The Steering Group discussed ways to make more efficient use of the talents of our reference/information assistants across
the New Brunswick Libraries and to provide them with a more valuable pre-professional work experience. This discussion was
guided by a proposal from the Douglass Library Information Services Team entitled
"Adding Value to the Information Assistant Position" (see attached).
The Steering Group decided that, beginning in the fall semester, training for the
assistants will take place in two parts. The first will be NBL-wide and focus on IRIS, databases, and general professional
deportment at the desks. The second will take place at the individual libraries and deal with collection and service issues
specific to those locations. Pilara Brunson, a reference assistant at Alexander, attended to represent her colleagues and
stressed that having the assistants train together initially would help forge sense of community that would in turn enhance
their professional development.
In the coming weeks Pilara will be working with other assistants to develop a Sakai site. This will be a useful forum in which to share their experiences as up-and-coming library professionals. The site is not intended to supersede or conflict with the Sakai sites already set up by the reference teams in individual libraries or other existing resources such as the Common Knowledge Database.
The Steering Group chair recently sent a message to a SCILS listserv advising Library and Information Studies students that in hiring assistants we will give preference to applicants who have a federal work-study grant and providing information on applying for a grant. In the past, we have always given preference to work-study students, but with a particularly lean budget year approaching, encouraging SCILS students to apply for federal funding may be one way to cut costs in a painless fashion. The message was sent shortly before the work-study application deadline. In future, it will be more effective to post a reminder earlier in the spring semester.
Connie Wu is now the acting reference team leader at the Library of Science and Medicine, taking over from Pat Piermatti, who retired this month. Connie has asked the Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services for funding for a reference assistant for LSM. With Marty Kesselman on sabbatical and two retirements, Pat and Howard Dess, scheduling all the hours for the reference desk will be difficult.
Douglass and Kilmer Libraries are making progress with the virtual reference pilot project. The first live, library-to- library reference transactions took place on the afternoon of March 10. There were no technical difficulties. Students who asked questions were asked afterwards to fill out a questionnaire. The project now uses Vsee software, which offers video, audio and chat capabilities between the two sites. If this service is implemented, librarians or students could download the software and ask or answer questions from any remote location. The version of Vsee we use at present is free, but a commercial version with additional features is also available. The combination camera/microphone at each location costs about seventy dollars. Virtual reference would allow us to offer service at times and places where it is currently not available and to make more efficient use of librarians' time. The Douglass reference desk, for example is not open on weekends. However, we would need to staff the receiving desk with two librarians or assistants, since it is difficult to answer questions in-person and remotely at the same time. If we do offer virtual reference between libraries, we would have to decide whether it would be a NBL or a RUL-wide service and schedule for it in an equitable fashion, taking into account Ask-a-Librarian and ALL Live participation, as well as hours scheduled at a reference desk.
NBL Info Services Chair