Putting Peer Support into action in the OU Library’s Enquiries Team

Manecke, Ute; Tsiplaki, Vasileia and Blunt, Mike (2023). Putting Peer Support into action in the OU Library’s Enquiries Team. In: 15th International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries, 11-13 Jul 2023, Online.


The Open University (OU) Library’s Enquiries Team, is a customer-facing team of Library Assistants, a Senior Library Assistant and Librarians. The Team has piloted and implemented a peer review and support process. The peer review and support process shouldn’t be mistaken with the scholarly process of article publication, as in our case the term “peer review” is used to describe colleagues discussing the quality of each other’s responses to library enquiries received from Academics, other staff and students at all levels of study.

The OU is a distance learning institution and enquiries consist mainly of phone-calls, emails and webchats. Enquiries can vary from book renewals and access to electronic stock to referencing or subject searches. Enquiries are recorded as Service Requests (SRs) on a central customer relationship management system (CRM).

The motivation to launch this process was that no robust performance measurement process was in place. Such a process has been adopted by other customer-facing services at the OU and we recognised this as good practice and wanted to develop our own, innovative approach. The rationale was to identify areas of improvement through peer review and put the necessary support in place to achieve this.

Other performance measurement methods were explored including a peer review process which the OU Enquiries Team trialled in the past before we decided on our process. We randomise Enquiries librarians and library assistants into small groups and ask them to organise a virtual peer review session per month. Each of the group members has to email out their self-chosen enquiry to the others in advance. We encourage participants to reflect on their own enquiry as well as comment on their colleagues’ enquiries which they have received by using a review form we created with evaluation criteria. Suggestions are made for best practice, and training needs are identified which are then fed back to the monthly Enquiries Team meeting where crucial conversations around performance take place or ideas for service improvements are explored.

This approach is largely non-directive so that every Enquiries team member can take ownership of the process. One of the downsides is that not everyone might feel comfortable to choose and discuss enquiries that in their opinion have not gone so well, which could potentially be worth discussing. It also requires organisational efforts and commitment from the groups to organise their review sessions. We found that the required time commitment given the sessions’ frequency needed to be adjusted due to heavy workloads.

Our peer review process is still at the initial stages, but it can be an effective tool that can be adapted to any customer facing role within the library. It offers an opportunity for self-reflection, allows staff to take responsibility for their own performance while learning from one another, and fosters collaboration. By undertaking this process, we evaluate our team’s performance against set standards and expectations. This helps to ensure that we provide the best possible experience for library users.

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