Virtual Librarian Service and consultants
September 12, 2012
Expectations of The Virtual Librarian Service (www.virtuallibrarianservice.com)
Who is VLS?
We are a private virtual library service contracting out administrative, reference, knowledge management, academic liaison and reference service development knowledge to accredited online universities and colleges. Whether the university or college is solely online or a hybrid, we are the academic library in the online delivery of academic programs with all the components of services and management of resources expected. It is our librarians who create a real relationship with staff and faculty online. We are staffed by ALA accredited librarians reflecting a range of subject specialties, library backgrounds and levels of experience who contract with VLS as self-employed entrepreneurs. We are not an ask-a-librarian service or a consortium.
VLS operates on the premise of providing an environment where self-motivated librarians are paid for output rather than number of hours worked; who can for the most part perform the work when and where they wish (think of sitting under a tree at the park or in an apartment in Venice or just having the freedom to pick your child up from school).
To that end, VLS has embraced the concept of ROWE (Results-Oriented Work Environment). Combine the basic tenets of self-directed work and pay for output with the world of 100% online reference and academic liaison librarianship and you have defined the VLS work environment.
We are attracted to self-motivated librarians who can competently perform the work contracted to them, with a minimum of oversight. You might be looking for supplementary or full-time income that won’t tie you to someone else’s desk or perhaps you are looking for a bigger professional change that suits your current or planned lifestyle – remember our mention of Venice. If either describes you, VLS could be the place for you.
Virtual Librarian Service is our Name, Mobility and Fun is our Game
VLS is focused on virtually serving the client while giving our librarians the freedom and flexibility of ROWE. While ROWE by definition provides an enormous amount of choice as to when and where to create work output, at VLS the needs of our clients necessitate that the virtual reference desk be staffed and that project work (we wouldn’t want to bore you with only one kind of task) be completed within an established timeframe. To support our primary mandate of professional client service we have developed and adapted ROWE-style work-flow for the reference service portion of our work. This still allows for great flexibility in when and where the work is performed. Alternatively, the project work that we undertake has little structure and is guided by a deadline and the expectation of quality output. Unlike most iterations of the mobile reference desk (e.g. stack roaming and ask-a-librarian library consortia) VLS is committed to providing librarians with the freedom and flexibility that clients are now demanding from libraries. Everyone is in a win-win situation. Combine ROWE with your own mobile technology (e.g. Laptop, Netbook, tablet, cell phone, turbo stick) and clearly VLS librarians are in control of how mobile or traditional in work environment and habits they wish to be.
Although fun and mobility is close to our heart, there are some things you need to share regularly. That is because we work collaboratively and try to support each other. So, let us know or give us an alert when you are travelling or may have limited time or limited access to email whether you are on the schedule or not. We are connected and we have a collective self-awareness need. We work in a collaborative, mutually respectful and supportive environment, while encouraging independence, flexibility and mobility.
Staffing and Retention
Professional librarians are consultants to The Virtual Librarian Service. Training is often cited as the single most important fact in HR retention. At VLS we strive to provide real training that allows the professional librarian to apply knowledge and experience to the reference and project work, while at the same time leaving no doubt as to company expectations and worker responsibilities. To that end we have developed a 2 month, 4 part, 8 week paid orientation/ mentorship that introduces librarians to our management practices, work-flow and customer service mandate in a supported environment focused on success and retention. The first month the new librarian shadows the experienced librarians, the second month the new librarian takes on a prescribed number of shifts on the desk and are shadowed by those same experienced librarians. The third month, supervision drops off, monitoring is random and your colleagues are there to support your continued learning and success in the position. We encourage you to ask for help; lots of it.
Librarians at The Virtual Librarian Service are not alone as they collaborate with each other using various communication tools such as phone, email, video, Skype (VOIP) and Adobe Connect (or Go-to-Meeting, WebEx and so forth). The work environment is collaborative and results oriented for the benefit of the client academic institution, its students and faculty.
The library consultant that works with the Virtual Librarian Service