Instant Ideas and Collaboration

Summary – 6th November 2012 – Supporting offsite users

1. What kind of off-site users do you deal with in your job – what contexts are they in?

  • University students and staff. Looking for e-content: e-journals etc.
  • Work at an organization with multiple offices, both domestic and international – lots of different timezones!
  • NHS staff on a different hospital site with no physical library
  • Inter-library loan users – administered by email
  • Librarians who are looking for career development e.g. working out career goals. In US and UK so via Skype, LinkedIn etc.
  • Work for a large international tech-based company, we are remote from 99% of our potential patrons
  • Not that many offsite users, but some PGCEs can’t come into the physical library very often
  • Spanish Ask A Librarian service http://t.co/kW3SOuCS

2. What kind of issues do you tend to find come up when supporting off-site users?

  • Not knowing what the physical collection looks like can impede assistance. Having photos of local collections is helpful.
  • Logins
  •  Resource access issues (error messages), authentication / login difficulties, pay wall messages (subscriptions)
  • 1.Timetables 2.Opening hours 3.Reminders 4.Assistance 5.Checking personal records 6.Searching materials
  • Problems may not be technical per se, users may not be clicking on the correct login links. Resource un-familiarisation
  • Lots of points where things.can go wrong. Trying to figure out where it went wrong can be a task
  • Often tricky to troubleshoot online access issues – sometimes a time difference involved
  • Understanding the needs, culture, customs, etc of remote offices in order to service them properly. Know your patrons.
  • Even people speaking the same language can have very different expectations/culture/etc
  • As with onsite enquiries you have to employ a very logical process to resolve problems
  • Social media logins are easier than library authentication processes. Have to manage users expectations.
  • Logins, problems with websites that people don’t realise are usually accessed via IP recognition – requires explaining!
  • And actually knowing and communicating exactly what is available
  • If it’s a physical book they want then the time it takes for cross site transit might be off putting
  • Trying to troubleshoot can be time-consuming & frustrating. Blogged on this earlier in the yearhttp://t.co/hkRNm3wS. Also blogged on resource usability & user-interaction http://t.co/93jCHvhO
  • Meeting users training requests in more detailed skills such as literature searching. We’re working on the teleporter though.
  • Having book covers displayed when they search the catalogue is useful
  • I’d say it’s important to make the off-campus e-resource experience as close to the on-campus one as possible

3. What challenges do you face when supporting off-site users?

  • Assisting someone on the phone and users getting into the library at the same time going towards the desk
  • Replicating users’ problems when accessing from an onsite work PC. Login steps can vary greatly on / offsite

4. What skills do people need to support off-site users – same or different to onsite users?

  • 1.Politeness 2. Patience 3.Good manners 4.Resourceful 5.Efficient 6.Calm 7.Aiming to help always
  • Patience definitely. Trust in content providers to provide fix when access goes down
  • 1. Common sense 2. The ability to think macro AND micro, but know which one is appropriate for problem-solving 3. Empathy
  • Users get angry when you don’t have a book or something in the library and you can’t tell them other places to find it
  • Extremely good communication & the deduction skills of Sherlock Holmes to decipher people’s issues (often access related)
  • In higher education all our users are ‘offsite’ to some extent now. Even full time undergraduates usually have a job too. so skills sets are the same and continually evolving.
  • Think you need the ability to be able to describe things clearly, especially if supporting over phone. And creativity.

5.  What technology have you found useful in supporting offsite users?

  • Have looked into using screencasts (e.g. Jing) – need to develop this troubleshooting tool
  • Yes, remote access to assist via desktop is ace – utilize programs like Camtasia.
  • Don’t have much access to many technologies, would love to be able to use options allowing us to visually walk through things
  • E-mail for interlibrarian loans Phone.Many users still want face-to-face assistance. Don’t know about social media yet
  • Details of the Bodleian Libraries’ Scan & Deliver service that we’re piloting here: http://t.co/0wcsUHoq. Currently about 40 requests per week. Hardly advertised though and the charge is quite high. We’re reviewing it next month.

5.a.  How many libraries are using social media to support offsite users?

  • We use Twitter & Facebook to provide real-time notifications if we know a resource is down/undergoing maintenance
  • Facebook is popular among libraries since users & librarians can write long comments, add photos, videos, links. I think Facebook offers great options to libraries. Twitter is so limited to 140 characters but good for latest news!
  • We use CoP’s, Online conferencing and Yammer. I’ve also started blogging to raise profile of services.

6. Do you have any ideas for ways to better support off-site users?

  • Create patron-friendly wikis or pathfinders or other self-service modules especially for remote offices with big time differences as to not leave them hanging if they have an immediate need. Also, check in with remote users periodically to gauge needs.
  • FAQs / guide for students & library staff to help recognise & troubleshoot general access problems
  • We have also held an annual eResources showcase for past 4 years, Invite publishers to exhibit & students / staff to attend. The next one is widening from eResources to all library online services / systems
  • Increasing staff or diversify them. One person can’t manage all!! And this is still hapenning in some libraries. Staff development is vital.
  • Creating our own screencasts & linking to publishers screencasts from our web pages
  • In HE perhaps we need to completely re-engineer services to more accurately reflect the changing balance between on- & off campus learners?
  • We need to look to the future and be radical in order to provide better service
  •  I think creating video-tutorials would be wonderful and amazing!!
  •  I think our new UK-hosted EZ Proxy service could be of use to libraries looking to close the off-campus/on-campus user experience gap

7. How do you support off-site users who don’t contact the library?

  • Q7 is almost like, “If a patron falls in a remote office library, do they make a sound?”
  • Serious answer. As the saying goes, you teach them to fish so they can feed themselves, with quality instructional resources +avail to them like the aforementioned wikis/pathfinders/online support/etc. Key is to be responsive & helpful in time of need.
  • Curious how many libraries know what their ratio of on-campus to off-campus e-resource usage is?  For those libraries I know who’ve looked into it, on-campus usually accounts for less than 25% of all usage

8.  What strategies do you use to best provide and market services to non-native speakers?

  • I think the Tourism field could give us good ideas…try to provide materials in their language might be one…
  • In HE international students registered with an institution have to have passed an English language test
  • At #ili2012 @mreidsma recommended using http://t.co/AhC8rGr8 to check the reading level of library web site text and aim for a grade level of 8 or 9 (see http://t.co/Tz2IYpah for more info). Too often, lib stuff is much higher

9.  Do you think librarians will be helping more offsite users in the future?

  • Almost certainly as services are cut from peripheral locations and services either shared or centralised
  •  Yes, & they’ll be using a multitude of different devices (phones, computers, tablets etc) to access content
  • I think the answer depends on the kind of institution you’re in. A company will almost always have remote offices
  • Absolutely yes. Social media are spreading & spreading everywhere and thousands of people join them everyday


Other issues discussed:

How do you use Twitter?

  • Twitter tends to be more for awareness raising, sharing links, commenting on issues, etc + few DM’s sometimes

Time differences

  • I generally work with UK people in the morning (US time, when it’s afternoon there) and US people in the afternoon
  • We notice speed of response of some resources slows down when US comes online in p.m. UK time!
  • Overcoming time zone issues: Try to auto-schedule emails or Tweets/etc to appear at the beginning of the remote office work day, even if it’s 3 am your time.

Trouble-shooting issues

  • Access troubleshooting – anyone using remote access to personal PCs? Or even quick screencasts to explain processes?
  • Definitely – helped quicken the troubleshooting process. Raises staff morale as well, means we can help!
  • We have a library laptop with a mobile USB connection which mimics remote use by students etc. Can test at work
  • A laptop (or PC) with a USB 3G dongle makes it easy to test off-campus access problems whilst you’re on-campus and also handy for anyone doing telephone support for off-campus users, as you can see what they see

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This entry was posted on December 3, 2012 by in Discussion Summaries and tagged , , , , .


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