Using Cloud Services to Facilitate
Research Consultations
A study of student experiences and preferences
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Using Cloud Services to Facilitate Research Consultations: A study of student experiences and preferences


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Rebecca Kuglitsch, Natalia Tingle and Alexander Watkins. “Using Cloud Services to Facilitate Research Consultations: A study of student experiences and preferences.” Poster presentation, Special Libraries Association Annual Conference, Vancouver, Canada. June, 2014.

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Using Cloud Services to Facilitate Research Consultations: A study of student experiences and preferences

  1. 1. Using Cloud Services to Facilitate Research Consultations A study of student experiences and preferences Context The increasing complexity of the information ecosystem means that research consultations are increasingly important to meeting library users needs. Reference interactions in academic libraries have declined overall, yet in-depth research consultations have not followed that trend (Lederer & Feldmann, 2012). These research consultations offer important opportunities to follow up on information literacy instruction, support student academic success, and relieve library anxiety. The library literature has demonstrated a need for and appreciation of these services (Attebury, Sprague, & Young, 2009; Magi & Mardeusz, 2013). However, little literature exists that investigates the most efficient ways to offer these services. Moreover, even as these services become increasingly important, librarians struggle to balance escalating demands on their time. How can we embrace this expanded role and maintain accessibility to users while managing competing demands on our time? One tool that allows us to better navigate this shifting landscape is Google Appointment Calendar, part of Google Apps for Education. It makes it easy for students to book a consultation with a librarian, while at the same time allowing the librarian to better control their schedule; consequently it is being adopted by many librarians at CU-Boulder. We suggest that this tool is of benefit to more than just librarians. Research has proposed that students may hesitate to ask questions due to library anxiety. We hope that scheduling an appointment using a calendaring system may be less intimidating than emailing a librarian directly. Methods We set out to find out how this technology can best be applied in an environment of changing student preferences and expectations and to establish best practices for using it in an academic setting. We advertised research consults in a series of undergraduate library instruction sessions, alternately telling students to e-mail or use the calendar and tracked results of how many appointments were made and kept. Since we are liaisons to science, social science, and humanities subject areas, we were able to get a wide spread of undergraduate student types into the study. Students were given a survey to find out how they felt about signing up for consults, measuring areas like social anxiety, ease, convenience, and how obligated they felt to attend the sessions. After an initial period, we extended our exploration to survey students who made any kind appointment with the librarians. Why Google Calendar? We selected appointment booking via Google Calendar because of its ease of use and because University of Colorado has Google Apps for Education. This means that every student will have a Google ID and the option of using Google Calendar as part of their normal routine. As of December 2012, only Google Apps for Education allows claimable appointment slots. For institutions which are not part of Google Apps for Education, it may be worth investigating third-party Google Calendar apps, some of which are free, or SpringShare’s similar subscription service, LibCal. Student Results We received positive feedback about the appointment calendars. Students commented: • “I like the ability to see all of the possible openings,” • “I already bookmarked that, so you’ll probably hear from me” (which we did, shortly thereafter). • “I like to be able to ‘schedule’ a consultation, not request one. It seems more useful and immediate.” In our experimental group that heard about the calendar, no students who made a calendar appointment failed to attend their consultation, and all the surveyed students from that group found the experience of booking an appointment to be easy, convenient, and unintimidating. Everyone who used the calendar would prefer to use it again. Librarian Results Our experience has been that the calendars radically streamline the typical back and forth email exchanges for setting appointments. We only had to message each student once to confirm the appointment they had made. While the use of Google Calendar is entirely voluntary at CU Boulder Libraries, we presented the tool to several reference librarian meetings with success; several other librarians have happily adopted the tool. How to Set Up Your Calendar Setting up a Google Calendar to have appointment slots is very intuitive. 1. 2. 3. 4. Starting your calendar is as simple as creating a new google calendar event and selecting appointment slots (only available with google apps for education). Give your appointment slots a name and determine how long you want your appointments to be. Clicking the edit details on an appointment will send you to a page that gives you the (very long) URL for your appointment calendar. We recommend using a link shortener. Your students will see a page that lists all available appointment slots that you’ve set up when they visit your calendar. When a student makes an appointment, you’ll get an e-mail with the students name, and this slot will no longer be available for other students. Best Practices  Use a link shortener and a consistent naming convention so the links are similar for multiple librarians  If your link shortener is case-sensitive, create capitalized and lowercase versions of the link so students need not track case  Designate a day each week to update hours and clear conflicts on the calendar  Schedule out one to two weeks in advance  Give out the calendar link during class sessions and give it to professors to embed in course management systems  Advertise the link on the library web site References Attebury, R., Sprague, N., & Young, N. J. (2009). A decade of personalized research assistance. Reference Services Review, 37(2), 207–220. doi: Lederer, N., & Feldmann, L. M. (2012). Interactions: A Study of Office Reference Statistics. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 7(2), 5–19. Magi, T. J., & Mardeusz, P. E. (2013). What Students Need from Reference Librarians: Exploring the Complexity of the Individual Consultation. College & Research Libraries News, 74(6), 288–291.