Friday 20 April 2012
Journal club - new article for discussion
"Eliminating traditional reference services in an academic health science library - a case study" or "get out of the office and hug a clinician (- anon). Can we apply some of the lessons learned?
"Eliminating traditional reference services in an academic health science library - a case study" or "get out of the office and hug a clinician (- anon).
Stephanie J Schulte
Eliminating traditional reference services in an academic health sciences library: a case study
J Med Libr Assoc. 2011 October; 99(4): 273-279.
The article is open access here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193369/pdf/mlab-99-04-273.pdf
Although set in an academic health library, this paper will be relevant to many of us in different settings. The ideas are discussed in light of the current climate common to us all - i.e. less money and consequently less staff. It gives a good practical illustration of using gap analysis as a tool to solve a problem. Elements of the study could be applied even by those of us working in solo situations.
By removing traditional reference desk services and providing an alternative of "specialised reference transactions" more transactions were conducted. Staff time was also freed up to allow more flexible and proactive use of Specialists' time. This increase may also have been due in part to other small scale initiatives begun at similar times. Key lessons learned include training required to allow front desk staff to correctly decide whether or not to address a query or pass it for more specialised attention, and how to appropriately relay this message to users; definitions are required to distinguish basic and specialised enquiries; "common" marketing required to ensure the service works equally well in different schools or departments. The future hope is for more embedded specialists within schools.
- Can you see a way that these ideas could help you achieve more focussed, relevant, and "productive" work in the face of less staff time?
- Would a gap analysis help you to work from your current situation to a different way you would like your service to run?
- Do you have problems getting people to attend training sessions you schedule? Do you think the success in addressing this issue in this paper could be applied in your setting?
We look forward to hearing people's thoughts on this...over to you...
Paul Manson replied on 26 Apr 2012 at 16:03
The implementation of this programme seems to have been fairly straightforward and shown some improvements (though the author's admit they can't be sure that they are all down to this programme). However, the main points that came to me on reading it, and comparing it to the ideas behind 'Knowledge into Action' , aren't quite so positive.
Having librarians attached to specific teams so their work is focussed on that team means they are simply not in the library to deal with users. Obvious really, but it has taken this article to make it clear to me. If there are 30 specialities in a hospital and only 10 are covered by the programme, who helps the other 20? I don't think any NHS library is so well resourced it can support every speciality & department. This appears to put more pressure on the assistants as they are answering more queries, deciding which to refer (albeit within a protocol), and being faced with more potentially difficult encounters as they tell enquirers their question can't be answered now (recognised by the proposal for "suggested language ... to positively frame the new service", p.277). As the article says, not all the assistants were happy with this - it is not what they had signed up for. In the context of KSF, this kind of increase in responsibility might also move them up a grade.
Similarly, the need to be proactive about outreach & marketing doesn't come easily to all librarians ("it became clear that not all librarians have the time or proclivity to create and disseminate customized outreach to their colleges", p.278). Again, this could be considered to be a significant change to the terms of employment, beyond the constant need to develop services, and could be enough to jump KSF bands - or even to say the job is no longer tenable.
The embedding idea seems to work and the ability to create & grow relationships with departments has clear benefits, but I have reservations about how labour intensive it is, and the quality of service available to those departments not covered by the programme.
By the by, one thing I did like was the name of the help desk: Assistance, Service Knowledge (ASK). I wonder if it's copyrighted?
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