Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Technical Services Transparency: Using a LibGuide to Expose the Mysteries of Technical Services

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Technical Services Transparency: Using a LibGuide to Expose the Mysteries of Technical Services

Article excerpt

Technical services departments in academic libraries have long struggled to communicate effectively with other library departments, particularly public services departments. As' academic libraries acquire large numbers of digital resources, technical services departments are increasingly responsible for providing current information about those resources to public services staff The authors of this paper describe the process of creating, testing, and implementing LibGuides (proprietary software for building library portals and facilitating information sharing in libraries) as' a new way of communicating much-needed information between technical services and public services staff at Miami University Libraries.

Academic libraries now provide patrons with large numbers of electronic resources. As the number of resources grows, so does the potential number of breakdowns in access. This potential for problems means communication is vital between the technical services staff who manage these resources and the public services staff who interact with patrons.

The Oxford English Dictionary defined communication as the transmission or exchange of information, knowledge, or ideas by means of speech, writing, mechanical, or electronic media. (1) Technical services units often seek to use their departmental documentation, which was originally intended for others within the department, to reduce communication barriers between the library staff who work on the public side of the organization and technical services. While a card catalog and a binder filled with typed procedures used to suffice, technical services staff now must document and communicate information about thousands of resources managed in dozens of different tools. The challenge for technical services units is to find successful ways to communicate pertinent information with ,all library staff in a rapidly changing technological environment. Examples of information needed by public services staff are how to access e-books and how to report electronic resource access issues.

At Miami University Libraries, the authors of this paper (at the time of the project design and implementation, they served as the bibliographic systems librarian and the electronic resources and serials librarian) sought a new approach to the challenge of documenting and conveying important information to staff outside of the technical services department. Their solution was to choose a platform "already familiar to public services staff, LibGuides (, a web-based application primarily used by librarians for creating subject-specific guides to facilitate patron research. While some libraries may not utilize LibGuides, the process of developing content and implementing a tool for interdepartmental communication would be similar regardless of the specific platform used, thus being of value for all libraries. This paper addresses the use of LibGuides as an interdepartmental communication tool and will discuss design considerations, planning and implementation, content and scope, and reflections on the experience.

Literature Review

Library documentation has received some attention in the literature, particularly in relation to technical services departments. White's 2005 article provides a solid framework for the importance of technical services documentation. (2) She defined documentation as "anything written down in a department that pertains to the present, past, or future operation of the library and can assist in clarifying and confirming the nature of library activities." (3) White stated that library staff tend to rely on institutional memory instead of documented policies and instructions. When staff members retire, the part of the department's history that they experienced may leave with them. When a department relies on institutional memory, documentation is not seen as a priority in day-to-day operations. Documentation prevents this particular form of information loss. …

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