Five of Wellington County Library’s fourteen rural branches are multi-level Carnegie Libraries. Over the last six years, the County has invested in renewing the Carnegie branches with extensive renovations and additions. The Palmerston branch is currently undergoing renovations and is scheduled to be completed in early 2016. Last year, in March, the Harriston and Mount Forest branches were selected to do a two-week trial with the Motorola two-way radios. After the two-week period was over, it was decided to purchase the units for Harriston, Mount Forest, and Fergus, three branches with busy programming schedules.
The radios have one frequency and all units at each branch are connected. There are longer and shorter earpieces and interchangeable magnetic or belt clip backs to the units. The volume is easily adjusted up or down and they can be used from morning to evening on a single charge. The units are cleaned with Virox wipes, set into individual charging stations at the end of the day and are ready for use the next morning. We have found these to be very useful since our staff and community rooms are on a different level from the rest of the library. We’ve been regularly using our radios in Harriston and Mount Forest for over a year now and really love how connected our staff members feel!
We do a lot of programming in Harriston and Mount Forest, which translates into a lot of programme planning time necessary for staff. As much as possible we try to schedule staff so they will have dedicated time to do their planning away from the circulation desk. For this, they generally use the staff room which is located on the lower level of each library. In our small branches, there are typically no more than 2 staff working at a time. The programmers make sure to put on a radio before heading to the staff room so they can be connected to the person working at the circulation desk. This has been helpful so that they may quickly answer a question over the radio without having to go back upstairs or they can easily be called to return to the desk if it becomes busy.
We have found the radios to be particularly useful during programmes since many of them are run by a single staff member. Communication between staff members is important to us so having the radio link is terrific when you need to quickly relay information. We have used the radios to let the programmer know that a child is going to be late to a programme, ask for a parent to go downstairs to assist their child, let the person at the circulation desk know that someone is coming upstairs to get a necessary item for a programme or a band aid for a small cut. We have also advised that a patron is going to be coming upstairs after the programme to look for materials on a particular subject and the staff member at the circulation desk has been able to have those materials ready at the desk. Our programmers have been able to advise how much longer clean up is going to take, too! By remaining in contact, we are better able to serve our customers who attend our programmes.
The Harriston Branch has 3 floors. Our third floor is rented out to 2 community groups. The library is on the main floor, and our lower level has our community room, staff room, and accessible washrooms. We have found the radio sound is always clear between the three floors of our building. We have even been able to use the radios from outside of the building when needed. This adds to their utility by maintaining communication between staff. Occasionally we do programming out of doors, and as Shannon has already addressed, the radios are useful for relaying messages or needs from programme staff to circulation staff.
Since staff can always communicate with each other through the radios, it is easy to reallocate staff when needed. If the circulation desk is busy, it is simply a matter of requesting that another staff member comes to the desk. With the radio on, they can hear the request wherever they are and assist. A staff member who is shelf reading in the children’s area, shown above, or working in our downstairs staff room, can quickly report to wherever needed without needing to be physically tracked down. This is good for customers because we can respond to their needs faster. People value their time so if we can reduce the time they have to wait for assistance their overall experience of library service is more positive.
Using the radios to ask pages or another staff member to locate an item means that staff can maintain a face-to-face connection with the library user. While the item is being retrieved, there is an opportunity to continue interacting with the user.
Occasionally we have used the radios to coach staff, particularly new staff, during patron interactions. The radios are a discreet way to provide reminders or suggestions, or to correct misinformation. They’ve been used to guide staff during Reader’s Advisory interviews. Using the radios for coaching is a little tricky – it requires that the coach be within earshot without being in sight. For us, it’s usually been employed when one staff member is in the office and the other is at the circulation desk. There is no expectation of a response from the employee during the interaction. For example, if an employee is struggling to think of an author read-alike, the coach can make a suggestion. It’s even better if the coach verifies that the item is on our shelf before suggesting it. The staff member can simply receive the information and use it (or not) at a time that is comfortable.
I like to connect with staff after the interaction to get their feedback on how the radio communication worked from their perspective. Overall, staff have found it to be a positive experience.
The radios are an added measure of safety and security. Staff are able to easily call for assistance to a specific location. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of calling someone else over to increase staff comfort and let patrons know there is someone else in the branch. The radios aid communication in the event of an emergency. Staff can easily let each other know what’s happened, where they are and what help is needed. As an example, last spring our pipes froze. It was on a Saturday and there were 80 people attending an event in our community room. Two staff were on; one remained at the circulation desk while the other attended to working with the renters, communicating with supervisory staff and maintenance workers and arranging drinking water. The staff members found it very helpful to use the radios to stay in touch and share important information about the situation.
Customer service radios
Wellington County Library
Using 2-way radios to enhance
Five Carnegie Branches
• Easy to call for assistance
• Identify where staff are
• Communicate next steps
• Share important information
Radios enhance customer service by:
• Making communication between staff
• Maintaining a connection with library users
• Reallocating staff in response to customers’
• Allowing unique coaching opportunities
• Contributing to a safe environment