Customer-Centered Services in the Making at the California State Library

At the California State Library (CSL), customer service is a top priority. Within the CSL’s State Library Services (SLS) Bureau, the division that manages the library’s general reference and government publications resources, we have merged the Government Publications Section, and the State Information and Reference Center to form the Information Resources and Government Publications Section. This reorganization will make obtaining information and services more convenient for CSL customers.

Consolidating service points

In early 2007, the SLS management team and staff reviewed how to improve customer services for SLS customers. In considering how customers access CSL resources at the Library and Courts Stanley Mosk Building (LCI), staff realized that customers with a single query often have to move among three service points on the same floor to gather all the information they need. The SLS staff decided to simplify the CSL customer information gathering process by consolidating service desks – a task made difficult by the building’s late-1920’s architecture.

Providing a single service desk would not only improve customer service but would also free staff to develop new, value-added services for customers, such as scheduling appointments with staff members for in-depth discussions about their information needs and presenting online database training tailored to the specific needs of state agencies.

Just as the SLS team was planning the new service model, the CSL learned that the long-planned LC I building renovation was scheduled to begin in early 2009. Because of the extent of the renovation, the majority of CSL’s 5-million volume collection would be housed in a remote location for the duration of the renovation. This news added another dimension to the service model planning. Since infrastructure improvements including wireless access were planned, the renovation would increase flexibility in planning for a single service desk.

SLS Bureau Chief Linda Springer says, “CSL administrators and managers wanted to be sensitive to our customers' needs and provide a service point close to the current building. The Library and Courts II building is directly across the street from LCI, and isn’t large enough to accommodate the displaced collections. We saw, though, that we would be able to provide a customer service point in one of the reading rooms, and that it would be a good beta test for the single-desk service model. We would have an opportunity to work through problem areas before we return to the renovated building.”

Retiring Boomers accelerate change at CSL service desks

Other events changed the project course as well. The Baby Boomer exit began to affect the SLS service model planning. In mid-2007, several SLS staff retired or announced retirement plans. Other staff members migrated to vacated jobs within the CSL. As a result, two of the three SLS service sections, the Government Publications Section and the State Information and Reference Center, experienced staff shortages significant enough to make managing two sections and staffing two service desks increasingly difficult.

Continuing to plan for the service desk merger with this new wrinkle, CSL administrators and managers decided to begin reducing service desks by merging the two sections right away, reducing the number of service desks from three to two, while plans continued for the single-desk service model. The staffing structure was reviewed and reorganized to provide the needed support. The former State Information and Reference Services and the Government Publication Section became Information Resources and Government Publications (IRGP). The new manager of IRGP, Sabah Eltareb, immediately assigned a staff task force to work on the single-desk model for the combined unit. Before planning was finalized, a virus struck several staff members simultaneously, closing one of the service desks for two days. The impromptu merger showed Eltareb, the task force, and CSL management that merging the two desks was feasible and Eltareb asked the planning team to accelerate the timetable.

In early March 2008, the planning group finalized a plan to merge heavily used items into the general reading room, Gillis Hall. Thanks to the effective planning and hard work of SLS staff, there was minor disruption to services during the relocation of materials and services continued as usual. CSL customers are receiving more convenient services, and staff members are learning new resources through cross-training. The first phase of the new customer-centered service model is in place at CSL.
  

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