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Meeting Minutes: July 21, 2005

InfoEyes Meeting


Diana Sussman, Catherine Durivage, Sharon Ruda, Lori Bell, Lori Thornton, Mollyne Honor, Linda Rossman


Diana suggested that since Mollyne had not attended the meeting with OCLC, we should first fill her in on the vision of how we might meet the demand for live ivocalize sessions in a timely manner, using OCLC Questionpoint software to help us meet this need. She explained the assistance which Jeff Penka from OCLC had offered to give us when members of our group met with him last week. She also briefly described the scenario she is envisioning for handling people who do request live sessions.

There would be an address in Questionpoint (the notification address) that would actually go to Infoeyes Librarians (basically, our listserve). (This would happen when the patron clicked on a link to schedule a "live session.") Whoever can take the "live session" at that time "claims" the session in Question Point and sends response to patron and also cc's the listserve so that others will know the session has been claimed. When one claims a live session, he or she will say something to the patron, such as "I can meet you in an iVocalize room right now!" There will be a script for this. If patron suggests a different time, either the librarian can meet the patron at the time suggested, or if not available can email the list- serve again to see if any other librarians are available at that time. This whole process hopefully could ensure that a patron could get served very quickly, which is our goal. However, we would still need to have a backup in the event that none of us was available to meet the person live. This is when perhaps the state that is on duty for that particular day (for email) could be the backup to make sure no one "falls through the cracks." Although the schedule will not be as rigid as it had been previously, there will still be a kind of schedule so that someone is responsible in the end to answer emails and be the backup for a possible live session.

Diana stressed that the meeting with Jeff Penka from OCLC had been extremely positive and that it created a very good feeling about our ongoing relationship with OCLC. Mollyne asked if OCLC had created any timeline for accessibility. Diana said no exact timeline had been offered. Sharon explained that the main thing she understood from the meeting had been that OCLC is integrating awareness of accessibility into their culture (at the development level) and taking the accessibility issue seriously. Jeff has done a good job of raising awareness at OCLC.

Mollyne announced that there had been a conference call between Maryland and Washington in regard to these states possibly pulling out of InfoEyes. Mollyne stressed that in Maryland's case, although they of course are very interested in serving patrons from their own state, they do also feel loyalty to NLS and the talking book libraries and do not want to pull out of Infoeyes. Sharon asked for background information on these conversations. Lori Thornton said that the Washington State Library will definitely be pulling out of Infoeyes (as was mentioned at the June meeting). They will be offering services to Washington citizens using Talking Communities software and voice over IP service for their own patrons. Lori later clarified that the Washington State library is really not set up to handle general public library reference questions as they are mainly a government docs and Washington history library. This explanation made sense to the group as to why Washington State Library would no longer participate. (The Washington Talking Book and Braille Library is a separate entity). Mollyne said in Maryland they will have further discussions when Joe Thompson gets back. She reiterated that she views a separate Infoeyes service as a stop gap effort until the accessibility issue is solved. Lori Thornton stressed that Maryland and Washington will not be collaborating as Washington's service is only for their own patrons.

Both Diana and Mollyne stated that visually impaired people have the same kinds of reference questions as anyone else, and there should not be differences between people with or without disabilities in terms of the types of reference questions they ask or get answered.

Diana also mentioned that OCLC is having a 1.5 day symposium for 50 - 100 Question Point managers and developers where for a half day they will talk about accessibility issues and assistive technology with the Ohio School for the Blind, which shows that they are taking these issues very seriously.

Catherine said she felt very positive about OCLC and what they're offering and wanted to get back to a more positive discussion on how we can make their offers of assistance work for our group. They have offered to provide us with extra profiles if we need them free of charge for one year (InfoEyes would be charged, as we are now, for one profile). Also Jeff offered free training sessions on the way we do decide to route the questions through Questionpoint. Sharon has a virtual reference contact in Illinois whom she has offered to contact as a possible model for routing questions and scheduling responsibility for answering email questions. She knew that they were able to use one profile as a kind of umbrella and offered to get further details. Although that library does email reference only, the group agreed it would be helpful to get that information. Sharon told the group that in terms of statistics, we were not that far off from those of mainstream virtual reference services in Illinois!

Diana said she is thinking of different days for different states to cover email and be the fall-back for live sessions if no one claims the sessions. Mollyne asked about the number of current participants, and Diana will email the membership. She did not think it would be a problem to have a different library cover the different days of the week between Monday and Friday.

Catherine said that she and Linda as coordinators could take some responsibility for making sure the system runs smoothly. Diana said that, although that is very generous, she envisions it "like a series of drains..." The responsibility for responding to a request for live reference service could go first to the whole listserv, then, if not picked up, to the library whose day it is to cover, and then if there were still problems, Catherine and Linda could get involved in scheduling the session.

Catherine said Jeff had suggested a trial period for our new routing method, and maybe that would help clarify how we'll actually use the system. She suggested perhaps one state per week might in some ways be easier to schedule. Linda said that for her, being the only one in the library to cover InfoEyes, staffing would be a problem in covering for a whole week at a time. Diana said that there could be other models as well which we might not have thought about.

Catherine summarized that the end result we are all working toward, no matter how we actually do it, is to meet the patron demand at the time the patrons requests it. Although we did not have time to discuss the statistics report at this meeting, Catherine has emailed the report to all participants. She did say numbers were slightly down, but that is to be expected at this time of year. Then Diana reiterated that we still need a secretary for the new term in October!