Sunday, May 27, 2012

A thought about predictability of user requests

I am not by any stretch a customer service guru or expert, but one thing I noticed about libraries is that user needs tend to come in cycles and often can be easily anticipated in advance.

After working in an academic library in the last 5 years and monitoring emails, tweets, chats , search logs, you see the same pattern repeat itself over and over again.

For example, just before the exam results are released there will be a spike of questions or searches about fines payment because the university department will typically send out a email warning students that amounts outstanding to NUS , be it hostel fees, course fees or even library fines might bar them from receiving their exam results.

Given that this need for information is predictable in advance, one can post existing FAQs on fines payment etc at just the right moment on Twitter, Facebook and sit back and watch the information get shared and reshared.

The same thing can be seen with users searching for past year exam papers near the exam period, freshman trying to figure out their passwords during orientation, honours years and graduate students trying to figure out how to format their thesis near the end of the term or even certain hours before a certain day where most term assignments are due (for us there is a big spike of usage of eresources just a couple of hours before the end of the one week term break).

This has made me wonder if the library should take into account such usage patterns and perhaps deploy more help such as lengthening online chat references (up to midnight?) for identifiable periods where users desperately need help.

That's just one of the ways where a library can be truly adaptable to user needs by shifting manpower to areas of concern to users, though the drawback is such a flexible , adaptable system with many exceptions would be quite confusing to users and staff...

Nothing earth-shattering, just a thought.



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