It strikes me from a couple of people's comments -- and from some of my own
experiences -- that there's more going on here than just implementation.
The right implementation is important for adoption, of course, but for a
backup system to be helpful it needs to encourage compliance -- including
things like having the backup folks available for monitoring, remembering
to sign in / turn on walkie talkie / charge batteries, etc. This is
definitely the place where we struggle. We have BOTH an IM-based
beckon-help system AND walkie talkies for intra- and inter-departmental
help requests. But it's very easy to not log into pidgin, to forget that
there's a chat widget on the staff dashboard where you can page help, to
not pick up the radio at the beginning of a shift. Does anyone have any
ideas about how to make this stuff more natural and automatic? Are there
lessons we can learn from the retail world that will help us monitor
service points better?

Also, on some level, the most low-tech solutions can be effective. Right
now the paging system that's had the best track records is this: one of
those hardware store doorbells with a battery-operated button that signals
a remote chime. The button sits on the reference desk and we mash it if the
line starts growing. People in the reference office hear it and come out to
help. The biggest technological hurdle for this system is that the button
is at the very edge of its transmission range, so sometimes mashing on the
button doesn't actually signal the chime.

This solution doesn't meet your dedicated staff subset requirement, but I
wonder if there's something that simple that would work.

Anyway, right now I'm just letting my thoughts spin wildly. But this is an
interesting and practical problem that I'd love to hear more solutions to!

Andreas Orphanides
NCSU Libraries

On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 10:33 PM, Shirley Lincicum <
[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> I wrote a little app in PHP to address this exact problem. I wrote it to
> work the the LibraryH3lp webchat service, but the code could probably be
> adapted to another context. You can download the source code and
> instructions here:
> Best wishes,
> Shirley Lincicum
> On Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 7:57 AM, Greenspun, Cindy
> <[log in to unmask]>wrote:
> > Hello -
> >
> > I'm a newbie to this listserv.  I'm not a librarian, nor am I a coder.
> I
> > primarily do systems related work with our library management system, run
> > SQL reports as needed and project management.  I also work for Access
> > Services and even though I'm considered IT, I'm not in the library IT
> > department.  This is a new position in my department and we're still
> > figuring things out as we go along.
> >
> > I work in one of the many libraries at Yale University.  In the
> department
> > I work in, we have three busy service points - two circulation desks and
> a
> > privileges/registration office.  There are about 50/60 staff members and
> > roughly 50+ student employees who rotate at these service points.  There
> > are times when there are students who are late reporting to a service
> > point, no-shows, or suddenly there's a long line and only one person at a
> > staffed service desk.  At a meeting recently, I was listening to a work
> > leader lament how, if she is the only person there, she is just too busy
> to
> > make a phone call or send an email asking for help - a common occurrence.
> >  After I heard her, I wondered how possible it would be to create some
> sort
> > of desktop 'app'.  One that requires only one click and is smart enough
> to
> > know its service desk location and is sent to the right folks who could
> > come assist right away, upon demand.  These would be on Windows
> > workstations.
> >
> > Recently, I've seen many encouraging responses to the latest 'getting
> > started...' emails and feel motivated to write to this listserv as I'm
> > eager to learn and to try to do this myself.  I hope that this will be a
> > simple enough project for me but I'm just not sure where to start or
> what I
> > should be looking at.  So, here I am, not a librarian, nor a coder.  I
> > write to this listserv seeking suggestions, ideas and encouragement.  :)
> >
> > Thank you -
> > Cindy
> >