Diana Sussman, Sharon Ruda, Mollyne Honor, Joe Thompson, John Mugford, Meghan McDaniel, and Linda Rossman
Alerting Patrons During Un-Staffed InfoEyes Hours
The first discussion item concerned how to alert people when the Infoeyes room is not being covered by a librarian. Diana asked if people liked the idea of having a separate screen that would be a simple page to let users know that we are currently closed and the Infoeyes room is not currently staffed. Everyone agreed that this would be a good idea, but Diana reminded people that the librarian on duty would have to remember to change the screen back to the regular greeting screen when starting their desk shift. Diana will contact Heather to make the change in screens and send a note to librarians letting them know about the change and reminding them to change the screen each time they cover the desk.
Next the group discussed scheduling. Diana and Joe discussed the fact that Maryland would be working on finalizing their schedule and also reminded the group that New Mexico and Ohio would be leaving the Infoeyes group. Joe stated that Maryland could prioritize times in the afternoon on Tuesdays and Thursdays if that would help and also shared a couple of Maryland's tentative schedules with the group. (http://www.askusnow.info/partners/InfoEyes_sched.xls)
Diana stated that the final scheduling including Maryland will be done sometime after the middle of May, after the Midlands/West conference.
Statistics and Usage Report (John Mugford, NM)
Next, John Mugford gave his statistics report. John reported that the statistics are comparable to the previous month. The total number of sessions in March was 29 as compared to 30 in February. The stats over time have ranged considerably, but the average over 13 months was 25-30 sessions. The greatest matter of concern John brought up in his report had to do with the response time. The average response time recently was 2 days even though it was 29 hours over the life of the project. Everyone agreed that our goal should be to try to get the response time down to 24 hours or less.
Diana suggested that one way to alleviate the problem might be to have different libraries be responsible for checking incoming emails on Mondays and Fridays on a rotating schedule.
New Person Needed to Fill John's Position
(Offers have come in since the meeting, so this need has been filled).
Diana stated that someone will need to take over for John Mugford to do the statistical compilations and reporting as soon as possible. John summarized what is involved with this job. He has agreed to continue to do this only through June at the latest, but would really need to train someone to take over in July and ideally needs someone as soon as possible! John said the job has taken 2.5 to 3 hours per month in the way that it's being done so far. However, if we are not tracking for exact time of day, the time might be reduced to 1.5 to 2 hours per month.
Joe volunteered to check with the 24/7 committee on what reports could be spun out from Questionpoint to help with statistics reporting, but for now the statistics report is being done with a separate spreadsheet program. Diana stressed that the person who could take over for John would not necessarily need to be one of the Infoeyes desk staff members, but could be anyone on our staff who is experienced handling spreadsheets. People agreed that it would not really be necessary at this point to compile all the "time of day" information and perhaps this kind of information could just be tracked quarterly.
Teachers of Visually Impaired
Then the group moved on to discuss teachers of the visually impaired. This group has been giving the Infoeyes project some positive feedback. Diana reported that Kim Charlson has sent a listing to the Council of Schools for the Blind Listserve and that this might help our business to pick up. Mollyne Honor reported that she has a couple of people to contact in Maryland. Letters were also sent to all LBPH libraries so that they can tell patrons about our services.
A fairly lengthy discussion ensued about the future of InfoEyes. Diana stressed that she will work as Project Coordinator only through next October, 2005; and then a new person would need to take over as coordinator to keep the project going. Issues that are problematic include:
- So many libraries are under-funded and have trouble having their staff commit to the time involved.
- Not much traffic in the live iVocalize room, which is the thing that makes us unique. There are perhaps thousands of accessible email reference services that our patrons could use if they don't really want to take advantage of live service.
Diana posed the question as to whether there should be a sunset date at the end of October. A few people feel that there should be just one accessible service through the public library. John said if we duplicate the service, what alternatives would people who are enjoying the service have? Sharon stated that we're just getting going on publicity for the VI teachers, and it's the end of the year. Meghan stated that she hoped that InfoEyes would not be an "out" for public libraries to avoid accessibility issues. Linda said that the service is useful, even if we just continue to cover the email questions, and then the desk schedules wouldn't be as restrictive for the libraries. Joe stated that the July 13-14th Virtual Reference Conference would be a good opportunity to generate interest. Diana encouraged Joe to present at that conference. Joe also asked if a survey had originally been conducted to assess the needs, and he suggested that it would be a good idea to survey users.
Vote at June Meeting - All Should Attend!
The group decided to vote on the three options at its June 16th meeting, and Diana will email members to clarify the items. They are:
- Stop the service all together and replace with explanatory web page about iVocalize and links to other services
- Continue as we are with live coverage, email, and text chat
- Continue with just email service
- Continue with Email, but offer scheduled live reference sessions by request only
Diana is encouraging all members to be present at the June meeting, Thursday, June 16th. Everyone should think about these issues and be ready to vote on that day.
The meeting will be held at 1 pm Central (2 pm Eastern; 11 am Pacific; 12 pm Mountain) to vote on the options for whether (and how) to continue the service. The next Advisory Committee Meeting will be held on Thursday May 19th at 1 pm Central. (2 pm Eastern)