While talking at work with the Systems Librarian about some of the reference services initiatives we hope to start rolling out this year, we started talking about a reference portal as a place to house it all. We’d been talking about possibly updating our MediaWiki based staff and student manual to a more user friendly, more organizable and searchable product in the vein of a knowledge management suite (we still need to figure out what, exactly, we mean by that). This could be a useful tool for students working by themselves at the circulation desk, as well as staff assisting in areas outside their normal duties (we’re a small staff, so sometimes we user services folks need to call on others whose main duties are in ‘the back room’).
Then we were talking about reference desk statistics. Due to cost cutting measures, the university is not buying desk calendars, which is how we kept track of reference desk statistics. And, since we were not able to fill the position of Reference Librarian this year, we don’t have as much coverage at the reference desk. Consequently we field more in person, email, and phone questions from our own offices. Those factors make the use of a centralized web-based statistics keeping package more desirable.
So, back to the reference portal. We thought having on centralized place where people could access this information when playing a reference or user services role would greatly benefit everyone. Other services we’d like to see there would be a chat interface, text-a-librarian service, an online desk schedule, and an internal blog, among other potential things. We looked around a bit for open source solutions that might have all these things incorporated, or at least enough to build off of, but have not yet located a viable candidate. We may just end up building all the components, or incorporating some of them into a larger package that we compile. We’ll see how the new year pans out and what directions we decide, or need, to go in an ever changing environment.