Q & A with John Wiggins, Director of Library Services & Quality Improvement
I met John Wiggins at his office in W. W. Hagerty Library in late September. A quick glance at the white boards covering half of the space in his office would tell you that John has a lot of responsibilities on his plate. Projects span from improvement efforts to marketing strategies and from a simple to-do list of items to a complicated web-like drawing of related tasks – showing how one change can impact numerous other areas of the Libraries work.
John joined the Libraries in 2000 as a graduate assistant, progressively moving into more advanced positions. Since, he has moved into position that is an integral part of the Libraries decision-making process. John is also an adjunct professor at the College of Computing and Informatics.
Q: What is your job at the Libraries?
My job title is: director, library services and quality improvement. In short, I lead the staff that deliver our library and archives services. I am also responsible for guiding our quality improvement efforts.
Q: So, what are the Libraries “services”?
Largely, library services are the transactional operations of the Libraries. These include many activities that happen behind the scenes - from working with library liaisons and vendors to order and acquire materials, to description and analysis [metadata], processing material for the stacks, and the updating of our website. Activities also include the forward-facing activities that allow clients to engage with information resources, through circulating items, managing reserves, borrowing and lending activities with other libraries.
We spend a lot of time in this area to ensure that members of the University community can access items quickly and easily – and if requested, with coaching from a staff member through Library Assistance, when they cannot find what they need.
Q: What is Service Quality Improvement?
Quality improvement focuses on the individual engaging with the Libraries. The Libraries continually seeks and gathers feedback to guide us in making improvements. It is important that we efficiently use our resources in the areas that are most important to our community.
Q: Why is Service Quality Important?
Service quality is key to Drexel University Libraries as so much of our products are services—the service of access to owned, licensed, and borrowed information resources, the service of guidance, consultation, and instruction by our subject experts, the service of exploring and providing virtual and physical learning environments that inspire and support study and learning.
Q: How do you collect feedback from patrons?
One of our preferred means of feedback is our online survey, where users can select to answer the questions that matter most to them. There is a behind-the-scenes interface that allows us to analyze trends and focus on improvements that are the highest priority to our community.
The University community also shares helpful feedback in a number of convenient ways—by emails to staff, in evaluations shared after instruction sessions, in online comments, chat interactions, phone calls, and in person conversations with Libraries staff.
We appreciate the time our library users take to share their thoughts and concerns. We encourage folks to share it all—the good and bad experiences and ideas for improvement.
Q: What inspired you to become a librarian?
I’ve been volunteering or working in public, school, and academic libraries since I was 13. I loved all the information and was a voracious reader. While working in libraries, I pursued training and a career in English as a Second Language (ESL) in northern New England, where at the time there was little demand for that work. After I while, I realized my motivation for ESL teaching (helping people coming to the US access the information and opportunities available to them) was parallel to the goals of professional librarianship, so I made the switch.
Q: Is there an improvement project that you’re particularly proud of?
In the fall of 2012, the Libraries began work to implement a self-checkout laptop machine in the Bookmark Café - a space open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The exciting part about this project was that it led to two improvements in the Libraries. The first, students could now borrow a laptop 24/7 through a self-service machine and second, staff will have to spend less time checking out laptops at the Service Desk and could assist with other activities.
A student had come to the Dean of Libraries because he was hesitant to carry his personal laptop to his off-campus apartment after the late nights that he spent on campus. Now, he could leave his laptop at home and borrow a machine from the Libraries regardless of how late he needed to work on it.
In December 2012, the Libraries introduced a new laptop-lending kiosk in our 24-hour Bookmark Café. The kiosk makes laptop borrowing something that can be done 24/7, where previously it could only be done during hours the library was open.
[Q&A is monthly series featured in the Libraries' monthly newsletter, In Circulation, by Jenny James Lee]