Development of Technology Competencies for Public Services’ Staff Has Limited External Validity

Jason Martin


A Review of:
Wong, G. K. W. (2010). Information commons help desk transactions study. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(3), 235-241.

Objective - To develop an understanding of the types of technology questions asked at an information commons help desk for the purposes of staffing the desk and training. Specifically, the study looked to answer the following questions:

1. What kind of assistance do users seek from the help desk?
2. How complex is it to handle the technology questions?
3. What are the key competencies desirable of the help desk staff?

Design - Qualitative analysis of transactions completed at an information commons help desk.

Setting - A medium sized academic library located in Hong Kong.

Data - 1,636 transactions completed at an information commons help desk between January 2007 and May 2009.

Methods - From the opening in 2006, the staff of the information commons help desk recorded all transactions electronically using a modified version of the open source software LibStats. The author examined the transactions for roughly the second and third weeks of each month from January 2007 to May 2009 in an effort to determine the types of questions asked and their complexity.

Main Results - In response to question one, 86.3% of questions asked at the help desk concerned technology; the majority of those questions (76.5%) were about printing, wireless connection, and various software operation. For question two, 82% of technology questions were determined to be of the lowest tier (Tier 1) of complexity, one-third of the questions required only “direct answers,” and 80% of questions could be answered consistently via the creation of a “knowledge base of answers for these foreseeable questions.” For question three, a list of fourteen competencies for help desk staff were created.

Conclusion - With the low complexity of the technology questions asked, the creation of a knowledge base of common questions and answers, and proper training of staff based on the competencies identified in the study, an information commons could be effective with one integrated desk staffed by a librarian and paraprofessional staff member.

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