologizing for delays before they occur if possible. Send a message like “I am still searching” or “this is challenging—still trying to locate something” even if an information source has not yet been found. Let the patrons’ responses give input into the pace of your transactions.
    20. 20. Types of Queries Lots of bibliographic instruction Tech support
    21. 21. Things for you to think about as your utilization increases… International Patrons
    22. 22. We are all trying to develop rapport every day, just as all of us are with patrons through every format Sometimes, of course, we just can’t tell where the patron is coming from… Sometimes they give us great feedback..
    23. 23. Please feel free to let us know how to help your patrons better Susan D. Barb QuestionPoint 24/7 Cooperative Staff Manager