Library and Information Services at Carthage College

Centralizing Help Requests
Honoree: 
Carthage College
Program Category: 
Tracking help requests at Carthage College has resulted in time and money savings­—as well as happier users.

The Library and Information Services (LIS) department at Carthage College (Wis.) has provided support services to the campus community since 2001. Part library information desk, part IT and media help desk, LIS’ 22 staff members answer nearly 10,000 questions a year, ranging from where to find a book to figuring out why a student’s email account suddenly stopped working or helping a faculty member put a course online.

With requests on the rise, a tracking process was needed to keep employees and community members informed. By combining Request Tracker, an open source ticket system, with Google Apps for Education, which allows work to be assigned and scheduled, LIS could more efficiently and effectively dole out help requests and keep the requestor informed regarding problem resolution, all at no cost.

Carol Sabbar, director of information services, explains that, in the past, students, faculty, and staff would call the central help desk, enter the library, or catch an LIS employee in the hall to ask a question or request help. That request then had to be logged, with most requests being jotted down on slips of paper that had the potential to be misplaced. There was no way to keep the original requestor updated regarding status, which often resulted in follow-up calls and requests.

Now, students and faculty can initiate their own help requests, via email or web, which cuts out the reporting middleman and the potential for errors. “Not losing track of requests is a big deal,” says Sabbar.

As help requests are reported, they are then prioritized and scheduled. Through Request Tracker, new requests can be created and community members can track progress on existing tickets, add new information, or close them out as resolved. Technicians can update requests, adding comments regarding progress that are then emailed to requesters to keep them updated.

“As long as the user knows the issue will be resolved, user satisfaction goes way up,” says Sabbar. She estimates that as many as 80 percent of repeat, follow-up phone calls have been eliminated with the new system.

Once a user submits a request, the work gets scheduled by one of the department’s student employees. And when all the needed resources are available—such as a reference librarian to help a student with research, a computer part, or access to classroom equipment—an “event” is created within Google Calendar. Calendar invitations are sent to student staff members to determine availability to address the request. The assigned worker can then be reminded through his or her smartphone of the upcoming appointment. Workers can update and resolve requests from wherever they are on campus, in near real-time.

Sabbar says Carthage is saving about $4,000 annually from the implementation of the Request Tracker and Google Apps system, while staff time is now better allocated. Being able to delegate responsibilities to student employees has freed up full-time staff for higher-value tasks, with 98.5 percent of help requests having been resolved in the past three years. Carthage’s new system is “an unbeatable combination,” says Sabbar.

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