How We Handle Shift Changes

Our IM reference service is in full swing, and I’ve gotten several questions about how we staff the service. Here, I’d like to show how we handle shift changes. Generally, each reference librarian has a one-hour shift on IM during the daytime hours. Night and weekend shifts can be a little longer.

When the next person is ready to take over the service, he/she will send the Reference IM account a message asking if there is currently anyone on the line. In the image below, I am sending the Reference IM account and IM from my personal account.

Trillian Shift Change

If the current IM reference staffer is not currently talking to anyone, then he/she gives the all clear for the next person to take over. The next person simply has to log on to the Reference IM accounts in Trillian, and the previous staffer is disconnected. However, with AIM accounts, there is one additional step. AIM wants you to confirm that you are about to disconnect another connection, as seen below.

Trillian AOL Message

Now there may be occasions that the previous IM Ref staffer is in the middle of a IM transaction at the top of the hour. This has not happened that often, but we have a plan when it does. When this happens, the first IM staffer will copy the transaction into an IM to the person taking over. So instead of giving the “all clear”, he/she will give the next staffer a copy of what has been going on. Unfortunately, you can’t copy the entire IM transaction and send it to the next person, as there are limits to how much you can paste. If you paste too much into an IM message, you’ll get the following:”Your previous message has not been sent. Reason: Maximum length (800) exceeded. You can recall the last message typed with Ctrl-Up or Up, depending on settings”. If this happens, you just have to copy and paste less, or give the next staffer a brief summary.

While that is the technical solution to changing shifts in the middle of an IM question, some of my colleagues have a more low-tech way of handling this. Since our office is a cubicle environment, it’s easy to go over to the colleague’s desk and take over staffing the service at their computer.