ASK A LIBRARIAN

Annual Report 2001-2002

Natalie Borisovets
Coordinator, Electronic Reference Services

In 2001-20021, Ask a Librarian, the Rutgers Libraries email reference service, received 12,071 questions/requests—a 68.5 percent increase over the 7,164 queries received in the previous year.

Ask a Librarian
September 2001-August 2002

 

Questions Received

Answers Sent

Not Answered

Percent Answered

September

1252

1193

94

92.5

October

1343

1347

127

90.5

November

1216

1188

73

94.0

December

894

921

82

90.8

January

1039

999

183

82.4

February

1279

1214

208

83.7

March

1133

1035

195

82.8

April

1075

999

144

86.6

May

702

680

102

85.5

June

715

642

128

82.1

July

704

680

94

86.6

August

719

681

95

86.0

TOTALS

12071

11579

1525

87.4

 

Response Rate:

Despite the significant increase in the number of total questions received, 87.4 percent of the questions received in 2001/2002 were answered—a slight increase over the 86.3 percent response rate of the previous year.

Questions Answered:

While Reference (2179; +5.1%), Request Services (497; +13.7%), and Interlibrary Loan (1252; +17.3%) showed increases in the total number of questions answered, the most dramatic increase came in demand for Access Services. 7492 responses were sent by Access Team members in 2001-2002, a 147 percent increase over the 3039 sent the previous year.

ASK A LIBRARIAN
September 2001- August 2002
Answered By


Reference

Access Services

Systems

Request Services

Interlibrary Loan

Acquisitions

Other

Sep

195

859

8

45

84

2

0

Oct

291

889

9

52

101

2

3

Nov

234

742

11

56

145

0

0

Dec

140

621

16

29

111

4

0

Jan

200

619

16

56

108

0

0

Feb

246

845

11

42

69

1

2

Mar

197

627

5

65

132

5

4

Apr

180

617

3

46

143

0

10

May

153

395

3

26

97

1

5

Jun

120

405

3

30

77

2

5

Jul

110

457

10

14

83

0

6

Aug

113

416

9

36

102

0

5

Total

2179

7492

104

497

1252

17

40

%

18.8

64.7

0.9

4.3

10.8

0.1

0.3

 

PINs:

Most of the increases of Access queries can be attributed to the escalating demand for Library PINs. An increasing number of Rutgers users are using commercial Internet Service Providers rather than connecting directly to the Campus networks and need to know their PINs in order to connect to the Libraries’ proxy server and use restricted resources such as databases or electronic reserves. They also need to know their PINs in order to renew library materials and check on request status. And beginning this Fall, they will need to know their PIN in order to request Rutgers Delivery Services.

Of the 7366 queries received between January and August 2002, 3350 (45.5%) were requests for PINs.

In response to the continuous and overwhelming demand for PINs, in September 2001 a PIN/Registration Request form was made available at

http://www.libraries.rutgers.edu/rul/forms/reg_pin.shtml

Requests generated by this form are distributed only to the current Access Team members, as well as the AAL Coordinator and her Assistant. This eliminated the need for an intermediate reply on the part of the Access team member, and also dramatically reduced the amount of email automatically routed to everyone except current Access Team members. Replies to PIN requests are sent directly to the requestor, with a cc: to the Coordinator and the Assistant who tracks the requests.

In order to alleviate some of the volume-induced pressure on Access Team members, beginning in October team members were assigned to half-days Sundays thru Thursdays. And in April Access Team members met and decided that the two 6-month access services teams should merge into one year-round team beginning June 1, 2002. Staff would participate throughout the year but with fewer shifts per month.

However, even half-day shifts may mean responding to 40 or 50 PIN requests as well as other questions concerning recalls, patron records, missing books, email addresses, electronic reserve, etc.

While there have been some tentative discussions about the possibility of creating a program whereby registered users could automatically ask for and be given their PINs without the need for staff intervention, it seems that the situation is reaching the point where such an investigation needs to be made a priority.

As PIN requests are received via phone as well as in-person at Circulation Desks, they constitute a significant workload issue even beyond the Ask a Librarian service. That Access staff have managed to sustain such a high response rate despite the extraordinary demand is a testament to their dedication and professionalism.

Response Time:

Once again, the significant increase in the total number of queries received seems to have had little effect on response times. During the Spring/Summer of 2002, 87.7 percent of the answered queries were responded to on either the same day or on the next day; 96.1 percent were answered within the "24 to 48 hours" specified in the Ask a Librarian guidelines.

ASK A LIBRARIAN
January 2002-August 2002
Response Time (Days) 2

 

Monthly Total

Same Day

Next Day

Two Days

Three/+ Days

January

97

54

28

2

13

February

131

49

53

19

10

March

131

82

32

15

2

April

109

97

7

5

0

May

66

41

19

5

1

June

89

50

26

12

1

July

49

18

28

2

1

August

52

37

14

1

0

Total

724

428

207

61

28

%

 

59.1%

28.6%

8.4%

3.9%

FAQs:

The questions received by Ask a Librarian form the basis for the Libraries’ Frequently Asked Questions pages.

User Survey:

During the week of March 4th, 2002 the Libraries’ Assessment Committee conducted an Ask a Librarian User Survey. Included in the AAL responses that week was a request for users to complete the survey found at http://www.scc.rutgers.edu/aal_survey/ .

42 of the approximately 280 users responded to that week completed the survey. Most indicated a high level of satisfaction with the service.

User Survey Comments: Positive

Those who did express dissatisfaction with the Ask a Librarian service for the most part seem to have either not understood what services are available to them, or were looking to "kill the messenger."

User Survey Comments: Negative

Perhaps the one surprise in the survey was the response to the question "Would you be willing to work with a librarian online to receive an answer to your question in real time?"

While 71 percent of responding users answered "Yes," 55 percent of the undergraduates who answered this question said "No," they would not be willing to work with a librarian online in real time.

As these were undergraduates who had used the email reference service and were filling out a web-based form, technology was clearly not the issue. As a colleague pointed out, undergraduates don't really understand the value of face-to-face--or keyboard-to-keyboard--reference transactions. Often they want to be anonymous, ask their question, go away, and come back when there's an answer.

Ask a Librarian LIVE:

As a pilot project, in the Spring of 2002 the Rutgers Libraries allowed users to ask questions in "real time" using "LiveAssistance," a web-based call center product from International Business Systems (IBSI), a Chantilly, Virginia based company.

An Ask a Librarian LIVE link was available from April 8th through May 17th. The service was available Monday – Friday, 1 pm to 4 pm. In the 72 hours that the service was available between April 8th and May 10th, a total of 110 "chats" were attempted.

Users who completed the Ask a Librarian LIVE Exit Survey seemed very pleased the service. While some of the librarians who participated felt that the limited usage of the service, coupled with a number of issues that were identified during the pilot, did not warrant continuation of a "live" service at this time, most felt that the pilot should be extended through the Fall 2002 semester.

The full report on the Ask a Librarian LIVE pilot is available at http://newark.rutgers.edu/~natalieb/asklivereport.htm

Management of Ask a Librarian Services:

In October, librarian Linda McSweeney was hired to assist the Ask a Librarian Coordinator on a part-time basis. She took over the tracking of AAL questions and answers thus lifting a major burden from the AAL Coordinator. Requests are now tracked using an Excel spreadsheet, and reports can be easily produced.

However because this is a part-time position, and because the number of daily requests has continued to escalate, is has become increasingly difficult to ensure that when questions for one reason or another don’t get answered initially that the individual responsible is sent a reminder on a timely basis and questions don’t fall through the cracks. This is reflected in some of the disappointing monthly response rates seen in the second half of the academic year. However we believe that we have identified some possible procedural solutions to this issue and will be implementing them in the coming year.

The Ask a Librarian Team:

In September a new rotation format was implemented for the Reference Team and new members, primarily from the New Brunswick libraries, were added.

Beginning June 1, 2002, the two 6-month rotating Access Services teams merged into one year-round team, allowing for fewer shifts per month. Unfortunately this was partially off-set by the number of Access staff who took advantage of the state’s early retirement offer, as well as the departure of staff who took positions elsewhere.

Despite the escalating volume and workload, the members of the Ask a Librarian Team have continued to provide quality services efficiently, effectively, and perhaps most extraordinarily of all cheerfully. Their dedication is to be highly commended.

The 2001-2002 Team
(Past and Present)

Reference

Access

Requests

Ka-Neng Au
Susan Beck
Cathy Pontoriero
Natalie Borisovets
Emily Carey
Jeris Cassel
Mary Fetzer
Rebecca Gardner
Sara Harrington
Theo Haynes
Scott Hines
Yoshiko Ishii
Marty Kesselman
Laura Mullen
Pat Piermatti
Hector Perez-Gilbe
Wen Hua Ren
Nancy Stowell
Stephanie Tama-Bartels
Lourdes Vazquez
Karen Wenk
Myriam Alami
Georgina Alonzo
Elsa Alves
Peter Anderson
Rose Barbalace
Zohreh Bonianian
Mary Brodman
Stacy DeMatteo
Marc Forster
Mary Gadek
Judy Gardner
Ines Gessner
Christopher Lee
Barry Lipinski
Bill McNelis
Andy Martinez
 
Dean Meister
Nita Mukherjee
Ramon Negron
Asuncion Ortiz
Sothy Padmanathan
Phyllis Palfy
Antoinette Peteet
Roger Smith
Ann Snowman
Jeff Teichmann
Michele Tokar
Ann Watkins
Penny Weniger
Drue Williamson
Gloria Windham
Pat Womack
Tracey Meyers
Bob Warwick

Interlibrary Loan
Brian Johnson

Jane Mihalick
Dorothy Grauer
Libby Hart
Mary Anne Nesbit

Systems
Dave Hoover

       


1 Statistics are based on the academic (September-August) rather than the fiscal year. See Appendix A for the fiscal year summaries.
2 Weekly sample days. Calculated on the basis of working days.

 

Appendix A

ASK A LIBRARIAN
FY2001-FY2002

 

Questions Received

Answers Sent

Not Answered

Percent Answered

July

455

446

36

92.1

August

466

463

35

92.5

September

1252

1193

94

92.5

October

1343

1347

127

90.5

November

1216

1188

73

94.0

December

894

921

82

90.8

January

1039

999

183

82.4

February

1279

1214

208

83.7

March

1133

1035

195

82.8

April

1075

999

144

86.6

May

702

680

102

85.5

June

715

642

128

82.1

TOTAL:

11569

11127

1407

87.8


ASK A LIBRARIAN
July 2001- June 2002
Answered By

 

Reference

Access Services

Systems

Request Services

Interlibrary Loan

Acquisitions

Other

Jul

119

181

1

33

104

5

3

Aug

133

227

11

22

63

9

8

Sep

195

859

8

45

84

2

0

Oct

291

889

9

52

101

2

3

Nov

234

742

11

56

145

0

0

Dec

140

621

16

29

111

4

0

Jan

200

619

16

56

108

0

0

Feb

246

845

11

42

69

1

2

Mar

197

627

5

65

132

5

4

Apr

180

617

3

46

143

0

10

May

153

395

3

26

97

1

5

Jun

120

405

3

30

77

2

5

TOTAL

2208

7027

97

502

1234

31

40

%

19.8%

63.2%

0.9%

4.5%

11.1%

0.3%

0.4%