MARS Update, Summer 2013

Read our Message from the Chair on RUSA Update.

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MARS Happy Hour at ALA Annual

Saturday, June 29, 2013

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm, US/Central

Join the RUSA Emerging Technologies in Reference Section (MARS) for our annual Happy Hour on Saturday, June 29 from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. The Happy Hour is ideal for anyone interested in meeting “MARtians” and learning about the work of MARS in a relaxed, festive environment. All are welcome. The first 30 attendees will receive a bag compliments of EBSCO Publishing. Lite refreshments will be served.

Location: Fado Irish Pub and Restaurant Chicago, 100 W Grand Ave, Chicago, IL 60654, 312-836-0066.

For more information, contact Shannon D. Jones, Chair – MARS Outreach Committee, at sdjones@vcu.edu.

See you in Chicago!

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Messages from MARS: May 2012

“Messages from MARS,” the Newsletter of the RUSA-MARS Emerging Technologies in Reference Section, Melissa J. Clapp, Editor

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The Emerging Technologies in Reference Section (MARS) is looking forward to an exciting Annual Conference in Anaheim! Please join us during our hosted events which will focus on engaging technologies of current interest in reference. We will host three programs, two discussion forums, and the MARS Happy Hour. A brief overview of these gatherings is provided below.

We are honored that the MARS Chair’s Program has been selected to also serve as the RUSA President’s Program this year. The program is entitled “Library in Your Hand: Mobile Technologies for Exchanging Information with Patrons.” The event will highlight the importance of libraries supporting mobile technologies for the dissemination and acquisition of information. Examples of practical applications being used in libraries will be discussed by our speakers. The program will be held on Sunday, June 24, from 10:30 AM-12:00 PM at the Anaheim Convention Center in room 204B. At the start of the program, we will honor Carolyn Larson, this year’s recipient of the My Favorite Martian Award, for her hard work and dedication to MARS over the years.

The MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Services Committee will present a program entitled “Are Virtual Reference Services Worth the Effort? What ROI Analysis and User Evaluations Tell Us.” Examples of ways to assess the effectiveness of virtual reference services will be discussed. Join us for this enlightening discussion, which will be held on Saturday, June 23 from 1:30-3:30 PM at the Anaheim Convention Center in room 201D.

The MARS Local Systems and Services Committee will present a program entitled “Discovery Systems: The Promise and the Reality.” The effectiveness of discovery systems such as WorldCat Local and others will be explored. The program will be held on Sunday, June 24 from 4:00-5:30 PM at the Anaheim Convention Center in Room 304AB. In addition to these programs, both the Hot Topics in Electronic Reference Discussion Group and the Virtual Reference Discussion Group will host engaging discussion forums.

The MARS Happy Hour is always a wonderful way to enjoy refreshments while meeting newcomers interested in MARS and old friends who have been part of MARS for years! This event will be held at the Anabella Hotel, poolside in the Magnolia Room on Saturday, June 23 from 5:00-7:00 p.m.

As is tradition, the MARS All-Committee meeting will be held on Sunday morning from 8:00-10:0 AM, and we would love to invite those who are interested in learning more about the Emerging Technologies in Reference Section. You’ll have the opportunity to hear about the activities of our committees and the wonderful volunteer opportunities that match your interests. All visitors are welcome to join us. The meeting will be held at the Hilton Anaheim Hotel in the Pacific A Room.

Other MARS activities include the creation of this year’s list of the Best Free Reference Websites, which will be published in the Fall issue of RUSQ. The Professional Development Committee has produced a number of webinars and has a subcommittee working with RSS in the production of a workshop that will be held at the start of the 2013 Midwinter Meeting. In addition, the Products and Services Committee has continued its work to produce product reviews that are beneficial to reference librarians.

We welcome your interest in MARS. If you would like to learn more about MARS and how you can become involved, please contact me (mckellar@udel.edu) for more information.

Dianna McKellar
MARS Chair, 2011-2012

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Carolyn Larson to receive My Favorite Martian Award

Carolyn Larson, Head of the Business Reference Section, in the Science, Technology & Business Division, Library of Congress, is the 2012 recipient of the MARS: Emerging Technologies in Reference Section Recognition Certificate, also known as the “My Favorite Martian” Award. The award is given to an individual to recognize excellence in service to MARS.

An active member of MARS, Carolyn, in addition to serving on several MARS committees, has served as MARS Chair, Vice-Chair, and Past Chair. During her term as MARS Chair, Carolyn expertly led the section through transition that included an unanticipated leadership change, and a significant name and mission change for the section. Carolyn was really a stabilizing force during this period. Dianna McKellar, MARS Chair, writes, “Carolyn, your dedication to the profession and to MARS is recognized and appreciated! We thank you for your excellent service.”

The certificate will be presented at the 2012 RUSA President’s Program/MARS Chair’s Program, “Library in Your Hand: Mobile Technologies for Exchanging Information with Patrons,” on Sunday, June 24, 10:30 AM-12:00 PM, during the 2012 ALA Annual Conference held in Anaheim, California; acknowledgment also to be made at the RUSA Awards Ceremony & Reception, Sunday, June 24, 2012, 5:00-6:30 PM during the 2012 ALA Annual Conference. Larson also will be honored at the RUSA Awards program.

Shannon Jones
sdjones@vcu.edu

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MARS Chair’s Program

The MARS Conference Program Planning Committee has produced a program on the use of mobile devices in libraries as communication tools between librarians and library patrons. The program, which will serve as both the RUSA President’s Program and the MARS Chair’s Program, is entitled “Library in Your Hand: Mobile Technologies for Exchanging Information with Patrons.”

Mobile devices are increasingly being used to provide libraries with the opportunity to disperse information at the exact point of need. This program will explore the importance of libraries supporting mobile technologies for the dissemination and acquisition of information. Examples of such projects currently being implemented in libraries will be discussed by our panel of speakers. Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, will speak about why libraries should embrace communicating with patrons through mobile devices. Kristin Antelman, Associate Director for the Digital Library at NCSU Libraries, will speak about mobile initiatives at NCSU including WolfWalk, a photographic guide to the history of NCSU optimized for mobile devices. David Lee King, Digital Branch & Services Manager at the Topeka Public Library, will discuss the social media used to communicate with patrons at the Topeka Public Library.

The session will be held on Sunday, June 24 from 10:30 AM-12:00 PM at the Anaheim Convention Center in room 204B. Hope to see you there!

Matt Torrence, Chair, Chair’s Program Committee
torrence@usf.edu

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Happy Hour 2012

Join the RUSA MARS Emerging Technologies in Reference Section for our annual Happy Hour! The MARS social event of the year, the Happy Hour is ideal for anyone interested in meeting “Martians” and learning about the work of MARS in a relaxed, festive environment. Newcomers and old friends alike: all are welcome. Eat, drink, and mingle just steps from the Convention Center.

MARS Happy Hour
Saturday, June 23, 2012
5:00 PM- 7:00 PM

Magnolia Room & Quiet Pool at the Anabella Hotel
1030 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, CA 92802
(adjacent to the Convention Center)

Complimentary appetizers and cash bar.

The 2012 MARS Happy Hour is generously sponsored by EBSCO Publishing.

Arlie Sims, Chair, Outreach
asims@colum.edu

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Professional Development Committee

An exciting new system, Blackboard Collaborate, has been put into place by RUSA for RUSA members to deliver online meetings, training sessions, and webinars. Recently, the MARS Professional Development (PD) committee has been charged with assisting in the process of identifying and developing relevant training materials for this new system. Blackboard Collaborate will replace GoToMeeting. Already, MARS PD committee members have attended one training session to become familiar with the system and there are plans to identify appropriate and helpful online tutorials as well as develop a set of best practices for using this new tool in our virtual meetings and webinar presentations.

The other major committee effort is the transformation of the joint RSS/MARS Preconference into a new workshop format which will be free to all registrants at the 2013 Midwinter Conference in Seattle. A location has been selected and content ideas are being considered based on the general theme, “New Technology for Reference from the Reference Interview to Roving Reference.” Some specific content ideas include using Twitter and Facebook for the reference interview, portable devices like the iPad for roving reference, and reflections on how well “web 2.0″ is delivering on promises for improving reference services. For further information, please contact Stephanie Alexander (stephanie.alexander@usc.edu) who is leading this subcommittee.

MARS PD continued to support professional development opportunities by sponsoring the RUSA webinar on “Introduction to Screencasting for Online Tutorials and Reference” on Dec. 16 and March 13. Our role has involved both moderating and co-presenting this webinar.

MARS PD welcomes and encourages MARS members in the submission of ideas for webinars. A form with guidelines is currently being developed. Until then, please send any webinar ideas to Nancy Cunningham (nancy@usf.edu), Chair of MARS Professional Development.

Nancy Cunningham, Chair
nancy@usf.edu

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Virtual Reference Discussion Forum at ALA Annual

4:00-5:30 PM, Saturday, June 23, 2012; Anaheim Convention Center, Room 201B

Discussion topic: “A Glimpse into the Near Future: What’s Next for Virtual Reference”

Passionate about virtual reference? Virtual Reference is now an integral part of library services—and it is constantly changing with new and emerging technologies. Come to VRDG with your dilemmas, victories, stalemates, puzzles, and experiments. Find out what is working, what’s not working and what we are all waiting on—novice or expert, all are welcome. Become part of the conversation online at ALA Connect and in-person at ALA Annual.

Committee News for VRDG
Meetings: Given the difficulty of finding times for synchronous online meetings that the majority of the committee’s members can attend, the committee has switched to e-mail for conducting its business.

Planning for ALA Annual 2012: In early February, the committee brainstormed topic ideas for the Virtual Reference Discussion Forum at ALA Annual 2012. The suggestions included what’s next for virtual reference, apps for virtual reference, and augmented reality for virtual reference. The committee selected augmented reality for virtual reference, received MARS’ Executive Committee approval for the topic, recruited Nate Hill to serve as kick-off speaker, and submitted a customized description for inclusion in ALA’s online conference schedule. Unfortunately, Nate subsequently had a conflict requiring him to cancel his trip to ALA Annual. The committee decided to switch its topic to what’s next for virtual reference and received MARS’ Executive Committee approval to do so. The committee is currently deciding on whom to invite to serve as a kick-off speaker for the forum. Once we have identified a speaker, we will develop a promotional strategy and begin advertising the forum.

Membership update: Officers for July 2012-June 2013 will be: Chair, Henry Bankhead; Vice-Chair, Julie Piacentine; Secretary, Jessica Sender. Returning members will be: Robert Metrick and Amanda Powers.

Jason Coleman, Chair, Virtual Reference Discussion Planning Committee
coleman@k-state.edu

To subscribe to MARS-L, see http://lists.ala.org/wws/info/mars-l

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Messages from MARS: February 2012

“Messages from MARS,” the Newsletter of the RUSA-MARS Emerging Technologies in Reference Section, Melissa J. Clapp, Editor

February 2012

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From the Chair

MARS had a very productive Midwinter Meeting.  This was the first Midwinter Meeting at which MARS largely participated virtually.  Committees, other than the Executive Committee, had the option of meeting in-person or meeting virtually prior to Midwinter and sending in a report that would be discussed during the Executive Committee meetings, which were held in-person.  This seemed to work well for committees. Two committees opted to meet in-person during Midwinter, while other committees chose to meet virtually.  Of course, committees that presented discussion forums did send committee representatives to conduct the forums.

In total, three MARS discussion forums were held during Midwinter.  Hot Topics presented a wonderful discussion forum entitled “Reaching out to Patrons in Virtual Ways: Old School Successes and New Initiatives.”  The Virtual Reference Discussion Group held an engaging discussion forum entitled “UX + VR FTW,” which explored user experience as it pertains to virtual reference.  Local Systems and Services presented a stimulating discussion forum entitled “The Learning Commons and the Academic Library: Using Emerging Technologies and New Partnerships to Build Student Success.”

In addition to the MARS gatherings, RUSA held its Annual Membership Social.  The RUSA Social was very well attended.  It provided a wonderful opportunity to chat with RUSA friends as well as meet and welcome new RUSA members.  The Midwinter Meeting proved to be very informative, and MARS is looking forward to an equally engaging Annual Conference.

Warm Regards,

Dianna McKellar
MARS Chair, 2011-2012

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General MARS News

The MARS Chair’s Program Planning Committee has been steadfastly working towards organizing a program that will be presented at the Annual ALA Conference.  The program, which has been selected to serve as the 2012 RUSA President’s Program, is entitled “Library in Your Hand: Mobile Technologies for Exchanging Information with Patrons.”  This program will explore the importance of libraries supporting mobile technologies for the dissemination and acquisition of information.  Joan Lippincott, Associate Executive Director of the Coalition for Networked Information, will speak about why libraries should embrace communicating with patrons through mobile devices.  Kristin Antelman, Associate Director for the Digital Library at NCSU Libraries, will speak about mobile initiatives at NCSU including WolfWalk, a photographic guide to the history of NCSU optimized for mobile devices.  David Lee King, Digital Branch & Services Manager at the Topeka Public Library, will discuss the library app and social media used to communicate with patrons at the Topeka Public Library.

Dianna McKellar, MARS Chair

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RUSA MARS Virtual Reference Discussion Planning Committee Update
Conference report for 2012 ALA Midwinter Meeting, Dallas, TX
Discussion topic: “UX + VR FTW”

Courtney Greene, Head of Digital User Experience at Indiana University Libraries Bloomington, opened the Virtual Reference Discussion Forum by describing general principles of designing for user experience and examining how those might apply to virtual reference. She emphasized the need to go beyond supposition and assumptions by gathering information from patrons through a variety of means including usability testing, focus groups, and web analytics.  She also illustrated how her library used UX principles to create multiple IM widget access points for users and corresponding queues for library operators. Her presentation slides are available on Slideshare at http://www.slideshare.net/xocg/ux-vr-ftw-mars-vrdg-alamw12. Following Courtney’s presentation, there was a lengthy question and answer session that involved sharing of ideas and best practices.

A total of 52 people attended the session. Twenty-three of the attendees completed an evaluation form. The feedback was extremely positive, with many respondents expressing appreciation for Courtney’s enthusiasm and expertise. They expressed a strong desire to continue learning more about UX and its implications for VR.

Committee News:

The Virtual Reference Discussion Group Planning Committee is currently discussing topic ideas for its Discussion Forum at ALA Annual. After the committee finalizes a topic and identifies a kick-off speaker, it will begin work on the following two projects:

  • Update the committee’s public page on the ALA website. The page will include lists of past members as well as lists of past topics for the Discussion Fora at MidWinter and Annual. When possible, the list of topics will include links to notes and presentation materials.
  • Establish and promote a public page on ALA connect for soliciting suggestions for future topics for Discussion Fora.

Jason Coleman, VRD Planning Committee

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From the Outreach Committee

The MARS Happy Hour at ALA Annual will be held on Saturday, June 23, 5 – 7 pm.  This is our chance to relax, network and welcome new and potential members and others interested in the work of MARS.  Location and other details to be announced soon!

Arlie Sims, Chair, MARS Outreach

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Statistics and Analytics: Ways to Record Library Interactions

How do we know if our library community is using the programs or services that our library offers? How do we know if our time is well spent in staffing these services? What products are put there that can help us record and use all of this information to help improve or develop new resources or services to engage our library patrons? RUSA MARS’ Products & Services committee has put together reviews of different options for libraries to track all sorts of stats. Find them on the MARS blog: https://etmars.wordpress.com.

If there are questions about a specific product/service, please contact the reviewer directly. If there are suggestions for other products to review, please contact the Chair of the Products & Services committee, Ngoc-Yen Tran at nttran[at]callutheran.edu.

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Professional Development Committee News

The new MARS Professional Development Committee is off and running!  The newly formed committee, consisting of both the Education, Support and Training (ETS) and Professional Development (PD) committee members, has been meeting virtually on a monthly basis since last fall.  The purpose in joining the two committees is to eliminate duplicative efforts, strengthen the potential for more activity, and launch new initiatives for MARS members.  In addition, the work of the joint preconference planning committee (MARS/RSS) now belongs to a subcommittee of MARS PD.  The chair of this new subcommittee is Stephanie Alexander.  The focus of the committee’s work so far has been the deployment of webinars.  Two webinars, “Introduction to Screencasting for Online Tutorials and Reference,” were organized and sponsored by MARS PD and presented in August and December 2011.  Both webinars had approximately 60 attendees and received very positive feedback.  In the upcoming months, the committee will again launch a repeat of “Introduction to Screencasting” and develop a robust FAQ list to help all MARS members present and deploy professional development webinars with the support and assistance of the committee.   Look forward to new and exciting professional development and training webinars from MARS PD!

Nancy A. Cunningham

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From the Virtual Reference Services Committee

The MARS/RSS Virtual Reference Services Committee held its virtual midwinter meeting on Friday, December 16, 2011. Minutes of the meeting are available at http://connect.ala.org/node/150606 and a recording at http://connect.ala.org/node/161596.

The Committee is hosting a program at ALA Annual 2012 entitled “Are virtual reference services worth the effort? What ROI Analysis and User Evaluations Tell Us”. Panelists are confirmed and a high profile moderator has given tentative confirmation to serve as moderator. Stay tuned to ALA Connect for more details.

The committee will be discussing ideas for the 2013 ALA Annual via email and other means. The focus currently under consideration is to do something with gadgets or technology since the last several Annual programs have focused on other “soft” aspects of virtual reference service.

In keeping with its goals, the Committee has created the “RUSA MARS/RSS VR Committee Survey Ad Hoc Group”. Jason Coleman, an active member of the Virtual Reference Tutorial Subcommittee as well as Undergraduate & Community Services Librarian at Kansas State University, has volunteered to lead the new group. They are charged with conducting an online survey to assess the distribution and logistics of virtual reference services in libraries. Jason has asked individuals interested in working on the project to contact him at coleman@k-state.edu as soon as possible.

The Committee members are also exploring ways to update existing virtual reference content in online venues like Wikipedia, LISWiki, LibSuccess, etc. Options under consideration include sponsoring a Wikipedia “Edit-a-thon” at Annual Conference, creating a Twitter hashtag, inaugurating a Google Group, etc.

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MARS Happy Hour 2012

Join the RUSA Emerging Technologies in Reference Section (MARS) for our annual Happy Hour! The MARS social event of the year, the Happy Hour is ideal for anyone interested in meeting “Martians” and learning about the work of MARS in a relaxed, festive environment.  All are welcome.  Eat, drink, and mingle just steps from the Convention Center.

MARS HAPPY HOUR
Saturday, June 23, 2012
5 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Tangerine Grill and Patio at the Anabella Hotel (Magnolia Room & Quiet Pool area reserved for MARS)
1030 W. Katella Ave., Anaheim, CA 92802
(adjacent to the Convention Center)

Complimentary appetizers and cash bar.

The 2012 MARS Happy Hour is generously sponsored by EBSCO Publishing.

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Spring Election 2012

The slate of candidates up for election for MARS offices this Spring are:

For Vice Chair/Chair Elect (Vote for One):
Marilyn N. Ochoa

Samuel R. Stormont

For Member-at-Large (Three year Term: Vote for One):
Bryna R. Coonin
Courtney Greene

For Secretary (Two Year Term: Vote for One)
Colleen Seale
Kelley Ann Lawton

We are also pleased to have two former MARS Chairs running for RUSA office.  Anne Houston is running for RUSA Division Councilor and Kathleen Kern, for President of RUSA. Full information on the nominees for RUSA and its Sections is available in Connect at http://connect.ala.org/node/151782.

Voting will run from mid-March to mid-April. Be looking for announcements soon with the specific dates, and please vote!

MARS Nominating Committee 2011-2012
Carolyn Larson, Chair
Mary Mintz
Linda Keiter
Kimberley Vassiliadis

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Reviews: Tracking Stats with Reference Analytics

Title: Tracking stats with Reference Analytics
Contact information for product/service
: http://www.springshare.com/libanswers/analytics.html
Reviewer’s name & contact information
:
Marissa Ball
Emerging Technologies Librarian, Florida International University
ballm@fiu.edu 
Date of Review
:  January 30, 2012

Reference Analytics is a web-based statistics module from Springshare, the same company who brought us LibGuides & LibAnswers.  Promoted as a one-stop-shop for the recording, tracking, and analyzing of “all reference transactions,” it allows libraries to build a customizable knowledgebase for all the various reference services offered, while detailing as little or as much information as you choose to input about each of the transactions.

The hardest part about using this straightforward system is setting it up.  And the hardest part of setting it up is determining what questions or metadata you want to be tracking, how you want that data to be categorized, and what kind of detail you want to track for each of your transactions.  Seeing the blank knowledgebase template was overwhelming at first, so at our library we started by looking at our paper statistics sheet and translating the metadata that “worked” and that we wanted to continue to track into the Reference Analytics system.  We then added categories and breakdowns for questions we had not been able to previously track on an 8.5” X 11” sheet of paper.  Finally, we took the opportunity to get rid of data that did not work well or that we felt did not provide enough added benefit/detail.  For example, is it really helpful to know we had 15 “Level 3” interactions with a patron, or would it actually be more helpful to know 5 of those “Level 3s” were actually in-depth research consultations, while 3 were Course Reserve issues, and the rest were troubleshooting database access?  With the Reference Analytics system, you can be that granular and detailed.  And if more detail is what you want, they also offer the option to create an unlimited set of “predefined questions” (frequently asked questions) that you can use to add yet another layer of specificity to your statistics tracking.

The beauty part of the system comes into play when you are actually using it to generate reports and want to explore the analytics in-depth.  Any of the specified metadata you are capturing can be extracted and even cross-analyzed.  Reports, transactions, and statistics can be exported as an Excel file, printed, or downloaded as raster or vector images.  Viewing the reports and stats is also a helpful way to refine your metadata and improve the ways you are trying to capture transactions.  It is worth noting that the flexibility of the system allows the individual entering their transactions to leave a field blank if it does not apply or they simply do not have the information.  You may find that the data is not one hundred percent reflective of your actual transactions as it is dependent on staff entering as much data about each transaction as possible.

Reference Analytics is offered as one of the add-on modules to the Springshare LibAnswers reference system.  Out of the box, the module comes with one “analytics instance” but you have the option to add more instances to your subscription if, for example, you also wanted separate tracking for instruction or circulation statistics.  However, Springshare also has a more robust stand-alone statistics tracker, LibAnalytics.  While Reference Analytics is ideally suited to tracking various types of patron transactions, LibAnalytics is also capable of tracking website feedback, building and study room use, circulation stats, foot traffic, internal workflow, professional development, and product trials- to name a few.  We found the possibilities with Reference Analytics to be endless, however, and have been really pleased with how it has helped us track our various types of patron interactions and helped us as we’ve moved towards exploring different models of reference services.  Even for larger institutions that have a librarian or team dedicated to assessment and reporting, I think the detail, flexibility, and customization of analytics tracking offered in Reference Analytics is more than sufficient.

Statistics and Analytics: Ways to Record Library Interactions

How do we know if our library community is using the programs or services that our library offers? How do we know if our time is well spent in staffing these services? What products are put there that can help us record and use all of this information to help improve or develop new resources or services to engage our library patrons? RUSA MARS’ Products & Services committee has put together reviews of different options for libraries to track all sorts of stats.

If there are questions about a specific product/service, please contact the reviewer directly. If there are suggestions for other products to review, please contact the Chair of the Products & Services committee, Ngoc-Yen Tran at nttran[at]callutheran.edu.

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Reviews: Keeping track of interactions with Desk Tracker

Title: Keeping track of interactions with Desk Tracker
Contact information for product/service:
http://www.desktracker.com/
Reviewer’s name and contact information:

Tanya Prokrym
ER Librarian, University of Notre Dame
NC Cardinal Data Librarian, NCDCR (as of 1/1/12)
tanya.prokrym@ncdcr.gov

Date of Review
:  December 23, 2011

Desk Tracker is a web-based library statistics system offered by Compendium Library Services LLC.  The program enables library staff to record general reference activities, utilize a system-wide READ scale to standardize the reporting process, generate reports, and customize Desk Tracker windows to capture both individual and group/branch information.  One of Desk Tracker’s greatest strengths is that it is customizable, enabling you to create different logins at the individual or group level.  It enables you to standardize, within reason, how reference information is being recorded and tracked.  One of the greatest weaknesses of Desk Tracker is that reports are only as good as what is recorded.  Like any system, there is subjectivity in selecting the “right” option.  Everyone records events differently.  Since Desk Tracker is very customizable, you can create a customized system that provides library staff with too many choices.

Our Library uses Desk Tracker for a variety of purposes.  We record individual, reference desk, branch, and department events.  Some examples at the group/organizational level include recording the type and frequency of reference questions, email activity, patron types, and contact medium (walk-in, email, etc.) for the reference desk, branches, and our electronic resources group.  Individual events include recording the number of research consultations and training sessions conducted by a specific library staff member.  We run reports that let us track the best level and times for staff allocation.   Library staff also use individual reports for workload analysis.

Desk Tracker is easy to use and set up.  Accounts come standard with common data-entry fields that address the basic questions of where a question came in, how the question came in, and why the question was asked.  Beyond that, you can build detailed forms and add supplementary fields you wish to collect or remove the ones you don’t.  Reports are easy to read and can be loaded into SPSS.  Best of all, Desk Tracker is not a high cost investment, running our library around $4000.

There are a few features that are a little frustrating within Desk Tracker.  It is hard to see statistics for the current day or if you make a mistake upon input, it is hard to edit that mistake.  The custom timestamp that is offered within Desk Tracker has a mind of its own and some statistics have gone “missing”.

In summary, Desk Tracker is pretty simple to use.  It offers a system that provides flexibility – you can customize it as little or as much as you wish.  It provides a READ scale that can be used to standardize the recording of events.  For a little bit of money investment, you can obtain a tool that will make you think about your reference activities and how to record them, set up the framework to work within the context of your library, and then use it.

Statistics and Analytics: Ways to Record Library Interactions

How do we know if our library community is using the programs or services that our library offers? How do we know if our time is well spent in staffing these services? What products are put there that can help us record and use all of this information to help improve or develop new resources or services to engage our library patrons? RUSA MARS’ Products & Services committee has put together reviews of different options for libraries to track all sorts of stats.

If there are questions about a specific product/service, please contact the reviewer directly. If there are suggestions for other products to review, please contact the Chair of the Products & Services committee, Ngoc-Yen Tran at nttran[at]callutheran.edu.

Posted in Current Reviews, Reviews | Leave a comment

Reviews: Gimlet – Staff your desk wisely

Title: Gimlet – Staff your desk wisely
Contact information for product/service:
http://gimlet.us/
Reviewer’s name and contact information:

Jaclyn Bedoya
Electronic Resources Librarian
CSU Fullerton
jbedoya@fullerton.edu

Date of Review:
01/08/2012

OK, let’s be honest here: there isn’t all that much to keeping reference statistics for the average library. You want to keep track of where/when/what type of question each encounter is, and maybe even the answers. You’d like it to give you statistics so that you can plan your reference staffing with more than gut feelings. And you want it to be easy to use, and not too expensive. In fact, some libraries are using online shared documents to do them at little to no cost. On the other end of the cost spectrum, there is vendor-supplied software, which includes a lot more bells and whistles. Gimlet, which the Pollak Library here at CSU Fullerton subscribed to long before I started, costs $10/month/branch, and since it’s supported, we won’t ever have to figure out what happened to the server or where the data disappeared. Count me in.

Made by the same people who created Libstats, Gimlet is a hosted library encounter statistics collection program. It allows desk staff to categorize questions by duration, type, patron type, format (email, in person, etc), and location, and automatically records the time the questions were added. Additionally, staff can add tags (some libraries choose to use controlled vocabulary for this), put the question and answer in free response fields, “star” particularly important questions, use the READ scale, and email questions to other staff. On the back end, managers can create statistical reports, including pivot tables, and export their data to other programs (Excel, etc) for further analysis.

We used to use more features of Gimlet, but found that staff found it difficult to keep up with data collection, and were not using controlled vocabulary consistently enough to make the tagging feature useful. Obviously, your mileage may vary. In terms of ease of use, as a reference tracker I find it appealing and intuitive. I can’t speak to the reports side personally, but our head of Instruction & Information Services calls them “awesome.”

We used to host Libstats ourselves, but found that $10 a month is a reasonable amount to have it hosted and supported by Sidecar. (Do I sense a trend?) Systems staff time and server upkeep are not insignificant costs, so economies of scale make the hosted option the best for us. Again, your mileage may vary.

As I’ve mentioned, we don’t use every feature, because we found that some of them didn’t work for our library. Be aware that there will need to be a balance between lots of bells and whistles and how much time staff are willing to take to record each question. And if you’re not going to use a lot of the features, are you better off doing it yourself? For us, the answer is no. At our large academic library, we love Gimlet, and encourage you to check it out if you’re looking to use this type of software.

Statistics and Analytics: Ways to Record Library Interactions

How do we know if our library community is using the programs or services that our library offers? How do we know if our time is well spent in staffing these services? What products are put there that can help us record and use all of this information to help improve or develop new resources or services to engage our library patrons? RUSA MARS’ Products & Services committee has put together reviews of different options for libraries to track all sorts of stats.

If there are questions about a specific product/service, please contact the reviewer directly. If there are suggestions for other products to review, please contact the Chair of the Products & Services committee, Ngoc-Yen Tran at nttran[at]callutheran.edu.

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