In the seven library buildings located across New Brunswick, we have more than 15 service points where we provide circulation, reference, and specialized services. These desks are staffed by undergraduate students, graduate student reference/information assistants, and library staff and faculty. We know that each desk serves a different role and that the staff at each desk are trained to answer different questions. But we also know that when users have a question, they are not interested in the differences between the desks functions—they just want help.
I am leading the Service Points Team, one of the new groups in the New Brunswick Libraries (NBL) organization, as we start examining services points (physical and virtual) across NBL in order to improve the user experience. Potential areas for exploration include hours, staffing, triage, training, and use analysis, as well as determining how physical service points best complement online services including live chat and Ask a Librarian.
To start our work, the team hosted a series of forums for the NBL staff and faculty during the spring semester. The forums were designed to bring together all of the people who work at the various service points to talk about what works in our current environment and to identify areas where there are opportunities for improvement. The team also gathered feedback online from student workers and those who were unable to attend a forum in person. More than 50 people participated and provided input.
Participants were asked to respond to these three questions:
- When thinking about the service points in the New Brunswick Libraries, what barriers or challenges do you think our users encounter?
- What do you think works well in our current service desk environment?
- From the patron’s point of view, describe an enjoyable/satisfying experience at a library service point.
Service Points Team members took notes during the rich and engaging conversations. We coded more than 400 comments and identified themes that emerged across the sessions. The team will also review the themes identified here along with the LibQUAL survey results, paying particular attention to the general satisfaction, policies, reference, spaces, and staff comments and the “affect of service” ratings to set goals for their work in the coming year.
The full summary from the Service Points Forum will be discussed at the upcoming NBL ALL meetings, and then shared widely across the organization. Generally speaking, we believe our staff and faculty working at service points are our greatest assets—they are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful. We provide a wide range of services through a variety of delivery methods and have experts available to refer specialized questions. However, the number and variety of service points is confusing to our users. They must often visit more than one desk to get the help they need. They have trouble navigating between our desks, in part because we lack clear and jargon-free signage. And although we have experts available for referral, the refer process itself does not always results in a seamless handoff or escalation.
Over the next year, the Service Points Team will gather additional information, particularly about usage patterns, and will begin working on projects to address some of the identified challenges. I welcome any feedback or suggestions you have!