So it was with interest that I read a recent story in the TimesOnline about a library that allows readers to borrow people for a 30-minute chat. Over the last few years, we've worked very hard in the School of Biological Sciences supporting both students, and perhaps more importantly academic staff, in the use of I.T (it's one of the reasons we're able to offer one of the top 10 Biological Sciences degrees in the UK).
One of the first things we found out was that centralized, top-down, one size fits all I.T. support doesn't work. So instead, we've used our resources to go and talk to staff, face to face if necessary, but they also know that someone who knows understands what they want to do is available on the end of the phone, by email, and now via Twitter. And it worked. Staff feel well supported, and even reluctant users of newer learning technologies have embraced new approaches to teaching.
So this is the model that we need to follow as we start to roll out our new initiative to support postgraduate laboratory scientists. Oh, we'll do the talks and the website, but most importantly, we need to put ourselves in the short loan collection, so that when they call on us we can go and hold their hand for half an hour. And of course, we'll plug them into our online networks (on del.icio.us, on Google Reader and on Twitter) as they develop their own and start to support each other.