Library projects have students helping students

The University of Lethbridge Library is involved in a pair of recent initiatives that highlight its commitment to student service.

A pilot project launched in early March is aimed to provide improved IT support in the library, especially on evenings and weekends. Computer-related questions are often asked at the Information & Research Assistance Desk or the General Services Desk, which are staffed by librarians and technical services staff whose expertise may not be in this area. While the library has an internal IT staff that takes calls during the day, this resource is unavailable after hours. Enter the Peer-Assisted Technology Support Students (PATTS).

A group of seven, newly-hired student assistants, several of whom have new media or previous computer experience, have been trained in both hardware and software issues that library staff often encounter. Software questions include those regarding Microsoft Office, Blackboard/WebCT and Moodle; while hardware issues they will be able to handle include printing problems, microfiche scanning and printing, projector and laptop use in group work rooms, problems with library computer stations, as well as the circulating equipment such as laptops, digital cameras, projectors and video cameras.

"The library has 176 distributed (sit-down) computer stations and 33 (stand-up) public access stations, which are very highly used," says Jeremy Pierson, the Technical Specialist in the library responsible for hiring and training the students. "The PATSS program will hopefully alleviate the number of technical questions received at the other service desks and provide not only improved service after-hours, but quicker response times during the day when IT staff aren't always available to immediately respond."

Pierson notes that students are often the best people to help their peers with technical issues, as they are more familiar with course software and can often be more tech-savvy.

The PATSS station will be in a highly visible location when entering the library, immediately beside the Information & Research Assistance Desk. It will be staffed from 1 p.m. to close on weekdays and during all library opening hours on weekends, including extended hours which begin closer to exam time.

The library also recently received nine new circulating Macintosh laptops, purchased by the ULSU through their Quality Initiatives Proposal fund. These replace the five laptops which were purchased with this fund in 2007-2008. Circulating laptops are a high-demand item, and requests for Macs especially, has been growing.

Through both the introduction of PATSS and the increased availability of student-use laptops, the library has partnered with students to continue to improve the library's technical services to the University community.