I got up early to publish my Day 2 post. Once in the office, the first thing I need is some coffee which is rather unusual for me. Today in a year will be the opening day of the London 2012 Olympics. I have a chat with our receptionist about it who will have to endure all day coverage on this from the 24 hour news channel on the TV near his desk. Don’t get me wrong, I am actually really excited about the Olympics and can’t wait until next summer. This feeling is not shared by everyone in the team!
Back at my desk, I quickly upload a library picture to yesterday’s blog entry. This may end up being a daily routine this week as I write the posts in the evening and then use images from our library publicity archive.
As I mentioned yesterday, this morning I have put some time aside for database training. As part of our annual performance review, each member of the enquiry team is supposed to become product champion for one of our electronic databases. I have been allocated FAME, a database providing company information of UK and Irish companies. We use the database to provide company reports on individual companies as well as mailing lists of companies, for example based on a specific industry sector or geographic region.
The database is very complex. Once you have constructed a search according to a user’s request, you need to format the final report in a way that displays the data required. For instance, you can end up producing a mailing list with company contact details or a large table of financial data that allows a member to compare the financial performance of companies. The data is based on records that companies have to file at Companies House. Whilst large companies have to file full accounts, small and medium sized companies are allowed to file abbreviated accounts. Our members can order these reports from our website and we supply them for a charge.
I start by going through notes I took last year when I had some FAME training as part of my initial enquiry desk training. The publisher Bureau van Dijk has recently introduced a new interface, which is supposed to have better functionality and be more intuitive to use. At the moment both interfaces run parallel, but the old one is only available for another two months. During this time we have to update our own documentation on how to carry out specific searches. For some reason the new version does not support the file formats of the old version which means that all our standard saved formats have to be recreated.
I am supposed to spend an hour a week on this but I have decided to do two hours every other week instead. Two weeks ago I went through some tutorials on the new interface. By now my notes don’t really make sense to me because they are based on general functionality rather than specific search options. In the end I use a set of last year’s training exercises and try to recreate the searches in the new version. I make some progress but lunch comes along far too quick and I end up being rather dissatisfied with my session. I decide to set up a meeting with my line manager who is the FAME expert in the team to discuss how to go on from here.
The afternoon is once again spent with enquiry work. I am scheduled on the enquiry desk for an hour and then as backup for the rest of the afternoon. I start with an urgent enquiry. A member would like a post-acquisition checklist, i.e. a checklist covering the steps involved in integrating different businesses following a company merger or acquisition. My colleague found a book which includes a ‘senior manager’s working checklist for practical implementation’. I try to phone the member back but only get his voicemail. I decide to try again later rather than leave a message as he may have gone for lunch.
Next I deal with a phone call from a member who is looking for an electronic copy of Financial Reporting Standard 21. It turns out he has not checked our website yet and I am able to direct him to our UK accounting standards section. Behind the member login we have a link to the full text from one of our subscription databases and he is very impressed as he wasn’t aware of this content.
This is a good example for web content that has been created in response to regular enquiries. Whilst this is a major benefit to users, the knock-on effect for the enquiry desk is an increase in complex enquiries. In turn this has an impact on the level of staff training needed, both in terms of the knowledge required and the time it takes to build up this expertise and the necessary confidence to deal with these queries.
My initial enquiry training took six months until I was ready to ‘fly solo’. We operate a system where an enquiry is dealt with by whoever is scheduled for enquiry work, rather than one person dealing with a query from start to finish. This means that we are multitasking at all times and that people with very different levels of knowledge can end up working on the same enquiry at different stages. Given that English is not my first language and I have no business background, it can take me a while to get to grips with specific terms or concepts that are second nature to our users. Overall I am enjoying the challenge and that no day is ever the same.
I finish the day with sharing some IT hints and tips with the Head of the library. We are not just dealing with new software, but are also adjusting to new widescreen monitors. It can be rather unsettling when you are not able to do something quickly that you were used to do intuitively before. My response to that is to scribble down anything I figure out and I am happy to share my discoveries with the team.