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.