Vancouver Public Library sets help desk priorities

The Vancouver Public Library has updated its help desk management software to assist its small IT team in fielding the questions of some 1,000 full and part-time staff.

The library has been using Mississauga, Ont.-based HelpStar for the past 10 years. The latest version, 8.2, makes it easier for the small support staff to know which fires to tend to first, which is important given that employees are spread out among the library’s central downtown and 20 branch locations, said systems support technician Davis Bordignon. 

“When a request comes in we give it a priority, which is a medium one, and if it stays in there too long it will actually escalate it automatically,” explained Bordignon.

Most of the problems reported to the library’s help desk are equipment-related, although there are always software and e-mail issues to resolve as well, he added.

“If they are of an urgent nature we have them call us but if they’re not urgent — like if one of their monitors dies and they have another monitor of the same type — they can just send in their request,” he said.

According to HelpStar product manager Gemma Young, capabilities in the latest version of the software make it more of a problem management system than just a typical help desk software product.

“We’re concerned with taking support reps and admin staff right through to problem resolution, so we have things as most tracking systems do like knowledge bases, but we also closely tie those into the calls themselves,” she said. “We have features that allow you to access the knowledge base directly from a call and do an automatic search based on properties in the request.”

Other new features in the software include a rules designer, which Young said checks for conditions in the service ticket or e-mail and allows help desk staff to perform certain actions. For example, if you have tickets coming in related to networking problems, the software can automatically route those requests to networking staff.

“If you have a call of an urgent nature, you can prioritize that as part of your help desk,” she said. “You can also conduct service level management with the business rules, so, for example, you can say if a critical request has not been resolved in two hours, escalate it; page someone. It’s very flexible, there is no scripting required and it’s a very simple user interface.”

V. 8.2 also allow users to perform asset tracking by keeping track of how much time help desk staff are spending on certain assets such as PCs. The software can automatically audit all the PCs on the network, and while it can import any existing lists of printers and other hardware, assets not yet on a list would have to be entered into the system manually. 

That way, she said, help desk staff can report exactly how much time they are spending on supporting an organization’s assets and pinpoint problem areas.

That reporting capability is particularly useful for help desk staff when it tries to talk management into spending a few bucks on training in order to reduce the number of calls related to relatively simple problems.

“If you have something like an upgrade you’re going to see a spike in your requests,” said Young. “Traditionally help desk people have only been able to say they’ve had a lot of additional requests. Now they can say how many and how long it took to resolve them, and if we had invested in 10 hours of training we could have cut down on most of these. It provides them with the justification they need; it gives them the facts and figures so they can show management exactly how they’re spending their time.”

Although the VPL doesn’t use the software for asset-tracking – it uses a program developed in-house – it is looking at using the software for training related purposes, said Bordignon.

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