In this “Health Check” we look at existing access, promotion, skills and confidence, service levels and practice to identify any areas where improvements can be made.
How are your eResources described? How are they perceived?
Take a sample of descriptions of eResources from your web pages and/or any promotional material.
Ask five clients and any new and less experienced staff:
What do you think this resource is?
What sort of information does it provide?
What would it be useful for?
How closely do their interpretations match the intended message? Note any words or terms that cause confusion.
Examine the text in your eResource descriptions and rate how well they convey by example how they can be used.
XYZ eResource provides online journals, newspapers, reference works, images and primary sources.
XYZ eResource provides school students researching a project e.g. climate change with an overview of the topic from reference books, more detailed, specific and current information from popular science journals and a local perspective from NSW and Australian newspaper articles.
The first description makes only a weak connection to user needs, the second description shows how a student might use the resource.
Ease of use:
Ask a few clients or new or less experienced staff to find specific named eResources from your website.
Observe this and note what access points they try, how they find the resource and how long it takes.
Ask the clients and/or staff about their experience. How obvious was the path, what did they find confusing and/or frustrating?
If you have access to web analytics this will also provide information on how users are accessing the eResources, what paths are taken and whether there are drop-outs along the way.
Test the speed of inhouse and at home access, e.g. how long it takes to open an eResource, how long it takes to open a PDF article within different eResources. Have there been any complaints from clients or staff regarding speed or access issues.
Note all weak areas for action.
“Field test” your promotional material on small focus groups of clients and staff. You could combine this with the tests suggested above. Make sure you have a good representation of age groups and interests, users and non-users of eResources.
Gather brochures, print outs from your website etc.
Were staff and clients aware of the particular resources being promoted?
Have they used the brochure (clients) or handed it out (staff)?
Is it useful in conveying awareness or assisting use of the eResources?
Who do they feel the brochure was intended for?
Is the promotional material attractive and professional?
Does the material have a consistent message and appearance?
What would they like to see provided to better inform on the availability and use of these resources?
Summarise your findings.
If you don’t have any promotional material, or only limited material, that too needs to be addressed.
Existing Skills and Confidence
Usage: Determine the frequency of use of eResources. Gather statistics for the past six months using the NSW.net administration facility. See Accessing Usage Statistics:
List all resources by usage, strong, average or weak. Ask staff three questions:
Which eResources have you used over the past month?
Which eResources do you feel least confident in using?
Which eResources have you seldom used and why?
Consider their responses relating to lack of use and categorise them as issues of skill, access, content, awareness, service approach.
Analyse your current eResources by relevance to your clients, noting them as highly relevant, somewhat relevant or marginally relevant. Compare with actual usage statistics. If highly and somewhat relevant eResources are not being used, target these for training and promotion.
Existing Service Levels and Practice
Find out if your library has a policy on level of information service. See State Library of NSW Living Learning Libraries, Guideline 6 Information and Readers Advisory Services and Guideline 22 Customer Service
Ask service desk staff what they do if a user asks for help with a topic requiring the use of the eResources. Ask what they do if a user asks for help with a topic requiring a hard copy resource.
Is the same level of service offered for each context? Are eResource enquiries less hands-on? If the service is not consistent note issues to raise around training and awareness.
Gather your notes, observations and comments from the activities above. Identify those issues which require action and/or discussion. Group them into three broad areas:
Access – how your eResources are described and perceived by users
Promotion – how to make staff and clients more aware of the eResources and their specific value
Skills/Training – issues arising from skills, lack of confidence and inconsistencies in service levels
Write issues statements for each area.
e.g. a comment such as “I thought Britannica was like the print version and only for senior students, I didn’t know it had all kinds of stuff I could use” becomes an issue statement: “Lack of student awareness of the range of content of Encyclopaedia Britannica Online”.
Give each issue statement a priority rating. This could be as simple as essential, desirable, less urgent. Look for any issues which could be “quick wins”.
You now have a summary list of eResource challenges. The next parts of the Toolkit will help you develop responses and solutions.