Request Submitted - Patron Follow Up Question

Hi all! When researchers request material here at UC San Diego, they are asked to select a date of visit, and then the status for the requests are shown on the web as 'request submitted'. We don't have an appointment only reading room; researchers can come in any time we are open. Aside from the system email sent to them when they sign up, we only reach out to our patrons if there is a special request/comment, if the item is housed offsite, or if there are any other circumstances needing contact. We’ve had a few instances within the last couple of months where researchers reach out to us, waiting to hear back on the status of their requests, not realizing that they can just come in whenever they'd like. We recently added a web alert letting researchers know that as soon as they submit a request that isn’t offsite, their request is ready. We also changed the status wording from 'request submitted’, to ‘request received’. I wanted to reach out and ask how often you all follow up on requests, and see if others have run into this problem in the past, how other institutions word this, etc. 

Thanks in advance for your input!

Jenny Donovan
UC San Diego SC&A



  • Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. We have a lot of similar issues at the Harvard Library - patrons just don't always know what to expect after they submit a request. When we conducted user testing, all the test participants said they would expect to get an email when the requested materials are available.

    Our problems are compounded by the fact that we currently have 15 repositories using Aeon (with a few more still to come) and practices vary from repository to repository. Some require appointments, some reach out to all patrons to confirm their requests but don't require appointments, and others only reach out to patrons if there is a problem with a request.

    We've tried a few things:

    • We also added a persistent web alert to help users understand next steps - although ours is more about helping patrons understand that access procedures may vary from library to library.
    • On the main menu page, we have created separate outstanding request tables for each library with a footer that includes more specific information about what to expect at that repository. One example reads, "Collection materials held onsite will be paged upon your arrival. Requests for materials held offsite require at least one business day to process." Of course, if you only have one site, you don't need multiple tables, but we have decided that this is just one more place where we can put short statements about how to get access to materials. We wanted to put the information in the table header, but for technical reasons were unable to. That might change with the new web interface design Atlas is planning.
    • We recently updated the web display names of a lot of our queues. We actually went back and forth between "Request submitted" and "Request received" and ultimately went with "Request submitted" because we were concerned about giving patrons a mistaken impression that staff were already reviewing their requests. Your experience with the exact same wording is interesting. At one point, we actually used a display name of "Onsite materials will be paged when you arrive," but that is no longer true for all of our repositories, so we changed it. 

    We are in the process of completely redesigning our request forms and my hope is that our usability expert will help us come up with a way to more effectively communicate how the requesting process works to patrons through the request form.

    I think we would also be very interested in automated confirmation emails for new requests and/or automated emails when materials are placed on hold. We hope to explore these options in the future.

    Hopefully other people will join the conversation!



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  • I would also find it helpful to send researchers an automatic confirmation email when we place an item on hold or perhaps when they make a request. We pull materials throughout the day in the reading room. This could be a great reminder that they can visit the reading room and their materials will be placed on hold for x amount of days. We also only reach out to a researcher if there is a problem with their request, or if there is a request for materials located offsite. But it could be a great way to keep them informed of the process. I'm interested in the web alerts you both mention. Are you finding those to be successful with researchers?

    We've recently updated our main menu page to include a "getting started" guide explaining the process of requesting items for researchers and streamline the menu so researchers can have an easier time navigating the system. Of course not all researchers will take the time to look over instructions/guidelines before placing a request. So these ideas to improve communication with researchers are so great to see!



    Special Collections and University Archives, UMD

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