Access Services Conference 2015

Posted on 17 Nov 2015 Conference, Technology, Circulation

Quick Summary of Take-Aways:

  • “Open” course reserves contained within a secure reserves room
  • All required course textbooks on reserve as a service to students under financial stress
  • Tiered systems of Student-Staff training and progression
  • Gamified online training modules for Student-Staff including student-generated content
  • Comprehensive review of written messaging and automated notices to patrons
  • Technology lending of high-end cameras, camcorders, GoPros, and Fitbits
  • Office or department delivery for faculty and grad students of requested items

Keynote: Peter Bromberg

Bromberg: Why are we here today?


Bromberg’s casual and lightly funny keynote set the tone for the conference by asking open questions, encouraging the audience to meditate on topics such as change, user expectations, and organizational citizenship.

The audience laughed in unison to Louis CK’s routine on Conan about how quickly we feel entitled to new things, such as in-flight WiFi, and take for granted ubiquitous technologies, such as air travel. Punctuated by quotations on the “deeply weird” accelerated pace of change, change as “permanent whitewater”, and the “exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth”, Bromberg provoked thought more than he provided answers. He drew the analogy of Kodak’s inability to adapt to a changed marketplace because of their fundamental conception of their business as film photography and not memory preservation. We must future-proof our libraries by being agile, flexible, adaptable, innovative, and responsible. This includes flattening the organization, taking queues from design thinking, and implementing an entrepreneurial model.

Bromberg’s presentation diverged into recommendations on mindfulness, meditation, and healthy lifestyle as touchstones of emotional and social intelligence. Admittedly, this section resonated less with me, but I can understand that others might find it inspirational and motivational. He left us with the advice of every day considering three actions to move in the direction of how we want the world to look.

Creating Customer Service Training for the Academic Library

From MIT Libraries, the presenters discussed a two-pronged approach to reviewing their customer service practices both online and in-person. The “Reshaping Mediated Services” group considered the image and brand they wished to convey, and articulated a service philosophy focused on user experience. They inventoried and reviewed all written messaging to patrons, including automated notices (e.g. hold pickups, overdues) and email responses. Because of the volume of this form of interaction with patrons, revising messages to improve clarity, consistency in tone, and friendliness was important.

Following the written messaging review, they developed mandatory training for all service staff. A mix of activities such as role-playing, recalling positive and negative service experiences, and mapping values to actions resulted in the definition of great customer service. Because of the time investment from staff and potential for resistance to mandatory training, support from administration was crucial for the success of the project. They plan to implement a cyclical process of review and evaluation, and to develop an abridged version of training for student assistants.

Ask Us: A Single Service Point Success Story

Ask Us


After a new library was built at North Carolina State University, the team set to reconfiguring the main floor of the older Hill library to follow a new brand identity and single service point model implemented at the new location. The redesign of the desk was inexpensive but effective, lowering the height of reserves shelving and adding an eye-catching “Ask Us” wall. A service manager role, rotating between customer-experience-focused staff, ensures quality service and coordinates the flow of activity by adding or relieving staff at the desk. The transition was aided by staff restructuring prior to the combining of service points, placing people into technical services roles who do not prefer customer service.

Increasing the use of student employees at the Ask Us desk necessitated a more thorough online training program, an evaluation system focused on “Strengths, Weaknesses, Absences, and Tardies”, and the tough job of letting go students for inadequate performance. The high expectations for student staff are communicated clearly, as they are considered to be subject experts within particular areas and are relied on by full time staff.

Revitalizing Customer Service through Student Leadership

Claremont Colleges in Southern California felt that their student assistants were “warm bodies” looking after desks at various library entrances. Looking closely at their budget, they found they had more capacity than they were using, and revamped their hiring and training model to allow for progression of rank, as well as significantly more responsibility and flexibility in duties.

Students attend twice weekly training focused on library policies and procedures, and are invited to all staff events and workshops. They are taught library core values and hold a unique role as ambassadors of the library, carrying the importance of the library outward into their social and academic communities of students. Expectations are communicated clearly from the interview, and in partnership with staff, they become leaders and mentors among students. As student assistants are promoted through the three-tiered system, they are able to specialize in areas of interest such as research services, special collections, digital projects, grant funded projects, and membership on the Board of Student Stakeholders.

Poster Session Highlights

  • A courier system for delivery on campus of requested materials. The study was framed in the context of cost savings to the campus, as the time of researchers and faculty members (with much higher salaries than library Student-Staff) is saved.
  • An iPad app used for tracking space usage in combination with library floorplans. This was particularly useful for the developers, a multimedia library, where many devices provided (e.g. DVD players) do not record usage statistics.
  • A guide to triaging reference questions for student staff. The training guide assists students in answering common questions received by circulation, in helping patrons get started with research when reference service is unavailable, and in providing clear guidelines for reference question referrals.

Technology Lending: The Wave of the Future

Technology Lending Room


Staff at Clemson University Library discussed their experience implementing a technology lending program to fill the gap of high-end equipment which wouldn’t typically be purchased by students. In tandem with a learning commons upgrade, they partnered with Adobe to create an Adobe Creative Studio with the Adobe Creative suite, A/V production studios, and a Behance wall. Their initial collection included high-end DSLR cameras, point & shoot cameras, camcorders, tripods, GPS, and iPads. Since then, as funding has become available, they have added requested items such as a green screen, GoPros, and Fitbits. The collection of 350 items accounts for 12.9% of their total circulation and has necessitated the full-time attention of a Technology Co-ordinator, who performs tasks such as wiping data saved on devices, troubleshooting reported problems, inventorying the items, and checking in materials while monitoring damage.

“But We’ve Never Done This Before!”: One University’s Textbooks on Reserve Pilot Project

Are we a library or a museum?


By coincidence, this presentation was scheduled without any other concurrent sessions. It was fortunate, as this was a particularly inspiring session on a typically contentious topic. From Sewanee University Library, Courtnay Zeitler spoke about the success of their “every required textbook on reserve” pilot undertaken this year.

The session was framed in the context of learning equity and the financial climate for students. 83% of students at Sewanee are receiving financial aid, while textbook costs are consistently climbing and simultaneously being under-budgeted for. Professors are reporting that online readings are not read as carefully by students, and that acquiring digital permissions for one-time use rights is financially unsustainable and unpredictable.

Sewanee “made friends with” the campus bookstore and learned that most of their revenue comes from sales of official merchandise and office supplies, rather than textbook sales. By partnering with the bookstore, the library obtained textbook lists from faculty for materials which would be required reading.

The pilot resulted in the purchase of 615 titles amounting to $24,500 for September 2015. The dean communicated to faculty that all required books would be available at the library, and instructors passed this information along to students via their syllabi. With minimal marketing on the part of the library, word spread quickly among students. Reserves circulation increased 2284% and resulted in increased traffic to the library with lineups and fines collections previously unseen. Their general circulating collection typically sees checkouts on only 42% of items, where every single course textbook was checked out at least once. Students verbally expressed their happiness with the service. Zeitler profiled 3 students in financial need who relied on the textbooks on reserve service, where otherwise they would be unable to purchase their required course books, or would have to make significant sacrifices elsewhere.