By Deborah Balsamo, EPA National Library Network Program Manager; Teri DeVoe, Library Network Coordinator (Contractor, ASRC Management Services); and Tiffany Lopez, Assistant Library Network Coordinator (Contractor, ASRC Management Services)
Best Practices for Government Libraries is a collaborative document that is put out annually on a specific topic of interest to government libraries and includes content submitted by government librarians and community leaders with an interest in government libraries. The 2011 edition includes over 70 articles and other submissions provided by more than 60 contributors including librarians in government agencies, courts, and the military, as well as from professional association leaders, and more. Best Practices is edited by Marie Kaddell, Senior Information Professional Consultant; SLA DGI Chair. If you did not write for this year’s Best Practices, Marie invites you to submit a guest post for the Government Info Pro email@example.com.
In 2009 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted an agency-wide assessment to determine the future needs of an increasingly mobile work force and to learn how to leverage technology to serve EPA library users. The Needs Assessment included an online survey as well as user focus groups and qualitative interviews with executive-level management. Key findings and recommendations from the final report spurred the development of several new Library Network projects, all of which utilized existing agency technologies.
Needs Assessment Recommendation: Offer expanded and consistent operating hours
Solution: Live-chat reference available to internal patrons during coast-to-coast business hours
Ask a Librarian—Live Chat Reference
The EPA National Library Network had already begun exploring virtual reference options such as live chat before the 2009 Library Needs Assessment. However, with the recommendation to offer expanded service hours to staff, the Needs Assessment provided the impetus to pursue a pilot chat reference service for internal patrons in December 2009. By pooling EPA libraries’ coast-to-coast hours of operation, library access has been extended to EPA staff from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Eastern Time, Monday through Thursday, and from 8:00 AM to 7:00 PM on Fridays.
Ten EPA libraries participated in the pilot service, which leveraged the RightNow application used for the Agency’s Enterprise Customer Service Solution (ECSS)/Frequent Questions database. In May 2010, the Network developed an Ask a Librarian icon to further promote the service, and subsequent marketing efforts resulted in increased live chat use. At the end of Fiscal Year 2010, the application behind the service changed to Parature, resulting in a managed transition and additional staff training. The service has been well received by end-users and exemplifies the collaborative nature of the Library Network.
Needs Assessment Recommendation: Offer more training on how to use library resources and services
Solution: Librarian-taught webinars promoted to all Agency staff
National Training Program
The Needs Assessment gave voice to user requests for library training, which had traditionally been the domain of local EPA libraries. Building from the Library Network’s use of GoToMeeting technology and established marketing channels, the National Training Program was created to bring locally-developed library classes to a wider Agency audience. The Network first developed guidelines, a formal class proposal process and an online evaluation form.
After soliciting library presenters, the Network takes the lead on scheduling and marketing classes, managing the technical side of the webinars, and preparing follow-up attendance and evaluation reports. The first National Training Program class debuted in April 2010, reaching internal patrons from twenty different EPA locations over the course of two repeat sessions. One year later, four additional classes had reached hundreds of EPA staff and the Network was exploring the possibility of expanding the program via playback options.
- April 2010: Locating EPA Documents (presented by Research Triangle Park Library)
- June 2010: EPA Desktop Library (presented by Headquarters and Chemical Libraries)
- October 2010: Cited Reference Searching (presented by Research Triangle Park Library)
- November 2010: Using EndNote with Library Resources (presented by Region 6 Sunder Ram Library)
- April 2011: Chemistry and Toxicology Research (presented by Andrew W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center Library)
Goal: Build from the 2009 Library Needs Assessment by collecting ongoing feedback from users
Implementation: Ongoing customer service evaluation form, as a follow-up to staff transactions
Customer Service Evaluation Form
To build from the 2009 Needs Assessment data, the Library Network formalized a process for collecting ongoing patron feedback. In January 2010 the Network launched a centralized online customer service evaluation form, which utilized its existing SurveyMonkey account. The Network asks EPA librarians to send the evaluation link to internal EPA patrons following library service interactions. On a monthly basis, the Network generates and sends out individual library reports to local managers. Steady feedback reflects high customer satisfaction with 99% of respondents reporting that they are “very satisfied” with services received. The centralized form provides a pool of data that the Network can access at its point of need.
Deborah Balsamo is the National Program Manager for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) National Library Network where she has the responsibility for coordinating the operations of the agency’s libraries, overseeing the implementation of policies and procedures and leading the strategic direction of EPA’s information services. Deborah is former president of the North Carolina Chapter of SLA.
Teri DeVoe is the ASRC contractor EPA Library Network Coordinator. She provides communication and outreach support for the EPA National Library Network, supports the National Program Manager, and serves as a “librarians’ librarian” to her colleagues at EPA. Teri is a member of the Washington, DC, Chapter of SLA.
Tiffany Lopez is the ASRC contractor Assistant EPA Library Network Coordinator. She provides support for the library services and outreach initiatives of the EPA National Library Network, and serves as Second-Year Director of the North Carolina Chapter of SLA.