|Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship||Summer 1998|
Bookmobiles are a common sight in many cities and towns. These bright, big buses are fitted with shelves, computers, chairs and desks, mimicking the physical structure of a library building. They usually follow a fixed schedule and a planned route and can provide clients with practically all the same types of services as that of the originating library.
Another variation of the visiting library can be found in hospitals. Many hospital librarians have established a Clinical Medical Librarian (CML) program (Cimpl 1985). Rather than being a library fixture, the medical librarian leaves the library to go on rounds with a particular physician and other health care workers such as medical students, pharmacists, nutritionists, social workers and others and thus becomes an important part of the health care team. Back at the library, the CML has a better understanding of the team's needs and can respond to those needs by performing searches for articles relating to the medical cases being reviewed and making that information available to those on the team.
Colleges and universities have used Reference Rovers, such as library interns, students, librarians, or library assistants, who circulate through a particular assigned area such as a Reference Room or other point of use area. They seek out those who need help using library resources and provide a rich source of expertise (Ramirez 1994; Bregman 1992).
Finally, technical librarians, using ideas from the CML program, also have brought their expertise directly to the client especially by participating on research or product teams. Here they use their analytical skills, knowledge of the subject being investigated and their ability to gather information to further the work of the team and incidentally, gain acceptance as a colleague and team player (Reiman 1981).
The Visiting IC Program at Amgen is the practical distillation of these various outreach library endeavors tailored to work in the Amgen corporate environment.
Equipment and supplies: The sites to be visited were equipped with a library-owned laptop computer for each IC. The computers were connected to both the intranet and Internet. Free, useful gifts such as library pens, note pads, library brochures, journal lists, bibliographies, and bookmarks were set out neatly for clients to take. Refreshments were served at each visit in order to draw people to the site.
Personnel: Several people were needed to make these visits a success. A library systems person set up the laptop computers, made the appropriate connections, and checked that the computers were in good working order. A library assistant reserved the various sites, ordered the refreshments for each visit, and made the advertising posters. The information consultants scouted various buildings to find the best room or area for the visit, chose the dates, and gathered the data to include on a announcement poster.
Advertising: In the pilot program, posters were the primary vehicle used to advertise each visit and they were placed in various busy areas at each site about a week before the visit date. An e-mail containing the same information as the poster was also sent a week in advance to the research clients in the building being visited. Balloons were displayed at some sites which, because of their location, needed some obvious display to catch the potential clients' attention.
Data collected: At each visit, clients were counted. Also, verbal comments from the clients were written down because no formal evaluation forms were created for this pilot. Of course, general, unwritten observations were made which included watching client traffic patterns, noticing how fast the refreshments disappeared, the types and number of questions asked, and how well the site was working for the clients. This informal data was later incorporated into the analysis of the program's usefulness and success.
Program analysis: After the pilot program, the two visiting information consultants met to discuss their observations and opinions about the program and to share their ideas for changes and improvements. These were then presented to the library information consultants team for their input and approval. A written report was then presented to management for consideration and approval of the program for regular use.
The cafeterias and some building lobbies were added to the list of possible sites and advertising was changed so that an attractive, colorful e-mail advertisement would be sent the same morning as the visit to the clients in the target building. Only two or three colorful posters would be produced for display at the site and on the doors to the site building and would be posted the same day as the visit. Clients seemed to forget the visit if it was advertised too far in advance or not repeated just before the visit. The idea of attaching balloons to the site doorway to attract clients was also considered as an additional advertising method.
An important aspect of this program is that it is flexible and open to variation and experimentation. Changes to each visit are relatively easy to make and new ideas can be easily incorporated into a visit. For instance, this year the information consultants have added to each visit a book display where books and other materials on topics of potential interest to the clients arranged attractively and made available for checkout. Also, an information consultant who is knowledgeable about bibliographic management software has joined the visits and has helped several clients establish and organize their own literature files. The program thus can be customized easily to serve client groups with different needs from many areas of the company.
A bonus of this program is that it is fun for the library participants and allows library personnel to meet new people, talk about their work, and visit other areas of the company to see where and how other departments work. It provides an enjoyable break from conventional library duties and moves librarians into a proactive role, expands their potential for comfort in areas other than the library, and gives them an opportunity to demonstrate their many important skills.
Finally, I am grateful especially to the Amgen Libraries' management who encouraged and supported the practical application of an idea.
Bregman, A. & Mento, B. 1992. Reference Roving at Boston College. College & Research Libraries News 53(10): 634-635.
Cimpl, Kay. 1985. Clinical Medical Librarianship: A Review of the Literature. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 73(1):21-28.
Ramirez, JL. 1994. Reference Rover: the Hesitant Patron's Best Friend. College & Research Libraries News 55(6):356-357.
Reiman, Diane J. 1981. The Clinical Medical Librarian Model and the Technical Information Specialist. The Information Community: An Alliance for Progress. Proceedings of the 44th ASIS Annual Meeting 1981. Washington DC, October, 25-30, 1981.