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Revolution at the Library Service Desk

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Revolution at the Library Service Desk

Abstract

This article will describe how a revolution in customer service provision beginning in 2002 has led to an evolution of library services. When the reference and circulation desks were merged to create a single service point, responsibilities were broadened, core competencies were developed, and staff members were cross trained. In 2005, an analysis of staffing and work patterns demonstrated a need to build upon the original model to better utilize staff and ensure coverage of the desk. Reference librarians were moved to "on call" status, technical services staff were added to the schedule, and core competencies and procedures were refined.
Revolution at the Library Service Desk
Beverly Murphy
Richard A. Peterson
Hattie Vines
Megan von Isenburg
Elizabeth Berney
Robert James
Marcos Rodriguez
Patricia Thibodeau
ABSTRACT. This article will describe how a revolution in customer
service provision beginning in 2002 has led to an evolution of library
services. When the reference and circulation desks were merged to cre-
ate a single service point, responsibilities were broadened, core compe-
tencies were developed, and staff members were cross trained. In 2005,
an analysis of staffing and work patterns demonstrated a need to build
upon the original model to better utilize staff and ensure coverage
of the desk. Reference librarians were moved to ‘‘on call’’ status,
Beverly Murphy, AHIP (murph005@mc.duke.edu) is Assistant Director,
Marketing and Publications; Richard A. Peterson, AHIP (peter073@mc.
duke.edu) is Deputy Director; Hattie Vines, AHIP (vines001@mc.duke.edu)
is Information and Education Services Librarian; Megan von Isenburg
(vonis001@mc.duke.edu) is Associate Director of Public Services – Infor-
mation Services; Elizabeth Berney (berne003@mc.duke.edu) is Library Ser-
vice Desk Manager; Robert James (james066@mc.duke.edu) is Associate
Director, Access Services; Marcos Rodriguez (rodri037@mc.duke.edu) is
Information Services Specialist, Information Technology Services; Patricia
Thibodeau, AHIP (thibo001@mc.duke.edu) is Associate Dean of Library
Services & Archives; all at Duke University Medical Center Library, Box
3702, Durham, NC 27710.
Medical Reference Services Quarterly, Vol. 27(4) Winter 2008
Available online at http://www.haworthpress.com
#2008 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.
doi: 10.1080/02763860802367870 379
technical services staff were added to the schedule, and core competen-
cies and procedures were refined.
KEYWORDS. Circulation, customer service, public services, refer-
ence, single service desk
INTRODUCTION
Revolutions in services to patrons have been frequently occurring
as libraries have tried to be more responsive to user needs and react to
changes in the environment. Trends in libraries over the past few
years usually lean towards shrinking budgets, a leaner workforce,
and fewer print resources. Electronic resources and ubiquitous com-
puter technology have also led to changes in patrons’ information
behaviors and needs, resulting in plummeting reference statistics,
lower gate counts, and a decrease in the number of circulation trans-
actions. At the same time, libraries are pursuing more active roles
throughout the campus, such as education and training, in order to
deliver services to users at the point of need or use.
1
Coupled with
budget pressures, many libraries have experienced changing work-
loads and staffing patterns as well as reductions in staff. Amid all
of these situations, libraries have sought creative ways to better utilize
existing staff
2
and improve customer service.
3–7
Moving away from
multiple service points to one single service desk is one way to address
the problem of decreasing or constrained resources while meeting
patron needs.
While the concept of moving to a single service desk appears to be
easy to implement, there are a number of factors and challenges that
must be considered when developing a consolidated service point.
The process at Duke University Medical Center Library & Archives
(DUMCLA) took more than five years to fully implement and even
now, after another five years, the actual operations of the single ser-
vice desk are still changing. The initial revolution of a single service
desk has now become more of an evolutionary process in communi-
cating necessary changes, defining staff competencies, providing
relevant training, refining staffing patterns, evaluating the effective-
ness of services, and exploring new approaches to traditional refer-
ence and circulation activities. The challenges and lessons learned
380 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY
by DUMCLA may assist other libraries that are considering the
single service point model.
BACKGROUND
Like other libraries, the DUMCLA has faced decreasing resources
and shifts in demand for services. Between 1999 and 2001, reference
and circulation statistics decreased. Similar decreases were also hap-
pening in interlibrary loan and document delivery services due to the
increased use of electronic resources. Meanwhile, the Library budget
was substantially reduced over several years to address tighter finan-
cial conditions within the hospital and medical center. The result was
a reduction in the Library’s workforce, from over 49 to 39 full-time
employees (FTE). All student positions were cut to minimize layoffs.
The first shot for a single service point was fired at a strategic plan-
ning retreat held in March 1998, where discussions surfaced about
having to frequently refer patrons back and forth between service
desks. At the time, there were four service areas within the Library:
Circulation Desk (main entrance level), Information Desk (mezza-
nine level), Computer Classroom Help Desk (lower level), and the
Administrative suite (lower level). In 1998, a Single Service Point
(SSP) Task Force was formed and given the charge to provide recom-
mendations on the feasibility of creating and implementing a single
service point.
The SSP Task Force addressed two basic issues: patron
convenience for in-house Library services and efficient use of staff
to provide those services. In its deliberations, the task force discov-
ered that referrals were not as big a problem as originally suspected
(only about 18%), more than a quarter (28%) of the questions related
to finding books and journals, only 5% of questions were computer
problems, and a large portion of the questions asked at the Infor-
mation Desk (61%) did not require a professional librarian to answer.
Based on the recommendation of the task force’s final report in Feb-
ruary 1999, the Library adopted the ‘‘Patron as the Single Service
Point’’ model (wherever the patron might be) rather than affixing
all services to a specific point in the Library. This was based on the
perception that the Library, and especially its staff, were not ready
to move to the single service desk due to a lack of cohesiveness and
poor morale resulting from conflicts and communication problems
Murphy et al. 381
among circulation staff and with other units. However, the report did
urge the Library to revisit the issue in the future. Even with the
patron as the service point, it quickly became evident that a set of
core competencies for all staff would need to be established. The
SSP Minimum Competencies Task Force was formed and finished
its work in November 2000.
Planning for carpeting the public service spaces created an oppor-
tunity for the Library to begin to seriously consider the evolution to
a single service desk in fall 2001. As the planning progressed, it became
evident that the reference desk would need to be moved while the car-
peting was being installed. The most logical place would be on the
entrance level next to circulation services. Library Administration
saw this as an opportunity to begin moving toward a single or common
services point. The goal was to provide a consistent level of customer
service, instead of varying levels at several points, bringing together
the expertise and knowledge of circulation and reference staff.
The SSP Task Force report was revisited, and the decision was
made to appoint the Common Service Desk Steering Committee in
April 2002. This group was charged with developing guidelines and
training for the new desk, including revising the core competencies,
marketing the new single service point, and suggesting changes to
the layout for public services. The reference desk was temporarily
relocated next to the existing circulation desk in early summer, with
the combined desk becoming a reality in August. In September, the
Medical Center architect was brought in to discuss the design and
construction of a totally new and combined desk. Construction was
to be completed in four weeks but actually took three months. To
keep up morale, staff were asked to guess the final completion date,
and prizes were given for those with the closest answers. The
‘‘Library Service Desk,’’ or LSD, officially opened in April 2003.
While construction of the physical desk was completed, refine-
ments to desk operations continued. In spring 2004, the Common
Service Desk Steering Committee was renamed to the Library Service
Desk Steering Committee and was restructured to take a fresh look at
how well the LSD was operating. A new integrated library system
was introduced that summer, which brought changes in procedures,
staff competencies, and training for the desk. Work on the competen-
cies as well as exploration of new and changing staffing patterns has
continued over the years. During the 2006 strategic planning process,
the Library recognized the importance of the single service point as
382 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY
the gateway to most, if not all, the Library’s services and resources.
As a result of this planning process, the LSD Gateway Task Force
was appointed to take a broader look at the services and customer
service levels offered by the desk. Today the single service point is
simply known as the ‘‘Service Desk,’’ and the Library is considering
other roles the staff and desk might play.
COMMUNICATION
It had been clear from the initial inception that communication
would be an essential component of the single service point. To take
this radical step would require continuous input and feedback from
staff, not only to help everyone cope with the change, but also to
ensure smooth operation of the desk once implemented. From the
beginning, staff quickly voiced concerns that moving from two desks
to one would result in having to learn new skills, and the battle over
duties began. Librarians worried about the operation of the complex
circulation system, while paraprofessionals were hesitant to take on
difficult reference questions. Some standard procedures at the desk
were also viewed as so complex that only senior circulation staff mem-
bers could handle them. It was clear that forums had to be created for
airing these concerns, while addressing issues such as training.
Task forces provided mechanisms for resolving issues and develop-
ing plans, as well as fostering team work. Both professional and
paraprofessional staff from reference, circulation, technical, and
administrative services participated in these planning and implemen-
tation groups. While task force membership often changed over the
years, there were usually two or more people who had participated
on the previous planning groups and brought continuity to the pro-
cess. To gather more feedback, plans were also reviewed by the
Library Council (department heads) and the Management Team (pro-
fessional staff), and at general staff meetings. The first staff forum was
held in 2002, and now those meetings have evolved into quarterly ser-
vice desk ‘‘updates’’ used for training and problem solving.
On July 1, 2005, an unprecedented event took place – the entire
Library was closed for an LSD retreat. The day-long meeting
began with presentations tracing the history of the desk from the
SSP Task Force to the present day and outlining the decline in
gate counts, interlibrary loan, circulation, and reference statistics.
Murphy et al. 383
A facilitator from within the Library then led staff through a dis-
cussion of what was working well and what needed improvement
at the desk. The goals for the LSD were reaffirmed, and the key
issues that came out of the conversations focused on policies and
procedures, communication, customer service, training, and the
availability of experts. The Library continues to focus on the
importance of communication for the successful delivery of
services to:
.Ensure a consistent level of quality customer service
.Create a one-stop service desk for patron convenience
.Bring staff knowledge and expertise together at the desk
.Use Library staff effectively and efficiently; and
.Reallocate staff as service levels and workloads decrease and prio-
rities change.
COMPETENCIES
The concept of the ‘‘patron as the single service point’’ suggested
that the patron would be the focal point of customer service, whether
in or out of the library. It also assumed the customer should be able
to receive an accurate and consistent response or referral to an infor-
mation request, regardless of the question or the staff member
approached. The decision was made to establish minimum competen-
cies for all staff since any staff member might be dealing with the
patron, the ultimate service point. Since customer service was a major
facet of the single service point concept, the Customer Services
Committee also became involved in the identification of core tasks,
knowledge, and skills that all staff needed to provide.
In 2000, the SSP Minimum Competencies Task Force emerged; it
combined members from both the former SSP Task Force with mem-
bers of the Customer Services Committee. This task force identified
the most common information requests of patrons and developed a
list of minimum competencies for information and services. The
group also devised a model to provide basic training to all staff,
which consisted of four components:
.Annual training session;
.Assessment of the information learned at the training;
384 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY
.Addition of minimum competencies to the performance evaluation
process; and
.Compilation of a Library service manual to serve as a resource
tool.
All staff attended training sessions in November 2000, but the task
force recommended that a group be charged with the responsibility of
continuing the training program. The Staff Development Committee
was created as a result of this recommendation. In addition, the
Library service manual was mounted on the Intranet. Customer ser-
vice training was identified as a high priority for the public services
departments and continues to be so today.
The initial ‘‘minimum competencies’’ focused on basic services to
patrons. These included: providing accurate directions to collections,
services and facilities; assisting patrons in identifying library materials;
and making accurate referrals to other staff or resources when appro-
priate. More specific competencies in each area were delineated. To
assess these basic skills, a treasure hunt was conducted that required
staff to answer questions about the collection, policies, and facilities.
With the implementation of a combined desk in summer 2002, the
Common Service Desk Steering Committee revisited the competen-
cies. This group developed ten ‘‘Core Competencies’’ based on the
original list of minimum skills and knowledge. Initially, these were
applied to circulation and information services staff, but were used
for training additional staff in interlibrary loan and stack manage-
ment services. It was also at this point that staff forums were estab-
lished for training and problem solving. There were concerns that
the Library was trying to make everyone on the staff a ‘‘Jack of all
Trades.’’ It was necessary to reinforce that desk staff were responsible
for just the ten core competencies and that each position would still
retain its particular departmental skills and expertise. All desk staff
would be expected to perform the following:
1. Check out, renew, and check in library materials.
2. Place holds.
3. Collect fines.
4. Distribute medical school lecture tapes.
5. Distribute and collect payment for interlibrary loans and litera-
ture searches.
6. Determine if the library owned an item.
Murphy et al. 385
7. Identify if the library owned a particular journal issue.
8. Find the full journal title from abbreviations and vice versa.
9. Know where things are located on the Library’s Web site.
10. Complete interlibrary loan and document delivery requests.
The core competencies were revisited when the Library Service
Desk Steering Committee was formed in 2004. Resetting ILLIAD
and Ovid passwords and retrieving items from offsite storage were
added to the core competencies, and refresher sessions were offered
to review circulation procedures and reference skills. Service expecta-
tions were standardized.
It became imperative to take another look at the core competencies
when staff from technical services departments, who had varying levels
of public experience, began to cover the desk. In February 2006, a
small group from the Library Service Desk Steering Committee began
the process of revising and expanding the original baseline competen-
cies. A larger variety of questions were now being asked at the desk. In
addition, the integrated library system had introduced new processes.
In 2007 the new LSD Gateway Task Force sought to refine the service
desk core competencies yet again. Ironically, the in-depth reference
interview added in 2006 was deleted and moved to the sole domain of
the on-call reference librarians. Complex billing and payment questions
about interlibrary loan and document delivery were also removed from
the competencies and moved to Library Administration. It was also
decided that staff needed to be more aware of the services and resources
offered by History of Medicine and Archives. It has become very evident
that core competencies must be reviewed and revised as changes occur in
services, polices, procedures, and resources.
TRAINING
Continuous training is essential to make staff feel comfortable and
capable as job roles and responsibilities change. As the single service
point project evolved, the Library initially held training sessions
approximately once a year or when major changes in staffing or sys-
tems took place. For example, the Library held sessions when the
original core competencies were created, the new integrated library
system was implemented, technical services staff members were added
to the desk schedule, and a refresher was needed in circulation and
386 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY
reference. Despite all this, staff still expressed a need for more train-
ing opportunities.
To meet this need, the Library moved to quarterly rather than
annual training sessions starting in fall 2007. Today these new
‘‘LSD updates’’ provide a way to bring all who work at the service
desk into one venue, something that had not been happening because
of the wide variety of departments involved. Topics for these sessions
are not limited to the core competencies but rather include demon-
strations of new database interfaces, tips for answering questions,
information on new services, and even background on the new
NIH Public Access Policy. When possible, teachers for these sessions
are drawn from across the Library to increase peer-to-peer learning.
The hope is that these quarterly meetings will improve the training
and communication issues that come with having so many different
staff on the desk.
DOCUMENTATION
Desk-related tasks and processes were growing rusty for those who
did not perform them regularly, yet documentation was scarce and
out of date. The diversity of staff on the service desk meant that many
staff worked just two to three hours on the desk per week or even per
month. In-depth and easily accessible documentation was necessary
to support the Library’s training initiatives.
In February 2006, the Library Services Desk Steering Committee
worked to revise the competencies, develop explicit instructions for
each area, and reflect the new integrated library system. Staff
changes, such as retirements of senior circulation staff and the hiring
of new staff, hastened the development of this new documentation.
With the assistance and fresh eyes of the new staff members, the pol-
icy and procedures template was revised to standardize the instruc-
tions, and more robust information was developed to create a
service desk manual.
To increase access to this new and improved manual, documenta-
tion was posted on the new Library Intranet. This site was created
using Plone open-source software and offered read=write capability
for all staff. It included a blog, calendar, and wiki-like project spaces
for committees and work groups. Posting the LSD Manual on the site
meant that desk and on-call staff could access information, whether
Murphy et al. 387
from the service desk or from their own offices. Documentation could
also be edited and revised easily as systems and processes changed.
STAFFING
Many changes in the single service point model were determined by
changes in staffing patterns. Student assistant positions were elimi-
nated due to budget cuts in 2002. The workforce was further reduced
in 2003 and 2004 when positions were eliminated, decreasing the staff
size 25%. Outside factors were also changing staff jobs and work-
loads. The Library was experiencing changes in usage patterns,
decreases in gate counts, and increases in the use of electronic
resources. Staff needed to learn new skills since their jobs were evolv-
ing to include broader responsibilities.
In 2003, Document Delivery=Interlibrary Loan and Stacks staff
were integrated into the desk schedule rotation. Shortly thereafter,
these units were merged with Circulation Services to create the Access
Services department. Staff members in Access Services were cross-
trained and expected to perform all essential functions of the depart-
ment, including document delivery=interlibrary loan and stacks
maintenance.
A decreased budget and increased usage of electronic materials led
to the Library purchasing and circulating fewer books and journals.
This trend affected technical services staff who were cataloging and
processing fewer materials each year. To preserve the positions and
tap into the expertise of these specialists, four paraprofessionals from
acquisitions, serials, and cataloging were assigned to cover the desk in
July 2005.
Adding technical services staff to the desk schedule made it pos-
sible to implement an ‘‘on-call reference’’ pilot project on July 5,
2005, in which professional librarians worked reference hours in their
offices rather than on the desk. The project had been under consider-
ation for some time, because reference librarians were more involved
in teaching classes and participating in other outside library projects.
The number of reference questions being asked at the desk had been
decreasing for several years. During the on-call shifts, librarians
could remain available for reference help while focusing on projects
that could not have been completed while at the desk.
388 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY
EVALUATION
LibQUALþ, a survey instrument produced by the Association of
Research Libraries, provides a tool for measuring library users’ per-
ceptions of service quality and identifying gaps between desired,
perceived, and minimum expectations of service. The Library con-
ducted its first LibQUALþsurvey in March 2002,
8
one month prior
to appointing the Common Service Desk Steering Committee, which
was charged with transitioning the desk to a single or common ser-
vices point. Survey results indicated that patrons had high expecta-
tions for Affect of Service and placed considerable value on a
courteous and knowledgeable staff. The Library consistently came
close to meeting all desired expectations in this area. The Lib-
QUALþsurvey was repeated in April 2003, during the same month
that the new single service desk officially opened. Findings were
consistent with what was learned from the initial survey in 2002,
indicating that users were satisfied and valued the levels of service
they received. LibQUALþwas implemented again in 2007, provid-
ing an opportunity to investigate whether service had improved
since the initiation of the single service point. Summary data
showed that ratings were very strong in terms of meeting customer
service expectations. Respondents indicated that employees were
consistently courteous, ready to respond to users’ questions, and
willing to help.
The Library undertook a number of other evaluation activities in
2007 to complement the LibQUALþsurvey, including a series of
focus group sessions and a brief LSD survey to assess patron satisfac-
tion with services at the desk. Focus group participants indicated they
found staff at the desk to be very helpful and saw no barriers to ask-
ing for help. The LSD survey affirmed the LibQUALþand focus
group data and demonstrated that patrons generally received the
information they needed at the LSD and were satisfied with the refer-
ral process.
Although the LibQUALþand LSD surveys had evaluated service
from the patrons’ perspective, no formal method of gathering feed-
back from desk staff had been performed since a reference services
retreat in January 2006. At that time, most staff (71%) felt that the
schedule worked for them, but they were uncertain about the new
on-call project’s effect on patron service (21% thought it worked well
Murphy et al. 389
for the Library, 64% were unsure how well it worked, and 14%
thought it did not work).
After two years of the on-call project, it was time to check back
with staff to gauge the system’s effectiveness. In September 2007,
the Public Services department developed two surveys, one for para-
professional staff who worked the desk and the other for librarians
who worked on-call reference. Overall, staff felt more positive about
how the on-call system was working for the Library: 66% thought it
worked well; 27% were uncertain, and 5% thought the system did not
work. Other findings showed that 80% of the on-call librarians
thought the system worked for them. In addition, the revised core
competencies were felt to be at a level appropriate to the kinds of
questions being asked at the desk, and staff expressed a need for
on-call circulation experts, similar to the process for reference
librarians.
NEW AND FUTURE DIRECTIONS
Moving to a single service point provided the Library with an
opportunity to take a fresh look at other services and think about
future directions. Sometimes it provided a reason to look at workflow
or the allocation of responsibilities. At other times, staff considered
ways to redefine or extend existing services. Staff also understood
they could have a voice in how and what services were delivered
and suggested new directions as well.
Instant Messaging
In 2002, the Library had tried offering virtual reference service
through LSSI, but it was not successful. However, with the on-call
reference schedule and more patrons using online systems, the
decision was made to try it again. Given decreasing gate counts
and reference questions, the hope was to reach users who no longer
came to the physical library and to appeal to those who preferred
using online technologies. After a successful pilot project, the virtual
reference system, using instant messaging, was fully rolled out to the
Duke Medicine community in 2007. Its use has continued to grow,
prompting the Library to more seriously consider using blogs, wikis,
and other social networking technologies.
390 MEDICAL REFERENCE SERVICES QUARTERLY
Business Services
Patients and their families frequently wander into the Library,
which is situated between Duke Hospital and Duke Clinics. While
seeking health information, they also want a place to handle personal
business. Family members and long-term patients, such as those
awaiting transplants, started using the Library for access to e-mail,
which prompted other questions about business related services. With
equipment and people already in place, it appeared to be a logical
next step to offer fax and notary services, in addition to providing
access to computers and copiers.
Library Billing
Customer service and training issues brought to light the need to
change the support structure for Library billing. Questions concern-
ing bills for interlibrary loan and document delivery services had
always been a nightmare for staff working the desk, since people
had to understand the detailed interlibrary loan tracking system, as
well as the process for handling payments and invoices. Responsi-
bility for answering questions frequently bounced back and forth
between the interlibrary loan unit and anyone working the desk.
After several poor customer service encounters and repeated frustra-
tions among desk staff, the decision was made to move all the billing
and payment responsibilities to Library Administration, where a
small team of people have been able to streamline the work process,
integrate it into other financial processes, and provide prompt cus-
tomer service.
History of Medicine and Archives
Following up on the idea that the service desk was a gateway to all
library services, the Library also explored how History of Medicine
and Archives could be highlighted. Both service areas have much
to offer the Duke Medicine and broader university communities
but are not explicitly represented or showcased at the service desk.
A small planning group considered whether staff should be trained
to triage history and archives questions but decided that awareness
of these resources, and what each area had to offer, would be suf-
ficient in prompting appropriate referrals. Staff training sessions deli-
neated the special services and resources available from Archives and
Murphy et al. 391
the History of Medicine and explained when patrons should be
referred to these service points.
CONCLUSION
When you move from revolution to evolution, it does not make
you immune to reoccurring challenges and nightmares. While the sin-
gle service point is efficient and effective in terms of customer services
and utilization of staff, a library must continue to revisit processes
and staff responsibilities as people, systems, and needs change. The
key is to be flexible and not think that the first set of plans and activi-
ties will be the last. Battles may be fought again, since change will
usually create resistance and fear among most, if not all staff.
Clear communication about changes, skills, duties, and expected
competencies is essential. Training is a crucial component of com-
munication as well as a way to ensure that competences are in place.
Adequate coverage of the desk is a key element, but it is also impor-
tant to be more innovative in how to use staff, both on and off the
desk. Evaluation of the single service point must be done on a regular
basis to ensure all the pieces are falling into place, staff are providing
good customer service, and most importantly, the needs of the
patrons are being met. Once in place, the single service point model
allows the library to consider ways to expand and go beyond tra-
ditional services.
Received: May 9, 2008
Revised: June 5, 2008
Accepted: June 27, 2008
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... Several studies address the challenge of assessing a newly consolidated service point (Flanagan & Horowitz, 2000;Fitzpatrick et al., 2008Murphy et al., 2008Jacoby & Searing, 2015). For example, do increased gate counts after merging public service desks signify improved service quality or increased educational outcomes? ...
... Consider creating a task force or using a neutral facilitator to guide the process and clarify and communicate change widely (Bracke et al., 2007;Bradigan & Rodman, 2007;Wang & Henson, 2011). Communicate consistently and regularly with stakeholders (Murphy et al., 2008;Panella & Dunn, 2015;Holder & Lannon, 2015). 4. Recognize that change is essential to continued relevance (Johnson et al., 2011) but take it slow (Crane & Pavy, 2008). ...
... All stakeholders should be "encouraged to have a broader perspective of library services and to take responsibility for patron services that are far outside of their previously narrowly defined job areas" (Reed & Piper, 2013, p. 10). And, finally, continue to revisit processes, procedures, policies, staff responsibilities, training, and documentation as people, systems, and needs change (Murphy et al., 2008). ...
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As libraries of all types and sizes continue to re-envision themselves to remain relevant in a rapidly changing information landscape, the single service point is visible evidence of this effort. In a complex environment, combining formerly disparate functional or service units is for many libraries both an innovative and effective way to manage resources and services. It is the intent of this overview to look beyond these issues to find similarities in theme and application that may be useful for those considering implementation of a one-stop model.
... Upon reviewing the literature, several articles pointed in the direction of using an "on-call" staffing service model. Peters (2015), Murphy, et al. (2008), Arndt (2010), Meldrem, et al. (2005), and others discussed the transition from the traditional staffed reference desk to the "on-call" model. In the case study by Murphy, et al. (2008), a change to a single point service desk model was described that eventually resulted in reference librarians working in an on-call capacity. ...
... Peters (2015), Murphy, et al. (2008), Arndt (2010), Meldrem, et al. (2005), and others discussed the transition from the traditional staffed reference desk to the "on-call" model. In the case study by Murphy, et al. (2008), a change to a single point service desk model was described that eventually resulted in reference librarians working in an on-call capacity. Their study included data from a survey of librarians and library staff conducted two and half years after the on-call model was implemented. ...
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The concept of the reference desk as a place was introduced in the late 1870s, and has been the standard for providing information service to library users even to this day. There have been critics who proposed the elimination of the reference desk, concluding that it was an inefficient method for meeting library user’s information needs. The feasibility of moving away from the reference desk as a service point has become more and more viable thanks to technological innovations and increasing instructional opportunities. These changes may be the reasons for a continuing decline in reference desk activity. At the Felix G. Woodward Library at Austin Peay State University, Library personnel performed an analysis of reference transactions and used the results to make changes to their reference services. This paper looks at the impact these changes may have had, and tries to determine specific reasons for the continuing decrease in the use of the reference desk.
... Murphy affirms that "from the initial inception … communication would be an essential component of the single service point." 9 Communicating the reasons for the changes that are occurring and involving staff at all levels was considered to be critical for staff buy-in to the process. The end result was that libraries were able to achieve efficiencies, improve staff job satisfaction, and remain relevant. ...
Article
In July 2015, the Health Sciences and Human Services Library (HS/HSL) at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB), merged its reference and circulation services, creating the Information Services Department and Information Services Desk. Designing the Information Services Desk with a team approach allowed for the re-examination of the HS/HSL’s service model from the ground up. With the creation of a single service point, the HS/HSL was able to create efficiencies, improve the user experience by eliminating handoffs, create a collaborative team environment, and engage information services staff in a variety of new projects.
... Along with all of these circumstances, libraries have sought creative ways to better make use of existing staff and improve customer service. In this context, moving away from multiple service points to one single service desk seems to be one way to address the problem of decreasing or controlled resources while meeting patron needs (Murphy, Peterson, Vines, von Isenburg, Berney, James, Rodriguez and Thibodeau 2008). ...
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There persists an intense debate on whether or not the traditional reference desk should be in academic libraries. Yet, despite many anti-desk studies, the place of the reference desk still remains. This paper aims to review the current significance of the reference desk for some libraries, as well as the importance of choosing the proper reference model that fits each institution. Furthermore, it points out that eliminating or reforming the reference desk requires careful analysis by both librarians and administrators. The paper also characterizes reference service at the National Medical Library of Cuba.
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The University of South Carolina Aiken is a four-year regional, public, baccalaureate institution of approximately 3,200 students in rural South Carolina, established in 1961. Independent library services began in 1975, and the library now offers 40,000 square feet of materials, computing areas, office, and instruction space, supported by a faculty and staff of thirteen. The library uses a combined team of seven librarians to provide both instruction and reference services. These services are led by independent coordinators who are responsible for managing their respective programs but do not have supervisory responsibilities. The shared resources of the two teams lead to a number of synergies, including shared instruction materials, greater responsiveness, greater insight to reference questions, proactive resolution of common reference issues, and insightful collection development. However, this arrangement also leads to challenges due to limited financial resources, personnel resources, development opportunities, and balancing workloads between the two services throughout the semester. A new course was also added to general education requirements in the fall of 2011 that made information literacy a key component of educational outcomes early in a student’s college career. To address future development, the reference and instruction teams are expanding the online educational resources available to students and faculty, reconsidering the availability and delivery of reference services, and exploring new modes of teaching and outreach.
Article
Academic medical libraries have responded to changes in technology, evolving professional roles, reduced budgets, and declining traditional services. Libraries that have taken a proactive role to change have seen their librarians emerge as collaborators and partners with faculty and researchers, while para-professional staff is increasingly overseeing traditional services. This article addresses shifting staff and schedules at a single-service-point information desk by using time-driven activity-based costing to determine the utilization of resources available to provide traditional library services. Opening hours and schedules were changed, allowing librarians to focus on patrons’ information needs in their own environment.
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Purpose-Merging library traffic from dispersed service points into a combined services desk is not new, and many reasons prompt this move. George Mason University, Virginia's largest public research institution, combined a total of 10 service desks located in four libraries on three distributed campuses. To consolidate services and reduce costs, the Mason Libraries established a "one-stop" service point in each library. With the goal of "one-stop" service point in each facility, the Mason Libraries recrafted physical spaces, reviewed policies, procedures, and workflows as well as revised staff roles and responsibilities. Methodology/approach-This chapter explores why institutions embark on redesigning the traditional library service desk; discusses how changing service needs impact desk space; and addresses the effect on public services personnel. Observations are based on highlights from the evolution of George Mason University Libraries' goal of a "one-stop" service point in each library to provide more efficient and consistent userfocused interactions and services. Findings-As a manager of one of the facilities, the author provides insights on achieving a "one-stop" service point. Originality/value-This chapter considers library staff needs, in concert with internal effort to not only refine user services influencing changes, but also revisit policies, procedures, and workflows to align staff roles and responsibilities. Mason Libraries is one of a few university library systems trying to implement single service points in all libraries. © 2017 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
Article
This article discusses a public service review and redesign that resulted in a blended service desk combining reference and circulation functions, staffed by nonlibrarians. The redesign implements a number of organizational structures that encourage service excellence, as found in the business literature and in examples of nonlibrary organizations that excel in customer service. The article identifies key organizational structures that have been shown to support or hinder good service and discusses the process of implementing these structures in practice and the results of an assessment process designed around determining success.
Article
The library implemented a new service model focusing on improved expertise, efficiency, and morale during a period of leadership change and workforce reduction. Implementation of a Disney-type service model helped identify skill sets for departmental reorganization. Hiring methods targeted candidates that best fit expectations for the changing needs of the library. New service goals led to improved skills, better personnel matches, and increased dedication. Results included several University Library monetary awards, as well as patron comments that directly related to the changes. The goal-oriented plan implemented by the library addressed a work-force reduction and created a new, highly appreciated service model.
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Reference services are advancing. Libraries now offer reference through email, chat, and even text messaging. Earl K. Long Library at the University of New Orleans has been providing two of these three methods and is now covering the third method-the elusive and often expensive text reference at no cost and with little effort through Twitter and TweetDeck. Twitter is cell phone-friendly. This means that users can send Twitter messages and updates through text messaging. They can also send and receive direct messages to/from their cell phones. With the help of a free program called TweetDeck, libraries can utilize this Twitter function to provide advanced virtual reference. TweetDeck allows the Twitter user to view multiple columns that relate to one or more Twitter accounts all on one screen. There are columns for direct messages to the user (tweets that contain D ekl_library), messages about the user (@ekl_library) and messages that contain a certain term or hashtags (#unolib). Hashtags can be used like subject headings to group tweets on the same topic together. Libraries can choose a specific hashtag for their users to use with their questions, making it easier for the library staff to find questions directed to the library. Once these tweets are located, the library staff can respond directly to the user with the answer to his/her question. By responding directly to the user, Twitter will actually send a text message to the user with the librarian’s response. Twitter can offer libraries a wonderful future. Libraries can have their own hashtags or work with other libraries using a group hashtag. In the future, librarians may even work separately across the world with the same hashtag-something simple like #libref or #ref. Much like the popular “Slamming the Boards,” librarians could assist Twitter users with everything from questions about the weather to questions about research.
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In response to changing user behavior and decreased funding, the University of Arizona Library recognized a need to reevaluate how it provided information and referral services. A project team conducted action gap surveys to determine customer satisfaction, logged questions actually asked to establish appropriate staffing needs, and calculated the cost of providing these services. As a result of the data gathered, new service and staffing models were implemented that reduced both the number of service points and reliance on professional staff without a reduction in perceived quality.
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The objective of this study was to identify trends in academic health sciences libraries (AHSLs) as they adapt to the shift from a print knowledgebase to an increasingly digital knowledgebase. This research was funded by the 2003 David A. Kronick Traveling Fellowship. The author spent a day and a half interviewing professional staff at each library. The questionnaire used was sent to the directors of each library in advance of the visit, and the directors picked the staff to be interviewed and set up the schedule. Seven significant trends were identified. These trends are part of the shift of AHSLs from being facility and print oriented with a primary focus on their role as repositories of a print-based knowledgebase to a new focus on their role as the center or "nexus" for the organization, access, and use of an increasingly digital-based knowledgebase. This paper calls for a national effort to develop a new model or structure for health sciences libraries to more effectively respond to the challenges of access and use of a digital knowledgebase, much the same way the National Library of Medicine did in the 1960s and 1970s in developing and implementing the National Network of Libraries of Medicine. The paper then concludes with some examples or ideas for research to assist in this process.
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Interest in consolidating service points within health sciences libraries continues. This article proposes a definition of a library single service point and mentions some notable examples in academic health sciences libraries. The experiences of two of these libraries are summarized and compared, and the advice culled from those experiences is shared. The advice is in the form of sharing lessons learned, answering six frequently asked questions about combining services and staff under a single service umbrella. The article offers insights for other library staff considering this type of service reorganization.
Article
New roles for librarians are emerging as a result of rapid changes in information technology. The literature is replete with controversy about nonprofessionals staffing the reference desk, yet such changes in staffing may provide the time librarians need to do other tasks. This paper describes a research project that examined reference desk staffing in academic medical school libraries and its effect on questions received and the provision of a consultation service. A questionnaire was sent to all academic medical school libraries in North America and a 70% return rate was achieved. Results indicated a significant relationship between nonprofessional staffing and both the questions received and the provision of research consultation by appointment. The author suggests that services be reconfigured to make more effective use of both professional and nonprofessional staff.
Article
Changes in the role of information services librarians and in the health care environment have required a rethinking of the provision of reference services at the University of Illinois at Chicago Library of the Health Sciences. This is a report of a new service offered after that analysis. An information desk staffed by twenty-five library technical assistants was established. Details of staff training, scheduling, and data gathering for this new service are provided. After eight months of operation, an evaluation of services provided by the Information Desk was conducted. A combination of evaluation methodologies, both quantitative and qualitative, has been used to determine overall staff performance. Results from analysis of service statistics, structured observations of real-time services operations, and questionnaires distributed to information services librarians and to patrons are presented. The findings from this study are discussed in terms of comparison with similar studies in other libraries and identification of future research studies. The results confirm the value of the Information Desk and support the decision to continue this service model.
Redesign Your Reference Desk: Get Rid of It!” Paper presented at the ACRL Twelfth National Conference
  • J A Meldrem
  • L A Mardis
Meldrem, J.A.; Mardis, L.A.; and Johnson, C. ''Redesign Your Reference Desk: Get Rid of It!'' Paper presented at the ACRL Twelfth National Conference, Minneapolis, MN, April 7-10, 2005.
Determine if the library owned an item
  • Murphy
Determine if the library owned an item. Murphy et al.
New Models for Reference Services: Analysis of the Single Service Point
  • E S Dain
Dain, E.S. New Models for Reference Services: Analysis of the Single Service Point. MSLS Thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1998.
The LibQUALþ Challenge: An Academic Medical Center's Perspective, Duke University
  • R Peterson
  • B Murphy
  • S Holmgren
  • P L Thibodeau
Peterson, R.; Murphy, B.; Holmgren, S.; and Thibodeau, P.L. ''The LibQUALþ Challenge: An Academic Medical Center's Perspective, Duke University.'' In Libraries Act on Their LibQUALþ Findings: From Data to Action, edited by F.M. Heath, M. Kyrillidou, and C.A. Askew, 83-98. New York: The Haworth Information Press, 2004.