Information Services Group
The Coordinating Team of the New Brunswick Information Services
(NBISG) spent the 1998-1999 year focusing on organizational issues,
primarily identifying and examining current practices based at
individual buildings in light of reorganization into one New Brunswick
Libraries group. NBISG was convened a year after all other NBL teams
were operational. This team, like the entire NBISG, was the last to be
organized, and yet, within a very short amount of time proved to be
quite productive. The list below outlines and details our activities:
Team Membership: Initially, the team was conceived so that
served as heads/coordinators of reference in the pre-reorganization
period were to provide assistance to other team members through the
first year's work, a period of transition. However, due to various
sets of circumstances none of the former heads/coordinators were able to
join the team. It was decided that each building would select someone to be
the Local Operations Liaison, who would ensure that each building's
reference department ran smoothly and they would trouble shoot as
needed. Local Operations Liaisons were: Alexander Library- Ilona
Caparros, Douglass Library- Ferris Olin, (Team Leader), Kilmer Library-
Jeris Cassel, and LSM- Connie Wu. In addition, the team included Penny
Page, representing branch library concerns; Stan Nash, who was on leave;
Joe Consoli, who acted as Douglass's Local Operations Liaison for a
short while in Spring term; and support staff members who worked in
Reference Departments, Kevin McGuire (Kilmer), Scott McMillan
(Douglass), and Uma Swamy (LSM).
In looking at the coming year, we note that there
might be some changes
among our membership and that there is the difficulty of finding
colleagues who could serve as local operations liaisons. Next year's
team leaders will be Jeris and Penny; while Scott Hines will
facilitate reference at LSM for the Fall term.
Data Collection: Throughout the year, the Team gathered
about reference activities, primarily at the four larger libraries.It
was decided to postpone investigation of the branch operations until
after we had been through one year together.) Initially, we surveyed the
libraries to learn about their hours of services, staffing of
information services desks (reference/information desks), types of
services provided, etc. (Jackie Mardikian and Ferris Olin also visited
with each former head/coordinator of reference, where possible, to
ascertain additional information for that original survey.) This helped
us to learn about one another's operations quickly and to identify areas
of common concern. We shared copies of each others' reference desk
schedules and determined that scheduling could only be done locally.
We exchanged copies of locally produced handouts and aids for patrons; at
least one of these about electronic resources, from the Kilmer Library
created by Leslie Murtha, is planned to become a RUL document. Other
data collected will be detailed below.
Statistics: Much of our discussions focused on the collection
reference statistics, asking fundamental questions about the reasons
they are collected, how they are reported, analyzed and used, the kinds
of data maintained, definitions of the reference vs. directional queries what
consistency of practices existed in NBL, etc. We met with Samson
Soong and Jeanne Boyle to learn more about what happens to the
statistics once they are reported centrally and we looked at how the
data is gathered within each building.
We initiated for Spring term the collection of data on
reference/informational questions asked/answered off the reference desk
within NBL. That data will be tabulated, reported, and examined in the
next year. These are statistics that as far as we could determine have
not been recorded and may also impact on the amount of services
provided yet not quantified. We are developing a New Brunswick-wide
statistical form for keeping reference statistics.
Hours: Kilmer Library began in November to again collect
statistics after only maintaining them for sampling days. This data
will be reviewed in light hours and types of services and because of the
recommendation to create an information desk there with librarians
available for consultations. As a result of reviewing reference statistics at LSM,
Alexander, and at Douglass, reference desk hours and coverage were changed to
reflect the needs of each building and its clientele. LSM changed its hours in
the Spring term after examining the previous year's data; while Douglass
looked at statistics collected for March and April and October and
November, 1995-1998 and changed their hours of service beginning on
February 1 and following Spring term. The Team also gathered reference statistics for
special times: Easter/Passover, Memorial Day, July 4, Labor Day and Thanksgiving week-ends,
reading periods and exam periods, and Winter and Spring Breaks to see
if staffing patterns and hours of services were appropriate. It was
decided that they were, but this topic should be revisited in the coming year.
In the late Spring, we were able to announce New Brunswick
Libraries' reference hours, for the first time. There is agreement that we wish to
have reference services hours posted for the entire year well enough in
advance so that we don't disadvantage patrons. We recommend that they
be posted in each building, as well as on the web site. This is something
we will continue to work on.
Voucher Allocations: Early in the Fall, the NBISG Steering
determined the voucher allocations for the four buildings. In early
Spring, each local operations liaison began receiving regular reports on
the spending of those funds and reviewed them to make sure that the
monies would fund their needs until June 30. We are in the process of
gathering data to allocate this coming fiscal year's monies. As an
aside, it should be noted that we had an unusual year in that within NBL
one library garnered salary savings and two librarians received
compensation for teaching at SCILS. These additional monies were
distributed throughout NBL and did contribute to what seemed like a
surplus of monies at the end of the year.
Hourly Wages: Related to Voucher Funds was the issue we
that each reference department paid different amounts of hourly rates for
similar jobs. After looking over the wages paid at each site, we
agreed that we must be consistent throughout NBL. An April 20 memo to Ryoko
outlined the guidelines we developed and she accepted the standards set
forth. She asked that we review these guidelines annually.
New Brunswick Libraries Reference Manual: Some, but not
all, of the
libraries maintained reference policy manuals in various states of
currency. The Team agreed that a New Brunswick Libraries Reference
Manual should be developed and maintained and posted to the Common
Knowledge Database. At this point, we have determined the sections it
would include, but not its text: NBL mission and goals, Ethics of
Service, Reference Services Objectives, Librarians, Reference
Statistics, Referrals between NBL and individual
Reference/Information Departments, Reference Collections, Reporting Technological Problems,
Determining Hours of Services, Reciprocal and Consortial Agreements, NBL
Organization/ relationship to other NBL teams/ RUL.
Name: We raised the issue of what to call our departments,
what we do-
reference, informational services, etc., but could not come to any
concensus on nomenclature.
Staff as Team Members: The Coordinating Team is the only
NBISG Team that
includes support staff as members. Throughout Spring Term the three
individuals who fall into this category, Kevin McGure, Scott McMillan,
and Uma Swamy met with Ferris Olin at Kilmer, LSM, and Douglass
libraries respectively to tour each others buildings, learn what each
one did, exchange information, and discuss issues of concern. They
will join the rest of the Team at its June 23 meeting.
Both Kevin and Uma's job descriptions were out-of-date and so each,
in concert with their respective local operations liaison, reviewed and
revised them. This was in preparation for their Performance Appraisals
which took place in April. Scott joined RUL in February and so his job
description was current and he did not undergo a Performance Appraisal.
However, he met with his local operations liaison to plan for next
year's review and to develop guidelines for evaluating his performance.
A special note of thanks must be made here to Uma Swamy, who
throughout this first operational year of the Coordinating Team,
provided assistance New Brunswick-wide by developing mechanisms for
tabulating reference and other statistical data and created the New
Brunswick Libraries Reference Statistics Form. Without her effort, the
Team would have had a difficult time reviewing the amount of data
already collected and making the recommendations that it did. Her work
serves as a model for the reorganization within functional groups.
On Call/ Roving Librarians: New Brunswick librarians
were asked if any
would, on an emergency basis, be willing to cover reference at locations
other than the buildings they had been assigned. More than a handful
volunteered, though they were not called upon. On several occasions,
reference desks were unexpectedly closed, due to lack of personnel.
The Team will continue to discuss ways in which we can work to provide
coverage under such circumstances.
Branch Libraries: The NBISG Coordinating Team decided early
on that they
wished to include the branch libraries within their considerations.
Several times throughout the year as we attempted to gather data, we
were unsuccessful in getting information from some of the branch
libraries. Penny Page's presence on the team facilitated whatever
conversations we had about the branches and it is hoped that in the next
year, new initiatives which might take place will be inclusive of the
branches to a greater extent.
Telephones: We have remained aware of the developments for
telephone reference system and await word of further news. The Team,
along with the NBISG Steering Committee, lent support to Douglass'
request for a new phone system- one that freed reference librarians from
the job of being "switchboard operators." In June, a new voice-mail
system was installed at the Douglass Library.
Implementation Plan: Throughout the year we have discussed
how best to
implement the recommendations approved last July by the NBL faculty for
a reorganized reference/information services. One joint meeting with the
NBISG Steering Committee was also held for discussion of this. Continued
discussion needs to be happen. However, the Douglass Library phased in
some of the recommendations by placing Information Assistants (well
-trained undergraduate work-study students) at an area of the reference
desk in the Spring. Because of its success, the old reserve desk there
will be transformed this summer into an Information Desk, staffed by
such students in the next academic year; while the reference desk will
remain an area for librarians who can provide consultation and reference
assistance as needed . In the coming year, these arrangements should be evaluated and
modified as needed. LSM and Kilmer will begin to determine what accommodations
they might make in the directions of the recommendations.
Ferris Olin, Team Leader
New Brunswick Information Services Group, Coordinating Team