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Virtual Services Committee

Seattle Public Library
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Innovation Leader: Toby Thomas, Virtual Services Librarian, toby.thomas@spl.org

Problem Statement

In a large, urban library organization, ensuring that innovative ideas for online services and technology percolate up and can be evaluated in the context of numerous competing goals and projects can be difficult. This is especially the case in an environment where the library website, public services and information technology exist as separate divisions. Technology and services are changing quickly, and the Library must keep pace especially in its virtual services to remain relevant. No one division within the Library “owns” our virtual services. How do we maintain and improve existing online services in addition to developing, implementing and evaluating new services and content and recommending future virtual services directions?

Innovation

The Virtual Services Committee (VSC) was launched to create a cross-divisional forum for stakeholders to improve and expand the library’s online services. This group includes staff members representing public services, web services, selection services, and information technology. This type of broad forum for considering projects in an intentional way ensures that proposals address strategic goals, ongoing evaluation, and staffing concerns, in the context of concurrent projects.

Progress

This group has offered project guidance to the library blog editorial boards, the Instruction Committee, Databases and Websites Committee, and has become a conduit for ideas around improving our online catalog and website. Some specific things this group has worked on include:

  • BetaBox – a staff suggestion box for online improvements. Suggestions have included improving layout, design and wording in the catalog, new software vendors to review, and new services to implement such as text a librarian
  • Usability work group – to establish regular usability testing on library virtual services for input from the public
  • Mobile library applications – selection and implementation
  • Evaluation, selection and implementation of new public catalog frontend software
  • Virtual Reading Room – online collection of articles and RSS feeds on library virtual services for staff development 

Web Services, Information Technology, and Public Services operate in separate arenas with different priorities at times, yet all share in the successes and failures of our online services. The Virtual Services Committee has offered a valuable place for interaction and collaboration which ultimately has improved our virtual services and organizational awareness of the importance of these efforts.