Building a New Model for Staffing Chat Reinvented Reference: The Integration of Digital and Traditional Reference Services (RUSA Preconference) Fig. 1.
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Building a New Model for Staffing Chat Reinvented Reference: The Integration of Digital and Traditional Reference Services (RUSA Preconference) Fig. 1 – a) HawkHelp web page showing options. Building a New Model for Staffing Chat: HawkHelp Live Frances A. Devlin, University of Kansas Libraries 2005 ALA RUSA Pre-Conference, Chicago Building a New Model for Staffing Chat: HawkHelp Live Frances A. Devlin, University of Kansas Libraries 2005 ALA RUSA Pre-Conference, Chicago Poster Abstract In 2003, the University of Kansas (KU) Libraries designed and implemented a chat reference service (HawkHelp LIVE) to offer research assistance in real time to students and faculty. As the chat service gained popularity at our institution, we found its usage was limited by restricted hours of availability. To overcome this problem, we decided to extend the hours of the service in two ways. First, we established partnerships with other academic institutions in Kansas (Kansas State, Emporia State and Wichita State universities) to form a Kansas Academic Cooperative Chat Service. This enabled us to extend the hours that chat was offered with additional librarians. We also adopted a novel approach to further extend the service hours (8 a.m.-noon, 9 p.m.-midnight and on weekends) by using peer reference student assistants who staffed our information desk during those times. The peer students were already proficient with instant messaging and only needed training to handle general reference questions. Analysis of the usage statistics indicates that a significant percentage of calls came into the service during the extended hours, indicating the evening and weekend time-slots may be important for maximum utilization of the service. This project could serve as a model for other institutions wanting to expand their chat service hours in a viable and cost-effective manner. HawkHelp LIVE is a program that connects students to the library using an instant messaging service. Students can ask their questions online and co-browse web pages with library staff. With librarians’ help, students can find information, receive guidance on researching topics and learn about the library services and collections. Kansas State University joined the University of Kansas’ program in Spring 2004 to form an academic cooperative chat reference service. Emporia State and Wichita State universities joined in Spring 2005. Fig. 2 - The spreadsheet to the left shows the breakdown of staff coverage with librarians from KU & K-State and Peer Student Assistants for the 2004 fall semester. We faced challenges expanding hours further, as staff already had full work schedules and participation in chat was voluntary. So, we looked to other ways to increase the hours of our chat service and established a partnership with Kansas State University for the summer and fall of 2004. Based on the success of that trial collaboration, invitations to join the service were extended to other State academic institutions in Kansas. Emporia State and Wichita State universities recently joined the Kansas Academic Cooperative Chat Service in spring of 2005. At the same time as we were beginning our trial with Kansas State University, KU Libraries’ public services units began moving to a new service model with trained peer student assistants acting as the initial contact at the information and reference desks in Watson and Anschutz Libraries. With the addition of the student assistants to the chat service, we were able to expand our scheduled hours considerably. By fall 2004, we offered 100 hours/week of chat, with librarians staffing the service in the afternoons and evenings till 9 p.m. and the peer student assistants staffing the mornings, late evenings and weekends (Figure 2). Staffing the Service: History HawkHelp LIVE was launched on the KU campus, March 31, 2003, toward the end of the spring semester and was initially staffed 16 hours/per week, Mon-Thurs. from 12:30–4:30 p.m. Early statistics generated from this time frame were mostly practice sessions among staff in preparation for the fall semester and there were few “real” calls from patrons. However, based on the number of hits to the HawkHelp LIVE web page when the service was closed, we adjusted the schedule for the fall to Sun. 6-9 p.m. and Mon-Wed. 3-9 p.m. – 20 hours/week. We continued to expand service hours for the spring semester 2004 and offered 32 hours/week. Fig. 3 – Statistics above indicate that a significant number of calls came in during the 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and 9 p.m.-midnight time periods (yellow bars) which were staffed by peer student assistants. Fig. 4 - Peer student assistants also staffed the service on Fridays and weekends (yellow bars). A significant usage of the service during these times occurred on Sundays. Conclusions Increased service hours result in increased service to users. Increased usage is partially due to more hours of operation and partially due to awareness of service. Important contributions to increased hours and service came from cooperative academic partnerships. Using peer reference student assistants enabled service to function during expanded hours. Approx. 15-20% of calls to service came during expanded hours. Fig. 6 – This graph shows the changes in hours of service each semester. We were able to offer 100 hours/week in the 2004 fall semester by using peer students to staff the extended hours. Fig. 5 – Usage and awareness of the chat service has increased every semester since its inception in 2003. Fig. 7 – The data show a strong correlation between hours of service and number of calls taken (service to clients). This correlation indicates the importance of maximizing the hours of availability. Analysis of Data b) HawkHelp LIVE web page user entry screen Watson Library on the KU campus