Monday, August 6, 2012

Roving - The Review (part 4)

How did it go (and how do we know?) (No more rhymes, I promise)

The Stats:
This year with the increased staffing from the 4, fully trained peer-support Advisers we have seen quite impressive increases in enquiries handled (both completed and referred to other teams) in fact enquiries front of house have risen by a total of 88% across the year. This was in comparison to having 3 established roving Advisers and some support from temps in the previous year. We have also seen a 31% rise in the number of additional tasks completed by Advisers whilst front of house (things like replacing receipt rolls, unjamming copiers, picking up litter etc.).

Internal Feedback: 
We have had several really positive pieces of feedback from other teams who have benifitted from this years trial - for example from our Customer Support (Helpdesk) team because we have been able to offer more support over weekends, and from our Steward team who staff the building when we run on self-service only during staff development days - as this year we have been able to support this with Adviser cover too.

Is that all Boss?
You might be forgiven for thinking that this leads us to the conclusion that the project was an overwhelming success and there is nothing more to do. However, we all know, deep down, that that is just never the case...

Adviser Comments:
The Peer-support Advisers gave a load of really really useful feedback about the role and their experiences. The key themes were around training for the role and student reactions to them as staff. So here's what they said:

1. Training: 
We tried to get most of their training in before term started but this meant they forgot a lot of things later on. The key suggestions were:
  • More practical on-the-job training accompanied by an established member of the team, carrying on for a longer period of time
  • Put training refreshers online so they can be completed on ipads during quieter periods while staff are on duty - so saving the need for separate training, making staff available for service cover whilst training, and also giving staff something productive to do when the service is quiet
  • Get a wider range of staff from other teams involved in delivering training (or attending the training with the Advisers where appropriate) so they get to meet other staff in context - really useful for understanding and remembering who to refer what to - also just for putting names to faces early on
2. Student reactions: 
The Advisers generally, not just the Peer-support Advisers, raised issues around the student perception of the role. The main things were: 
  • Students thought Advisers were volunteers, not trained staff
  • Students asked Advisers if the ipads were their own, from home
  • Students thought Advisers could only perform very basic services and would rather queue at the Helpdesk than approach an Adviser for anything complex
  • Students confused Advisers with Stewards (who's role is to support appropriate use of the study environment and ensure rules and regs are followed)
We held a short focus group and ran a quick survey of students to find out how much they understood about front of house roles in general. The results were not surprising. Students on the whole did not know who does what or why. They tend to go to the Helpdesk for everything, whether this is appropriate or not - even to the extent that they would walk down 4 flights of stairs to go to the desk for help finding a book or using equipment, rather than ask the roving Adviser or Steward who was already on that floor. 

Of course the irony is that the Helpdesk often refer these same students back to the Advisers for assistance, because Helpdesk staff are mostly desk-bound so cannot usually go up to other floors to help find books, use equipment etc. Also because Advisers take the first level of referrals for e-resource access enquiries - which we get quite a lot of.

The Advisers do pick up a lot of enquiries, and they are helping a lot of customers every day. But we are clearly missing a proportion of students who are either unlikely to approach them or even actively avoid them. And on top of the obvious implications for service delivery it is not good for staff morale when they approach a student and offer help only to be told "No thanks, I want to speak to a real member of staff" (yes, that's an actual quote from an actual student).

Adviser Overalls: 
Overall the Advisers say they have enjoyed the role and got a lot out of it. They have gained customer service experience, learned more about the library and had fun. It has been worth while for them in terms of experience and skill sets and will be useful on a CV.

Knowing me and knowing you:
By the end of term 3 of the trial year there were still key staff in other teams who did not know who all the Advisers were, and by the same token, there were Advisers who did not know all the staff they should be making referrals to. This takes us back to the point about involving a wider number of staff in the training program. It also prompted us to start making drag and drop photo match games of key people we refer enquiries to. 


Basically, its been fab! 
  • The Peer-support Advisers have enjoyed it and got a lot out of it and so have the established team.
  • We have been able to provide an increased service to customers
  • We have gathered valuable feedback about the service and the student perception of the service
  • We have gained valuable feedback about Adviser training provision
  • We have a great basis for developing both training and marketing 
So what? 
So now we need to think about how to use this feedback to best effect and develop the service for next year. Thats coming up in the next post "The Future".

Related Posts: 
The rOverview of this topic can be found in the first post.
The People (who are these wild rovers?)
The Tech (what wireless wizzardry is required to make roving work at Warwick?)

Still to come: The Future (whatever next?)

(Images: The cute bear in overalls is courtesy of Jo Naylor on Flikr

Friday, June 8, 2012

Roving - The Tech (part 3)

What wireless wizzardry is required to make roving work at Warwick? (no more tongue twisters, I promise)...

Mobile phones: 
Advisers can be anywhere in the building at any time, so they communicate with each other and with other teams (for referrals, complex enquiries etc.) using mobile phones. Our other roving team - the Stewards (who deal with primarily student behaviour and the library study environment), also carry mobile phones so referrals between the two teams are much simplified. They either text or call each other depending on what it is they need to do.
We also have one mobile phone dedicated to our "Adviser on call" service which allows other front of house teams to call for assistance from an Adviser should they be required for queue busting, referrals assistance, or to take a customer to a particular floor to find a book for example.  "Adviser on call" runs on a rota basis (9am - 6pm Mon - Fri plus weekends if we are covering them) and usually the person rota'd on is someone working back of house who can be interrupted. Sometimes we have to rota on someone who is already roving (which has mixed success as they obviously have to put the phone on silent to go to any quiet floors. It can also mean that it takes them a while to get from wherever they are in the building, to wherever they are needed - so we try to avoid this if we can). This is a service we only offer to other library staff - students cannot phone for Advisers. (They can text for Stewards - but that is another story altogether and not part of my area of responsibility).

Low Tech Starting Points:

In 2009 Advisers started off carrying clipboards to hold useful info, record stats and carry copies of useful handouts etc. Our first attempt at replacing the clipboards was a (rather unsuccessful) smartphone trial. We soon got out hands on some ipads though and these have now become the basic roving enquiry support tool of the team. For an overview of how the trials worked please see "Mobile technology for mobile staff".

So - we got some Ipads: 

To be honest the techie side of this is not my particular area of expertise. We have got our systems up and running with a great deal of support and imagination from the Library's internal technical team (who are seriously cool). They even built us a custom app for our stats recording (an early version of which is pictured right). The established Advisers now work with the technical team to make sure that all systems are Go - I just tell them what it is we need to record and make sure training and updates are in place as things develop. Currently we download stats into a database to run off reports to help me to plan staffing, monitor certain types of enquiries etc.

There are practical things to consider...
Security is an issue, both whilst ipads are in use and whilst they are charging. These issues have now resolved by use of purpose built bags for Advisers to carry and a secure charging unit purchased for the office. But also it's about security of staff IT accounts - making sure people don't leave themselves logged in etc.

We have purchased ipads which work on wireless access only - they do not have data allowance included. So their successful use obviously depends on us having wireless access in the Library, which is usually fine in most of the building, but we do occasionally come across connection problems.

Using ipads also means that we can't play Flash, and this has other implications, particularly when we look at putting equipment user guides online for example. There is no point creating online user guides for students if the staff supporting those students can't access them. So for example, at the time we started looking at online user guides we couldn't just upload our current PDF files into Issuu to make them look good - Issuu wouldn't run on ipads (there seems to be an app for it now). So it can limit what software we can use for these things. Identifying options for this is a current Adviser project. One of the established team is currently looking at creating guides in Prezi and downloading the Prezi app to the ipads to enable Advisers to run them for students on the spot. (The drafted Prezi guides are looking pretty cool actually and may well work out to be better than booklet-style options anyway).

Syncing the ipads is handy to make sure they all have the same stuff on them - but you have to be careful about things you don't want to synch. For example you don't want the stats data from one ipad overwriting all the data on the others! So we have found other solutions to some of these issues; such as using a account to store useful links, rather than using syncing to keep the same bookmarks across all the ipads.

...which ipad is which?...
Make sure your ipads are marked in some way so you can tell them apart easily. We got the free engraving from Apple when we ordered them. We had them numbered so we know which one is which, and also got the library address engraved on them so we know they are ours. (Also the Library Advisers have named them all after Cluedo characters and given them the appropriate wall papers to match - but that's another story).


For people who are not familiar with mobile tech and maybe not so confident in messing about with gadgetry in general it is important that there is proper training in place. Despite the claims in the ipad ad above that "You already know how to use it" not everything is immediately obvious and you really do need to allow staff some time to familiarise with the ipad as you would with any new bit of kit.

For example:
  • Make sure everyone is happy with logging on and off the network - ipads left logged in at handover are an IT security issue
  • Make sure staff are confident carrying them about - early on a lot of people were so scared of dropping them they would bring them back in the office every time they needed to unjam a photocopier. Give people time, and reassurance. Tell them honestly what will happen if an ipad gets damaged or stolen. Is it something they need to be THAT worried about?
  • Don't make too many changes too quickly - updates are best left to the vacation periods so all staff have a chance to catch up on any changes at the same time rather than trying to do lots of small training updates on the hoof
  • Encourage staff to use the ipads for stuff other than roving - let them take them to meetings to take notes, use them for web browsing or checking email at their desks etc. It all builds confidence. 
It's not just the staff who might find it a culture prepared for your students to be a bit confused initially. Library Advisers still (after well over a year of ipads being a core tool of the job) get asked "Is that your own ipad from home?" See earlier post about the culture change associated with this stuff.

Three Key Things to leave you with:

1. Tech Support - how much support you need does, of course, depend on what skills you already have and how much functionality you want to tap into. But for us one of the main things that has made it a success has been that we have had superb technical support - as implementing this in a practical and meaningful way has not been as easy as might have been expected.

2. Staff training and confidence - whether it's fear of dropping the ipad down the stairs or concerns about not being able to connect to the wireless quickly enough - at least a few of your team are likely to be worried about something. Find out what it is - support them until they are happy.

3. Security is important - both for the physical object and the IT accounts. It's easy for people to forget to log out, and on a mobile device this is potentially more problematic than if it was their desk PC - so make sure people are aware of the implications.

Related Posts: 
The rOverview of this topic can be found in the first post.
The People (who are these wild rovers?)

Still to come: The Review (How did it go, and how do we know?) and The Future (whatever next?)

(Images from apart from the stats app - that's real!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Roving - The People (part2)

So, who are these wild rovers...? (no more song titles, I promise)...

The roving Library Advisers currently come in 2 varieties: 3 established staff and 4 temps (who are here this academic year on a trial peer-support project). They all have the same front of house training as we are aiming for a consistent level of service across the whole team. The established Advisers have other responsibilities as well but they are not really relevant here, as everyone does the same job in terms of roving support.

The peer-support Advisers are, or have recently been, library users at the university - this does not mean they have to be current students. As it turned out we mostly recruited current students (1 undergrad, 2 postgrads and 1 recent graduate),  but this is just the way it went at interview. Not all of our customers are current students so the definition of "peer" is not as obvious as it might at first seem.

The peer-support Advisers started training in September, ready for the start of term 1 and followed a structured training program alongside some of the training of the established team. They had training reviews in terms 1 and 2 and have given me valuable feedback on ways we could develop Adviser training for the whole team, not just for peer-support Advisers.

The whole team have been recruited for, amongst other things, their combination of customer service and communication skills and web/technology awareness. They also know their way around libraries and are confident and proactive whilst working largely unsupervised.

Core training: 

Training this year has covered a variety of areas, but can probably be broadly divided into 4 parts:
  1. Customer service issues, including issues specific to roving, how to make face to face referrals and also an awareness of the implications of working with a large proportion of international students.
  2. Physical aspects of the building(s), such as understanding the stock runs and print collections, knowing where various facilities are located and knowing where different teams of staff are based.
  3. Technical skills for the role, such as using ipads, accessing e-resources when certain authentication systems aren't working properly, using the full range of library equipment, and searching the catalogue.
  4. Library systems and staff, including key services, student rules and regulations, the more commonly used policies and who is responsible for what (with relation to referrals as well as authority).
The training for all Library Advisers is now being further developed following some really constructive feedback. One of the key thing I am looking at is how much of the training can be put on line, so it's accessible from the ipads during quieter periods front of house. That way Advisers can still be available and on duty, but can be getting on with training if there is a quiet half hour.

Also - it turns out - it's not all about roving:

Having people available who are not based at a specific service point, but have been trained to have such a broad overview of the service, means that they can be called upon to do all kinds of other things as well. The whole team have been incredibly flexible and willing (often at very short notice) to do just about anything - no matter how involved or how basic from running surveys to staffing marketing stands, supporting groups of schools students, packing freebies in to bags, rolling up posters, delivering impromptu tours for external visitors and more.

Related Posts: 
The rOverview of this topic can be found in the first post.
Next up: The Tech (what wireless wizardry is required to make roving work?)

Still to come: The Review (how did it go this year?) and The Future (whatever next?)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Roving - The rOverview (part1)

At the moment I seem to be getting asked quite a bit about how roving enquiry support works over here. But there are a lot of facets to this, so to prevent boredom and "rOverload" (hopefully) I'm going to break it down into 5 small parts and post over the next couple of weeks. But here's a quick "rOverview" of how it works for my team to set the scene...(no more puns, I promise)...

The Front of House set up:
Enquiry Support are one of 3 Customer Service teams based primarily front of house:
The Customer Support Team (including Library Assistants) staff the Helpdesk and deal primarily with accounts, membership and circulation, but also handle general enquiries and make referrals. 

The Environment Team (made up of Stewards) look after the study environment ensuring people are following guidelines and working in appropriate study zones etc. but also field some enquiries whilst roving and refer a lot of these on. 

The Enquiry Support Team (Library Advisers plus me) provide roving support, including general enquiries, finding and accessing print resources, referrals to specialist staff and referrals advice, first line digital access support, assistance with using equipment etc.

But any member of staff could be dealing with front of house enquiries and referrals so cross team communication and training are important. 

The Enquiry Support Team:
My job title is "Enquiry Support Officer" and I look after the team of Library Advisers. They are the same grade as a Library Assistant and currently I have 3 established Advisers and 2 peer support temps. (I started the academic year with 4 temps, and so far 2 are still here - I am really pleased any of them have stayed this long!)

The peer support temps are here as a trial project for this year. They work along side established staff but are front of house only, just providing roving support. The established Advisers work both front of house (roving) and back of house (the team has quite a broad remit relating to all things enquiry-supporty). But as we're only interested in the roving here, the Advisers are all effectively doing the same job - and wearing the same tee-shirt - pictured right (not literally - that would get crowded). 

The Hours: 
We typically provide roving enquiry support from 10am - 6pm Monday-Friday during terms 1 and 2 and we reduce that in line with service demands in term 3, when most students have their heads stuck in books and past exam papers and are not so much in need of enquiry support, as caffeine and chocolate. 

We cover some weekends and bank holidays, depending on expected demand.

We also operate an Adviser On Call service allowing other front of house teams to phone for an Adviser to come and help a specific person if required.(This number is only available to Library staff - students cannot phone for an Adviser).

The Rest:
So, that's how the basics shape up. I'll post a few separate posts over the next couple of weeks to look at: 
  • The People (who are these wild rovers?)
  • The Tech (what wireless wizardry is required to make roving work?)
  • The Review (how did it go, and how do we know?)
  • The Future (whatever next?)
(Images from - except for the Adviser tee-shirt - that's real!)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Thing 17: The Medium is the Message- Prezi and Slideshare #cpd23

So, Prezi huh?
I tried it out a while ago for an info sharing meeting in Sheffield. Given that my first presentation (the one where things were running a bit late so I didn't have time to actually load the powerpoint so I just talked off the top of my head) was so much better than my Prezi one (which I did have time for and did load properly) I am a little sceptical. Not about Prezi as a tool, but about my prowess as a Prezi-Master.

The fateful nausea-inducing product of my ill-conceived first attempt can be seen below. If it had worked I planned to use it as a staff training tool for our front of house enquiry referral model. I can hear the relieved sighs of 102 members of the Customer Services department as I type. . .

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published #cpd23

Wow - 16 is a BIG thing!

I don't think I have done very well in this area myself, I used to be one of Those People who thought librarians stamped books all day and came into librarianship quite unexpectedly. I think possibly my first (vague) brush with advocacy was writing about this for the Library Routes project in 2009.

Currently I have 2 sets of opportunities for this kind of activity:

1. The Day Job
My job, now I think about it, does involve advocacy in many forms, but this wouldn't have especially occurred to me if hadn't been for this Thing. I work in an academic setting, so it;s a bit different to the kind of advocacy described for public libraries in the CPD23 blog post. But it is still advocacy and it takes many forms, probably the top 4 are:

  • Reporting on stats and management information to demonstrate the work of my team to senior management
  • Working with our Marketing Advisory Group: I am currently working on a specific marketing campaign to improve the customer perception of my team (and other customer services teams) and increase awareness of the breadth of skills these staff have
  • I work with school 6th forms (teachers and students), managing induction sessions to support their studies and help to increase understanding about academic libraries and the importance of our work
  • Working with a committee to plan and manage library orientation and basic information provision for new customers throughout the academic year

2. The CILIP stuff
Outside of my day job I also work with the CILIP West Midlands committee as the Newsletter editor in my "spare time". And it is in that capacity that I hope to be more involved in wider advocacy.

Bits of work including organising and staffing a careers stand and representing CILIP WM at the last ever LIS show in Birmingham have been great and reasonably productive. But 
National Libraries Day Complete Logosadly my biggest idea so far was scuppered by several life-events intervening and resulting in me having to abandon most of my CILIP involvement for the last 4 months or so. But the plan WAS to use CILIP WM capacity to help libraries in the region to publicise events for National Libraries Day back in February. The idea was to gather info from libraries running events, write press releases and get the info out to various places - free newspapers - not free newspapers - local TV and Radio stations - etc. to increase general awareness of the day and also of specific local events. 

I suppose there is always next year. Anyone want to help out ready for Feb 2013?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thing 15 - Conferences and other events #cpd23

I've split this post into the 3 parts, attending, speaking and organising and I'll give just a brief bit of reflection on my experiences of each:

The best events, in my opinion, have the following characteristics:
  • Accurate marketing in advance so you know what you are really signing up for
  • Presentations and activities based on relevant topics at the right pitch for the audience
  • Presentations delivered by interesting and knowledgeable speakers
  • Time to talk to other attendees and share ideas
  • Practical ideas that you can do something with at the end of the event
I've been to several events which I felt were a largely a waste of time, and the main reasons usually centre around poor marketing and poor planning. Going to an event you think will be useful and relevant only to find out the description you read of it was inaccurate and it is not actually covering the topics advertised is very annoying.
But mostly something good will come out of any event you go to - even if it's not part of the main program. It could be that you meet someone working on a similar project to you and swap ideas, sometimes just one thing that one speaker says makes the whole day worth while, or it could even just be that the time you had out of the office gave you a chance to think things through in a different way.

I have spoken a bit at a few small events now - all with relatively small and non-threatening audiences. But it's time to do bigger things soon. I can't guarentee I'll be much good at this, but I am certainly a whole load better than I used to be. Public speaking used to make me feel sick. It doesn't have that effect anymore, and I am starting to enjoy it to a point, but it is still very stressful. This is partly what makes me so sure I need to do more of it!.

I have less experience of this, but have been involved in supporting event organisation. I've organised exhibition stands and staff training sessions etc. but nothing as exciting as a conference, for example.

However, it's one of the things on my list of stuff I'd like to have a go at, and I'm looking out for opportunities both in my day job, and through my CILIP WM role.