Information Commons IG

Midwinter 2006 – Saturday 10:30-12:30

MPOW is moving towards an information/learning commons type set up. I think there are a lot of advantages to us moving this direction because it will add support to many things that we already do.

For the PPT of this presentation and more information click here.

The session gets off to a somewhat rocky start as we are all deprived of our hearing by very bad microphone bounceback.

Russ Bailey and Barbara Tierney from UNC
In this library, they worked hard to integrate all services through a full service information desk. The desk is a quick fix information point, staffed by paraprofessional staff who refer more in depth questions to librarians. This set-up was loosely based on the Brandeis model. This has freed up the librarians to work on more professional activities.

They have a ““Presentation Support Desk” which includes 1 FT library assistant, 1 PT library assistant, and 10 PT students. Most of the computer support comes from students. They are cheap and if you give them authority, training, and support you can often keep them for four years.

The ““reference” work is centered around the “Information Commons Desk” which is run by one FT librarian coordinator, 2 FT para staff that work on the desk, and a varying amount of temp PT students (each hour, they have 1-2 students).

Training: It seems that UNC had trained their paraprofessional staff to handle the work that I spend about 90% of my time doing at my library’s information desk. I think that this is a good model for reference. There is no reason that we can not train our students and paraprofessional staff to troubleshoot computer problems, give directions, answer questions about policy, give basic searching instructions, and generally give good public service.

Barbara and Russ emphasize that training is very important. UNC included a cross training aspect to their orientation so that people working other desks can properly direct users to the correct service point. This method of cross training could alleviate the bouncing around that some users have to do to get a simple question answered.

Ydesk, “No you need X desk.”
X Desk, ““Sorry, you need to go to Y Desk.”

Michael Whitchurch at BYU
This is a library that services a larger campus than my library and they are truly dealing with the same sort of problems that we face. It seems that they have about half the number of computers, though they serve more students.

“No matter how many computers you put, you’ll have lines.”” A truth that will endure through the test of time.

They have a ““no Shhh”” zone and their main area is very loud at certain times of the day. It is important to hire staff that have a customer service personality.

Faculty (librarians) get paid more, have more degrees, so they know more. At BYU, they have used this justification to create a tiered reference model. They have a position in their library that is centered specifically on staff training for the information commons. (This is the position that I would like to have.)

–Jane, almost out of juice, must go find outlet