Introduction to Help-desk Management

There are many different ways in which you can manage and automate your help-desk…your approach has much to do with your current library environment and available resources. Do you have policies and procedures in place to help your staff handle tech support issues? Are you large enough that you could benefit from some help-desk management software? Do you have a regular maintenance routine for your computers? Are you making an effort to standardize your IT infrastructure? Our intent here is to give you the information and tools you need to evaluate your help-desk support needs and take appropriate action.

Why Should You Actively Manage Your Help-Desk?

  • Protect your IT investments. Computers that aren’t supported and maintained properly will break down more often and cease to function sooner.
  • Make IT staff more effective. Remote desktop tools cut down on travel, and help-desk management software helps your techies manage their time and their workflow.
  • Boost staff productivity. The longer your colleagues have to wait for tech support, the less work they can do.
  • Avoid “shadow” tech support. If staff has to wait too long, they’ll often try to fix problems on their own or find workarounds. This usually winds up costing you more lost time and productivity. Also, staff can sometimes make a problem worse with their fixes, and their workarounds may pose a security problem.

Key Actions

To help you better understand your tech support situation, we have included a Library Tech Support Evaluation Sheet.

Stories from the Field

We just have to figure it out. We are a very small library, and we don’t have some of the services that bigger towns have. Last resort, there is one place in town we could hire a technician from, but the library’s budget doesn’t have a lot of money for things like that. So usually what I’ve done in the past, if there’s just something that I can’t figure out, I call other librarians from surrounding areas and ask them if something like that has happened to them and what they’ve done. For instance, we actually got a grant from Gates, and one of the librarians from Miles City came and helped me set up the computers because I was new. Well, I wasn’t new, but my job had changed, and I went from cataloging to more of the technology part of what our library does. And she came down. She helped us. It was phenomenal and amazing. It was Hannah Nash from Miles City. We have such great contact and support from other libraries that if I can’t figure it out myself, that’s how we usually get things done.

Dawn Kingstad
Glendive Public Library, MT

It can be very frustrating thinking, “All I want is this one little thing fixed.” But he knows that we’re functioning okay without it. It’s not going to cause the system to shut down. And he may have another client whose system is shutting down. So we keep saying, 'Would you please hire more people? Hire some more people, we need more time.' And I think the distance is also a problem. If he were just down the road or 20 minutes away, that would be really helpful. But it’s an hour and a half to two hours for him to get here from his office. So it isn’t just an hour quick fix. It’s an hour quick fix plus three-hour round trip drive.

Drusilla Carter
Carter Chesterfield County Library, SC

I do most of the tech support because we have an extremely small budget for technology. My IT guy also works for some of the rural schools in our area, and he lives 20 miles away from here as well, so he’s not readily available. And so I do a good majority of the IT work and then when I run into things that I just can’t deal with, or don’t have the time to deal with we call him in and usually he’ll take the computer off premises and take a look at it. I try not to call him very often because we have $1,500 a year for tech maintenance. And then through another grant from the state I have $1,200, so altogether I have $2,700 for technology for the entire year.

Michelle Fenger
Ronan City Library, MT

In other consortiums where I've worked at it seems to me that it's a pretty typical model that the central office or the consortium wants to have a single point of contact for technical concerns at each branch library so that there's coordination and communication. It's also, I think, more of a 'train the trainer' kind of model. The local tech person takes on some responsibility and feels empowered to train staff at their local branch. They're all regular library staff. Here, our tech person, she has many, many responsibilities but I believe that she just kind of bubbled up to the top of the heap as the person that's most interested and most adept at technology.

Paul Ericsson
Bemidji Public Library, MN

Further Resources

To find out more, see the Further Resources section.