Planning, meetings, opening times, open days, comms and library management system reports.

Monday 24th July

  • Planned meetings re IT Helpdesk system – ongoing maintenance and development
  • Late evening opening – the Library has been open 9:00am-5:00pm Monday to Friday during June and July.  From 31st July we open 9:00am-8:00pm Monday to Thursday and  9:00-5:00 Friday (closed weekends).  This is mainly because exam resits take place in the first two weeks of August.  For staffing, some of the semester only part time staff come in and work extra hours and some daytime staff cover the rest.  We keep these opening hours until start of semester when we are open 24/7.
  • There are campus Open Days starting 30th September – we usually have an Information Services stand at the event so it means working on a Saturday.  It is a good event to be involved in and it is great to have the opportunity to talk to prospective students and their parents.
    There are student ambassadors who show people round and we are just updating the information that we give to them telling them about the Library and Information Services.
  • I’ve had various enquiries from around the University about using spaces in the Library and Learning Commons especially for enrolment and welcome events.  It’s about finding a balance between the space being available for open access use by everyone and making areas available for specific activities or events.
  • IT Helpdesk – we have staff off on holiday this week so I covered the IT Helpdesk phone and tickets at lunchtime
  • We have a cross team meeting once every 6 weeks between Academic and Learner Services and Resource and Facility Services.  We take it in turn to take the minutes/notes although this gets out of sync sometimes so I pick it up.  With meetings like this that are internal to our dept and mainly operational, I’m in favour of us having notes and actions from the meeting rather than minutes as basically I don’t think we have the time or resource for the latter.  Also I type them up on a laptop while the meeting is going on as it saves time.  It is good to have opportunities for discussions between teams and helpful to keep track of what is happening with new developments.
    Topics discussed this time included the role of the role of the IS/Library reps, journal requests, book repairs, requests for book orders, law reports review and resource subscriptions.  We also discussed the library refurbishment enabling works.
  • Comms – posted to Information Services social media accounts.  Mainly about the enabling works in the Library and the access to spaces and resources.  Also followed up various people about posters and banners.
  • Library Management System reports – spent a couple of hours with our Systems Librarian looking at Alma reports.  What I would like is a personalised dashboard  although once we’ve been looking at it most of the reports that I am interested in are in the standard Fulfilment/Circulation or Inventory dashboards.  It’s good to dedicate some time to system rather than people stuff and have a look at what we can generate which is useful and relevant for service development.  There are some issues that need looking at as far as the user/patron data that is fed into the LMS from our University student information systems and how we can  use this effectively.


Day by day – out of semester

We now seem to be into our stride with ‘out of semester’ work.  It takes a couple of weeks to switch from the student focused semester service to a more steady but just as busy work pattern.  There are still students using the library on a daily basis mainly Masters students and international students but our opening hours are 9:00am -5:00pm Monday to Friday rather than 24/7.

We have had some groups of pre-sessional English students and these continue through the summer.  They have induction and user education sessions in the Library.

We have been sorting out the short-loan collection – reviewing usage, removing and adding items depending on demand and changing details on the system.

We’re still involved in enabling work for the library refurbishment which is mainly stock checking of journals and periodicals.  Also planning for ‘what’s happening’ next and sending out relevant comms.

Other things include:
Library Management Platform working group – preparing for the new Discovery interface which should be live in July.
Looking at the options for a small self-service circulation kiosk for Orkney campus.
Planning summer training for the Customer services Team
Updating help guides
Comms about upgrades, systems at risk or planned downtime
Staffing – the usual ongoing staff management and also wrapped up in that is the post VR staffing challenges.

I did get to show some people around the campus and Information Services on Monday and Tuesday who were here for interviews so that was a good start to the week – it’s great to talk to people from other places and show them what we do here

13th June


December update

December update – we’re nearly there at the end of semester.
Last day of exams is 16th December so that is the final day for students.
Then we have a week of ‘normal’ working up until Friday 23rd December.

So, things that have been happening:

Monitoring of the study spaces

Managing the Learning Commons

Staffing – new posts for Customer Services Assistant and Customer Services Supervisor

IT Helpdesk documentation and procedures updated

ELISA visits and ACLIP programme

CSE networking

Student views about using the library and IT help #libraries #IThelp #feedback

At the UCISA SS15 conference, one of the sessions was a presentation by a student, Emma Anderson, from the University of Leeds.  The presentation was entitled ‘It’s not just Facebook and Twitter.  How students use technology in their everyday lives’.  It was an insightful account of the student experience and interesting from our point of view, as ‘providers’ of the service as to how it is interpreted and used which is not always how we anticipate that it is going to be accessed.
I blogged about the presentation here 
As providers and developers of the service whether it be a IT helpdesk service or library service or any student facing service in a university, we aim to maintain a complete and coherent physical and online facility that serves all parts of the student journey and experience.  From a students perspective, they want to dip in and out and take what they need, where and when they need it – to take the parts that are relevant to them whether it be a online resource or a study space.
The interesting areas to look at further are concerned with number of devices, what different devices are used for, that a variety of devices are needed, that study spaces need power and space and that social media is a small part of studying but a large part of life.
I drafted a survey which was based on these areas and tested it out on three students (not from Heriot-Watt University but 2nd/3rd year UG students).  I asked them a series of questions based on Library and IT Help Services and facilities.  I asked them to answer for the particular institution they had attended but it was not intended as a reflection of a particular University, rather their experience of university life. It was carried out in a fairly informal setting and included some ad hoc answers and information.

Q1 Do you know how to contact the IT Helpdesk at your University e.g. if your email wasn’t working or a password needed changing
A1. No, would go to library service desk
A2  Looked up information online
A3 Yes, have office at back of library.  Also can search website for email or telephone contact

Q2 – In the Library building – what are the 3 most important things that the library provides?
A1. PCs, books, study space
A2. Study space, PC, printing
A3.  PC, printing, cafe/food area

Q3 – What sort of study space do you prefer to use or that you would like to see available?
A1. PC desk space, comfy chair, be able to whisper to the person next to me.  Also group space.
A2. Reading room, books, lots of desks, sit with friends but lots of space so don’t feel crammed in and not people moving in and out of the room all the time.
A3. Sometimes PC, sometimes space with no computer but a power socket.  Silent space e.g. alcove with partitions.  Not enough group space to practice presentations.

The following question they just answered together in general
Q4 – How many devices do you use?
Have phone, ipad, laptop plus use PC
Sometimes if using PC for work then use iPad to look stuff up at same time i.e. research for essay
Don’t often take laptop into Uni so need PC at Uni
Wouldn’t use laptop and PC at same time but use either of these plus ipad or phone
Study spaces away from PCs need plug sockets for ipad
Sometimes print out lecture slides beforehand and annotate during lecture as this is easier than making notes and matching up afterwards

Q5 – What do you use the Library Service Desk for?  What would you go and ask about?
A1.  If can’t find a book.  Pay off fines.
A2  If can’t find a book.
A3 To hand in lost property.  Haven’t had to ask about books as bought text books and look online.

Q6 – What about using Self Service issuing and return for books in library?
A1. Good as quicker and don’t have to talk to library staff! Also said good in case the book is a reference book and so you wouldn’t feel daft if the machine displays a message saying reference only rather than being told.
A2 Good as same system as at another library so knew how to use.  Good as gives a receipt showing date of return.
A3 Quick and simple.  Good for out of hours.  Good for short loans.

Q7 – Communication – what do you think about receiving emails from the university?
A1 Just skim read.  Has to be relevant to studies.  Don’t read if about general university wide matters.
A2 Has to be quick and urgent with a relevant subject line.

Q8 – Communication  – using the portal for communication
They were all both positive about this and gave explanations of how it worked and what the interface looked like.  They had a good understanding of how it worked and how to access their respective VLEs.  They seemed to consider a VLE as perfectly acceptable and didn’t want anything more sophisticated or snazzy.  The main reason for using the portal was to access the VLE and to receive notifications.

Q9 – Should the university use Facebook for communicating with students?
No to Facebook – although there should be a university Facebook page and a Library one – so I think what they meant was they would like to be able to view a University Facebook but don’t want to interact with staff or lecturers.
They used Facebook groups for collaboration with other students
e.g. Revision group
e.g. Group work – could use a Moodle forum but would have to log in so Facebook group easier and useful for chatting and making changes to presentations.  Use with other students but not lecturers.

It was an interesting discussion and does reflect quite accurately some of the results we have had from quick surveys at Heriot-Watt Uni about the purpose of visiting the library and what facilities are the most important.  It has given me some good ideas about surveys that can be carried out next semester especially with new students starting in September and also as part of customer service excellence.

Managing a 24/7 team and service

The Customer Services Team that I manage consists of daytime staff, evening staff and weekend staff some of whom are full-time and some are part-time, some are semester only and some all year round.  There are lots of them and obviously they are never all here at the same time.  In fact it is a feat of logistics to cover the service with so many variables.
This is not an unusual situation for libraries that are open evenings and weekends in an educational environment – more staffing and coverage is needed during term time as opposed to vacation time – I’m not sure how much it has changed over the years but I suspect not much.  However as well as it being a result of historical arrangements, it is also very much a modern phenomenon.  While we don’t have any zero hours contracts we do have posts that are split to cover the hours when we need staff resource (Information Assistants).  We are also open 24/7 during revision and exam time which is a response to student demand.
All in all there are approximately 35 members of staff in the Customer Services Team.  The challenge is to provide a consistent service across the working teams and across the time frame.

Currently, as we are open 24/7, there are certain points in the day which are handover times and it is essential that this happens smoothly and effectively – and for the most part it does.  There are certain people who are key to the process i.e. the Service Desk Supervisor, the Evening Assistant Librarians and it is also helped by the fact that most of the daytime Library Assistants are experienced and have been in post quite a long time.  The Evening Assistant Librarians overlap by an hour with the Service Desk Supervisor, the 24/7 security staff overlap slightly with the Evening/Weekend staff to hand over late evening.  The next morning the 24/7 security staff hand over to the daytime Library Assistants and so it continues.

The challenges arise when there is either something new or something that needs to change.  When I first started in my role, one of my first thoughts was ‘Who are all these people?’ ‘Why do they all work different hours and different days?’ – none of it seemed consistent and in fact it wasn’t.  I had to create a spreadsheet to get an overview of what people do and as new people have been appointed, we have tried to match roles up with current ones while at the same time trying to update roles to match service need.  A lot of the reasons for peoples hours are historical and based on need at the time and this will be reviewed.  Although the aim is to provide a consistent service, the environment and demand is different on evenings and weekends than it is during day time hours so there has to be flexibility and the capacity to change.

Communication, as ever, is one of the greatest issues.  On a practical basis, I had to consider how I was going to actually meet all the people in my team.  I would have to work daytime, evening and weekends……and although I like my job, that wasn’t one of my aims.  In general I work 9.00 or 9.30 – 18.00 as this covers the 16.00 – 18.00 slot when daytime staff finish and evening staff start.  Luckily some of the weekend staff work evenings as well so I get to see them.  I rarely work weekends but have done so two or three times and so have met the weekend only staff.  But how would it work if I was to meet up with all staff every week – it would be impossible and impractical on both sides?  Obviously that is what the Service Desk Supervisor and Evening Assistant Librarians are for – to line mange the  different sub teams and pass information up and down and I meet with them regularly.
However I do want contact with all of the staff.  We have introduced team meetings and these happen on a rolling basis.  One morning a week between 9.15 – 9.45 and repeated 9.45 – 10.15 (it has to run twice as the service desk has to be covered) and one evening a week working through the different days (a Monday one week, Tuesday the next etc.) . This should mean that everyone gets to attend a team meeting twice a month or at least once a month.  I keep notes from the meeting and circulate them regularly adding new bits from each meeting if needed.  I upload them to our Intranet site also.
I do use email quite a lot to communicate with the team as a whole and parts of the team – I try to filter it appropriately but also rely on them filtering what they don’t need.  I also email the Library Service Desk account so that anyone can pick up emails from there.  It’s not possible to get everyone in the same physical location at the same time but it is possible to have a team communication channel.

I am learning that with a large team it is not possible nor preferable to know everything that is going on although I often get situations when I think either ‘Why did no-one tell me that’ or ‘I really don’t need to know every detail of this’.  Some staff want to interact more, some hardly ever.  I always have an open door and try to spend time just chatting and engaging with people and picking up on the general vibe of what’s happening.