My partner and I undertook the “virtual service desk” project at SUNY Upstate Medical Health Science library. The original scope of the project was to create a single service point for all reference communications, especially for email, which could then be distributed from that consolidated inbox to the appropriate staff member. There are also plans to introduce chat reference service and, hopefully, an FAQ derived from the transcripts.
At this time, we completed and turned in 3/4 parts of the overall project plan: the literature review, the project plan itself, and the marketing. Looking back, I definitely feel rather accomplished and prepared to create project plans in the future, should the need arise, though the process of getting to this point has certainly been a challenge.
Of course the purpose of the literature review is to find what has already been done and proven successful (or not) rather than potentially waste the effort of “reinventing the wheel” (a phrase I have often heard). While reading about the experiences of other libraries in creating a “single service point” was enlightening, I don’t think we ever saw documented another project exactly like this one. Chat reference is common enough, but all of the consolidated reference desks were physical rather than behind the scenes.
In actually writing out the lit review, it was difficult, we found, to ensure that we were building the proper narrative that we needed to guide the reader. We had all the material we needed and we had determined a set of themes and sequences to work around, but the execution fell a little flat. For example: Our discussion of developing core competencies, often touted by our literature, was folded into the overall section on training– because, well, you need to have training in those competencies and you have to determine the competencies before you can train in them! Perfectly rational but in retrospect the core competencies should have stood on their own, before the training section.
Of all the project planning sections, I think this one was actually the least novel, however. The preparation and execution of it were more or less just like doing a research paper, which any grad student has had copious experience with. The most I really learned from this process was the number of software (open-source, free software at that!) is available, either specifically for library purposes or adaptable to that end.