eResources “de-tech-tive” work – supporting library staff

After my recent blog post on library eResources troubleshooting, the DMU Library Content Delivery (CD) team decided it would dig a little deeper and brainstorm what types of eResources problems library staff are facing on a day-to-day basis. As mentioned in my previous post, library staff are having to undertake increasing amounts of “detective work” to pinpoint the cause of online resource or eJournal problems. The CD team attempted to breakdown these potential resource difficulties into problem ‘types’ and look at potential associated questions staff may want to ask end users in a bid to diagnose resource errors more quickly. The team felt it was more rewarding and satisfying for library staff to be able to successfully support users at the point of need (where this was possible and appropriate). This support could be provided in person in the library at an enquiry desk, over the phone or via email. The goal of the CD team is to provide some kind of eResource troubleshooting guide, FAQs or flowchart in the short term for staff to consult when working on information points, in meetings with students or roving around DMU Library. The team are also working on longer term projects (e.g. resource screencasts) which will hopefully further improve support offered to library staff in this area, and ultimately provide clearer information for users wanting to access library online databases and electronic journals.

To start the process, the CD team set about attempting to categorise library eResources queries into problem types. These definitions would help with the initial groundwork on thinking about a troubleshooting guide or FAQs. The team met to discuss the nature of eResources problems and came up with the following intital categories (listed in no particular order of importance or priority):

  • Browser/security settings
  • Authentication
  • Subscription
  • Publisher site error
  • On/offsite
  • User knowledge/education
  • Device

The CD team also tried to highlight associated questions library staff may want to raise to users under each of the above categories. So for example, if a user’s query was labelled as a browser issue, staff may want to ask a question such as does clearing your internet history/cache fix the access problem?. The team attempted to establish a number of initial, if general, helpful questions/responses staff could use when dealing with patrons with resource enquiries.

It was decided that some early feedback from library staff would also be helpful in the process of creating such a troubleshooting guide. Therefore, I took the opportunity to speak about the team’s plans at last week’s DMU Mashed Library (#MashDMU) lunchtime event. The feedback I received was generally positive and attendees at the Mashed Library event agreed that the categorising of eResource problems in to types would better help staff identify and diagnose errors with online systems. The group saw the idea of a troubleshooting guide as a helpful one, and may help set up a kind of ‘triage’ service which would quickly identify and fix end user queries, or be able to capture useful information for later diagnosis.

The idea of developing some kind of reference point for staff to use when dealing with eResources enquiries is still at an early stage, and is obviously a work in process. The CD team will continue to work on creating such a guide, collaborating with library colleagues in an effort to provide more comprehensive support to identify, and hopefully fix, the causes of eResources and eJournals end user enquiries.

I would be interested to hear the experiences of other libraries/library staff who have set up or created something similar as to that proposed at DMU Library.


About Mitchell Dunkley

I work in the Content Delivery Team at De Montfort University Library. I manage DMU Library's e-resources portfolio and I am involved in library systems admin, collating resource usage statistics and troubleshooting. All comments are my own.
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