Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Notes on Operations: Using Perceptions and Preferences from Public Services Staff to Improve Error Reporting and Workflows

Academic journal article Library Resources & Technical Services

Notes on Operations: Using Perceptions and Preferences from Public Services Staff to Improve Error Reporting and Workflows

Article excerpt

Over the past decade most academic libraries have transitioned from purchasing mostly print materials to electronic resources (e-resources). This transition has been well documented in library literature, particularly the workload struggle that libraries face during this transition and the challenges because of the ad hoc fashion in which e-resources are often managed. (1) As libraries attempt to work more efficiently to improve service, a few studies have analyzed staff reporting of access issues and catalog errors but these tend to focus more on improving workflows from a technical services perspective or factors that lead staff to report problems. (2) McGill University Library is a large research library in North America. Within its Collection Services department, the e-resources division handles cataloging, access and troubleshooting related to e-resources such as electronic journals (e-journals) and databases. Like many libraries, this division has undergone considerable change during the transition from print to electronic. To address some of these challenges and to help fill a gap in the literature, a research project was undertaken to gather data on how the library's front-line staff reports errors they find in the discovery layer and catalog, their preferences for reporting, and perceptions of the response times and quality of the responses provided by the Collection Services staff. As many libraries face friction between front-line staff and those who work "behind the scenes," the author aims to share lessons learned from this project and continue the discussion on the need for best practices in this area. This paper discusses the project, analyzes the results, and identifies where improvements can be made to error reporting, workflows and communication between Collection Services staff and front-line staff to create a more service-oriented and efficient working environment. It should be noted that the word "errors" in this paper refers to questions asked and errors reported to Collection Services, including, but not limited to, e-resource access problems, questions about subscriptions and renewals, and cataloging errors. "Front-line staff" refers to librarians and nonlibrarian staff who work with patrons in public services, including subject librarians, library assistants and supervisors who work at the service desks, and the interlibrary loans staff.

Literature Review

A recurring theme in the literature pertaining to e-resource management is the fluctuating roles and responsibilities of e-resources librarians. (3) As roles remain in flux, frustrations with workflow inefficiencies are often highlighted. Waterhouse discusses the challenges of having "many systems involved in managing and delivering e-resources" at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS), including SFX, Serials Solutions 360 and WorldCat Local. (4) In addition to many systems, inefficiencies also occurred because the "acquisitions, processing, and cataloging workflows were quite separate from those of e-resource management" and the staff supporting e-resources was unfamiliar with each workflow. (5) Mackinder refers to workflows as the "seemingly endless challenge" because "the staff time and effort involved in crafting, implementing, and revising process documentation can be overwhelming" because the workflows are not linear. (6) Four years after creating her "ER lifecycle," she is still "workflow brainstorming" because "change is the status quo" in this field. (7)

As librarians describe their unique challenges with workflows, software is often evaluated in the literature as a possible solution. Duke University Libraries turned to IBM's BlueWorks Live and Business Process Manager to improve e-resources workflows following what they called a "fallout" from cumulative errors made over several years. (8) At Ohio State University Libraries, Feather examined tools to improve e-resources communication workflows, productivity and efficiency. …

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