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A survey of requests for technical assistance in Burwood Library: a guest blog post

A guest post by Shobana Panicker

The nature of the public library reference and information service has been evolving over many years. With the provision of digital services and resources comes the need to provide technical assistance to customers in order for them to understand and access these services. Aside from anecdotal evidence there hasn’t been a concerted effort in collecting y data that reflects the changes in the reference services provided by Burwood Library. Hence it was decided to conduct a survey over one week each in November 2016 and April 2017 to provide a snapshot of the types of technical assistance staff afforded to our customers and the time taken to do so.

A recording form was devised with feedback from staff regarding types of technical assistance requests received. These included email, internet access, mobile printing, online forms, photocopying and printing, scanning, Wi-Fi Access, e-books/audiobooks/e-magazines, self-check kiosks  and use of  Word/Excel  Data was collected every shift under three categories of time taken ; Under 5 minutes,  Between 5-10 minutes and Over 10 minutes.

The definition used for an assist or a transaction was as follows: “A transaction is one where a staff member assists in the use of equipment or answers the enquirer's question about the use of equipment and software.   Each separate transaction by the same customer should be counted as a new enquiry."



Total number of instances of assistance during the week was 348. The highest percentage of 45% was for assistance with printing and photocopying. 18% for assistance with internet access, 12 % for assistance with email. Most of these requests were completed in under 10 minutes. Assistance with online forms and email took the most time – generally more than 10 minutes.

Total number of hours spent on technical assistance as a percentage of weekly opening hours was 33.6%


The corresponding results for April were as follows: Total number of assists was 408. Total time spent was 37.3 % of opening hours. Once again assistance with photocopying and printing formed 38% of the requests for assistance, followed by 16% and 15% for Wi-Fi access and internet access respectively

The results have provided us with the opportunity to review the need for further staff training, technology upgrades, user education programs, cheat sheets and better signage  Another issue raised has been the need to find ways of dealing with privacy for many of our customers when assisting them with passwords, health information, immigration and financial data.

Please feel free to contact me if you want further information about the survey.