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THIS ARTICLE EXPLORES THE USE OF GOOGLE FORMS, a free survey tool, for an academic library's technical services department. Implementing this type of tool can be an effective method of improving communication between library departments. It can also assist with project management (by facilitating workload distribution), and it serves as an effective method of gathering valuable statistical data. Additionally, this tool can also be used to improve department morale and emphasize the value and breadth of less visible, back-end work. Topics addressed in this article include the background and development of the tool, its effect on workload distribution and morale, and the implications of such a tool on assessment.


In 2015, Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University consolidated. The university's new, combined library system maintained a central technical services department responsible for servicing both campus libraries. The Kennesaw State University library system's technical services department is located in an off-site repository, separate from the two campus libraries. Recognizing a need for improved communications between libraries and the department for the new multi-campus institution, the technical services department used Google Forms to create a survey that allowed library staffers from other departments to submit requests for technical services assistance.

This original version of the form, which went live in May 2015, allowed users to submit requests on a limited number of pre-established tasks. These tasks included reporting cataloging errors, requesting the status of a book order, requests for reports on library materials usage, and location changes for featured book displays.

The technical services department opted to share the form with both internal library staffers and the wider university community. The form was advertised to departments external to the library that the technical services department supported, such as the department of education's in-house library: the Teacher Resource and Activity Corner. Additionally, a link to the form was placed on the library's website, so it was also accessible to the general public. This facilitated the correction of access issues reported by users, such as broken links.


Google Forms is a free survey tool, developed as part of the Google suite of applications. As with using other tools in the suite, a Google account is necessary in order to create a survey in Google Forms. Google Forms offers a variety of templates to use in developing a form, or users can customize their own surveys, with a unique header image and various color and font themes. The technical services department opted for a middle path, using Google-provided graphics and customizing the structure and questions to accommodate the needs of the department.

Because the request form was made available to constituents with varying needs, the technical services department created a landing page for the survey in order to better filter requests based on the predicted needs of the stakeholders. This landing page required users to identify themselves as library staffers, students, or faculty members. The responses were routed accordingly, with self-identified library staffers and faculty members receiving the most options on the screen following the landing page. Users identifying themselves as students were routed to a simpler error-reporting page, due to concerns that overwhelming students with options of no interest to them would lead to incomplete form submissions. Each submission required a name and email address so that staff members could follow up with users if needed.

The landing page routing logic was incorporated throughout the form in order to avoid inundating users with too many options and questions, while still providing technical services staffers with as much information as possible in order to accomplish the task requested. For example, selecting the Access and Discovery Issues option led users to a page with selections such as broken links and inaccurate metadata.

Workload Distribution

Although the form initially sent responses only to the shared departmental email, by fall 2015, it became clear that it would be more useful to notify everyone in the department simultaneously, rather than requiring staff members to log in to multiple email accounts throughout the day. In order to accomplish this, the department used Form Notifications, an add-on in Google Forms that allows for multiple email addresses to be added for automated notification of form submissions. Google Forms responses can be deposited into a linked Google Sheet, which the department enabled. Over time, technical services staffers developed a system wherein they would place their initials by a request to claim it as it arrived.

This claiming system turned a communicative tool into a project management tool, which facilitated work distribution among members of the department. Although there are certain tasks that must be completed by a specific individual, there are often requests that multiple cross-trained individuals within the department can respond to, depending on who has the time to attend to the request. Once a task is completed, the staff member moves the request to a Completed tab in the spreadsheet and notes the date completed.


The initial form was revised over the years; in time, its name evolved into the Technical Services Request Portal. It became especially useful for statistical purposes as it grew. Because all requests beyond day-to-day work were filtered through the portal, the technical services department had a method of tracking statistics on the number and types of requests made over the course of the year. Google Forms automatically tracked the date and time of each request submission, facilitating the department's ability to calculate turnaround time on each request. In FY2018, the department responded to 528 requests, with an average turnaround time of 1.62 days. While some requests required deeper investigation or collaboration with vendors and technical support, staff members were frequently able to respond to requests the same day they were submitted. This cumulative data helped the department to understand the overall impact of the work that the staffers completed and to better appreciate the breadth and efficiency of their work.

Google Forms also provided automated graphs of responses as a visual representation of how those requests were broken down, located under a Responses tab. This ability to break down requests into subcategories was helpful from a big-picture perspective, enabling the department to assess what processes might need to be changed or improved, depending on the number of requests received in a particular area. One example of a change implemented in FY2019 was the creation of an automatic report for collection development purposes, detailing the remaining balance in each fund code. This automated report came about in response to the popularity of the fund-balance selection the previous year.

Some data visualizations did not translate as well, including the automated bar graph of responses to the question about journal holdings maintenance. Although such automated visualizations were not particularly useful, the linked spreadsheet allows for more control over the creation of more appropriate graphic analysis of the data.


Related to the importance of the ability to visualize technical services work is the issue of morale. Because the work of technical services is specialized and behind-the-scenes, it can be somewhat isolating for technical services staff members. That can negatively impact morale. In the case of Kennesaw State University's technical services department, this potential for isolation is compounded by the physical separation of the department from the two libraries. Our implementation of this form helped not only to facilitate communication between technical services staffers and other departments, but it also enabled other departments to understand the scope of work performed by technical services staff members. The central impetus for the implementation of this form was to improve communication between the technical services department and other library departments, and it has been successful. The ability to communicate effectively and efficiently has helped to overcome the physical barriers of separate locations.

Additionally, this form has helped to demystify the work of technical services to other library staffers. When staff members from other departments submit requests, they are offered a wide range of tasks that they might need technical services assistance with. This helps to create transparency in the mysteries of technical services work and emphasizes the breadth of knowledge and the skill set within the technical services department. Meanwhile, technical services staff members are able to better understand the needs of their colleagues in other departments as they complete and respond to requests.


Because the work of technical services is very back end in nature, faculty members and staffers in this department typically only hear about their work when there is a problem with it; accolades for excellence in technical services work are rare. This form, unfortunately, is no exception. Was it actually working to improve both morale and the level of service being provided to others? In order to find out how we were doing, the director of technical services created a survey instrument on technical services work and surveyed colleagues who had requested assistance through the form in the last fiscal year.

The results were overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic and helped department members to understand how their specialized and difficult work was appreciated by their peers. Peers rated the response rate as either "extremely fast" (67%) or "moderately fast" (33%) and the quality of response as "excellent" (95%) or "good" (5%). All respondents noted that their issue was satisfactorily resolved.

The comments also suggested various improvements that would help streamline the process of submitting requests. Some of these suggestions included consolidating initial request options and routing from there, making an Other option for issues that do not fit into pre-existing selections, and creating an option specific to e-resource holding inaccuracies.

Following an editing and testing period, the department implemented some of the survey's suggestions in the portal for FY2019. We plan to conduct an assessment as a yearly exercise in order to help the technical services department continually improve how it supports the work of colleagues and users, remain aware of the impact of their work on others, and think of creative new methods for adapting the form to support others.


Using a free, cloud-based survey tool such as Google Forms can be a worthwhile method for technical services departments to communicate and collaborate with stakeholders. It is also a helpful method of managing workloads. Gathering statistics about requests has proved to be a useful tool for measuring our department's productivity and assessing what services are most needed and which workflows may need improvement. And, ultimately, we believe we have shown that this focus on customer service, communication, and tracking the impact of technical services work can also benefit department morale by encouraging interdepartmental collegiality and fostering a better understanding of the impact of technical services work.

Ariel Turner (] is the director of technical services at Kennesaw State University. She has worked in libraries for 12 years, with a focus on metadata, ILSs, and discovery layers.

Caption: The original version of the request form, established in 2015

Caption: A snapshot of pre-existing Google Forms templates to choose from

Caption: A snapshot of display customization options available in Google From

Caption: A snapshot of the spreadsheet used to track requests

Caption: Bar graph of responses to journal holding maintenance option

Caption: Technical Services Request Form (Responses)

Caption: Please describe the holding maintenance needed.
What is your institutional affiliation?

                            Multiple choice

Faculty                 X   Go to section 2 (Faculty/Staff Assistance)
Library Faculty/Staff   X   Go to section 2 (Faculty/Staff Assistance)
Student                 X   Go to section 9 (Student Assistance)

Routing questions dependent on answers

What can we help you with?

189 responses

Access and Discovery Issues              35.4%
Book Display Creation or Removal
Book Order Status
Cataloging Reserves
Collection Weeding or Inventory Pr ...   13.2%
Cost of Book or Item                     27.9%
Deleted Loan


Types of requests received in FY2019

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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Author:Turner, Ariel
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Sep 1, 2019
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