Past, present and future…

The end of another Semester and we made it through with some success.
I always expect to feel really upbeat and giddily happy at the end of the semester / academic year whereas actually it is a mixture of relief and satisfaction for all we’ve achieved and the service we’ve provided and the students that we have helped and supported.
As we all know the days of the summer break in libraries / universities is very different to what it was and we start almost immediately thinking about what we need to plan for next September.

We started the year with the opening of the Learning Commons which has been a great success.  It has been popular with students and it has enabled us to showcase an example of the learning environment and service that we offer.


And now we are planning for our major refurbishment of the Library building.
Transforming Your Library
Transforming Your library

The enabling works have started and we have library books, journals and other stock are being relocated either offsite or to other floors of the building.  The Ground Floor of the library is closed and access to resources is by request at the Service Desk.
There has been a lot of work done this year regarding library collection management including weeding and rationalising of stock.

Our new Library Management System went live last June and the project was finished by the end of September.  We now have a Library Management Platform working group which took over from the Project Board where we discuss progress and developments to the system.  We’re also looking at what self-service circulation facility we could provide at our Orkney campus.

There have been quite a lot of changes to our IT helpdesk over the last year including a change to staffing and this will continue over the next few months.  This has given us a chance to make some changes to the operational procedures and also to look at short term and long term developments.  We have started to review our IT Helpdesk system and we hope to update this in the coming year.
Changes in staffing have also meant a change to the Service Desk Supervisors roles and much more integrated working between the IT Helpdesk and Library Service Desk – it is definitely a Service Desk now that can answer any sort of enquiry or issue.  We are continuing to work on staff training and upskilling to make sure that staff are confident to provide the help and support for students that is needed.

Communications have been a big part of the year with our blog posts and social media accounts being used on a daily basis to inform and promote a wide variety of topics.



It’s all about the conversation…and when to stop

This week has been a ‘noisy’ week – a week filled with meetings, conversations and discussions.  Mostly valuable and worthwhile, some even enjoyable in a work context, but nevertheless a lot of interactions.
Team meetings with teams, catch up meetings with Supervisors, catch up meetings with line managers, Resources and Facilities meetings, project meetings about refurbishments.
Meetings about communications.
Ad hoc discussions about library systems, about IT helpdesk systems, about repairs to ceilings, about training .
PDR meetings – discussing how staff feel about their progress and development – what they would like to do in the future, about what works and doesn’t work.
Conversations with students.
External events at other universities with discussions about new systems and what we need to develop in the future to provide excellent customer service for our students.
The conversations in passing with staff in my team or other teams, conversations as staff drop by my office and its open door.
Telephone calls and conversations.  Email conversations.  Social media conversations.
And then finally today, a day without planned meetings and quietly closing my office door and stopping to think what needs doing…and settling down to do it.
It’s easy to say that it’s important to manage your time and your calendar, and to plan effectively and have a task list and be productive and stop doing some things and prioritise.  But in reality, unless we are at the top of the management structure in our organisation, our calendars seem to have a life of their own.  Also as we all have to work in a more flexible and reactive way, it’s important to shuffle things around and fit in when we can.
For me in my role, I have quite a wide and varied remit.  I’m involved in joint initiatives and projects and liaising with different teams.  My team is responsible for front line, first line services and dealing with customers and their enquiries.  It is why I like my job.
But it is important to find some time to concentrate and I have to make a conscious effort to do this because I’m efficient at multi-tasking (if there is such a thing) and rapid task changing and skimming across the surface of what needs doing.  I’m solution driven so my default way of working is to look at a situation and find the quickest, most straightforward way of resolving it.  But is this the most productive and efficient way – or the best way for me as far as my thinking and reflecting is concerned?  Probably not…so it is work in progress to find more of those quiet Fridays to change the way I work and take a step back from the conversations.



Up-skilling and cross-skilling – staff training

Up-skilling and cross-skilling 
The strategic aim is something along the lines of ensuring that all of the customer services team are cross skilled, can be co-located and record all issues and enquiries. Therefore the overarching plan is that all of the library assistants (daytime, weekend, evening), information assistants and IT Helpdesk staff would be able to work anywhere on the integrated service desk. A member of the Customer Services Team would be able to provide a front line, first line service wherever and whenever they are based.
So, how is this going to work in practice and how are we going to get there. In the Customer Services Team there are approximately 35 staff who were, in the past, either Library or IT staff apart from the information Assistants. The Information Assistants posts were new last September and to some extent bridge the gap but at a lower level. Many of the staff are skilled and have in-depth experience. The important thing, from my point of view, is that we don’t lose that knowledge but that we keep it, ensure it is relevant, develop it and add to it. As the saying goes- we don’t want to lose specialisms, but want to add generalisms.
All of this is fairly standard for university libraries especially in those integrated and converged with IT services.  Much of the change is driven by the demands and needs of the users. Students and staff, in general, want one place to go for help. If they visit the library, physically or virtually, they want assistance in accessing resources online and on the shelves.  They want to be able to access information on their own devices as well as the institution owned machines, they want to connect to systems and to wifi 24/7.
In general library assistants do want to increase their knowledge of IT systems and the distinction is sometimes a false one. When you work on a service desk on a library, you are using IT the majority of the time so it is a matter of formalising some of this, filling in the gaps and often increasing confidence. One difference is that IT staff work along the lines of giving something a go and if it doesn’t work, try something else – technology is like that, trial and error or finding an alternative means of getting what you want done. In the past library systems were exact, if you do A you get B, a specified method of doing something.
Some of the training happens naturally between staff – if you have an integrated service desk with library and IT staff based there, then you share skills and pick up bits and pieces as you go along. This is useful but not enough as it doesn’t ensure that everyone has the same skills base. Also it is dependent on a particular issue cropping up and being solved so that the incident can be shared.
Documentation, help sheets, guides, staff manuals are essential – you need somewhere to refer to when you are asked an enquiry or have to solve an issue. It is also important to have consistency so that everyone is providing the same service.
Structured training sessions are important and we are running a series of these over the summer. They include a session delivered by Subject Librarians which focuses on  Enquiries, the Website, Books and Journals, Discovery and Copyright – the latest developments in each of these areas. This session is repeated four times between June and September.
 There are three other sessions:
1. Printing / MFDs, Wifi-Eduroam, Word, Outlook, Google form / statistics
2. ‘Getting Started’ webpages, Vision (Blackboard), SharePoint, Kayako (ITHelpdesk system)
3. Service Desk changes, Staff manual and procedures, Voyager, Printing /MFDs
These sessions are delivered by the Helpdesk co-ordinator, the Service Desk supervisor or me.  At the end of each session we have a Customer Services team update.
We hold the sessions at different times and encourage semester only staff to attend (they get paid to do so). The sessions include practical elements so staff get experience of different systems and programmes. There are copies of the presentations or notes from the sessions available for those that can’t attend and these reflect the information on the staff and service manual.

So far, so good. The sessions have been well attended and have meant we have a baseline of what should be common knowledge. If everyone knows what is covered in these sessions then we can build on that. Library staff and IT staff need to share each others skills base. We weren’t starting from staff without knowledge or skills but it was difficult to know who knew what and how this could be quantified. We can add to the programme as new developments happen and build a cross-skilled, technology enhanced, knowledge base to provide an effective customer service.

Library – self service kiosks and staff cards

Our Library Self Service system and other new Information Services developments were ‘opened’ by the University Principal on the 13th September.  It was an opportunity to show off the new services that are available.  As well as the self issue / return book kiosks, there are staff service cards which are like ID cards but can be used for printing via the MFDs and accessing secure buildings. Also there has been changes to the library space to make more room for study spaces.

More information is available in a blog post on the Information Services blog