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Systems Liaison Program Description

Program Goals

The Systems Liaison Program in the Smathers Libraries was created to

  • Provide basic local computer support within each Library unit
  • Give work credit to people who perform computer support work, even when that is not the major portion of their job assignment
  • Increase speed of response for Information Technology (IT) related problems
  • Provide tiered support, so that basic problems are handled locally, while more complicated problems are escalated to be handled by the Systems Department

The first goal of the program is an effort to match available resources to need. The Libraries operate almost one thousand networked devices, including eight hundred computers of various types, scattered over nine different physical sites on and off campus. The Systems Department has only three positions that are dedicated to hardware and network support. The Libraries address the shortage of full-time IT staff by formally enlisting staff outside of Systems to cover basic support needs. These needs include keeping track of local IT inventory; initial setup of new workstations, and migration from old machines to new ones; installation of software; relocation of workstations; security functions, such as patching software and keeping virus scanners active; and basic troubleshooting.

The second goal of the program is to ensure that people get full credit for the computer support work they do. Most units have one or more people who are seen as the local computer expert. Whether this is because the person is a computer hobbyist or because the person is just more experienced and skillful at using computers, the result is that the person is called upon to do local computer support in addition to his job. If this is not recognized by management (by explicitly providing work time for the IT support function), the local expert will be constantly stressed between the official and unofficial functions. The Systems Liaison is always assigned at least 10% of his FTE (as recorded in the job description of the position) for computer support work.

The third goal of the program is to increase the speed of response to problems. The Liaison understands local IT needs and workflows, and can frequently fix things without the orientation session that would be required for someone assisting from outside the unit.

Where outside assistance is necessary, the Liaison can speed things up by translating between the local situation and the IT world. This fulfills the fourth goal of the program: Liaisons have Systems Department staff for backup on harder problems. This is more efficient at all levels, and effectively saves everyone time.

Liaison Appointment

Liaisons are appointed by their local unit heads, and are chosen to best meet the IT needs in each unit. The criteria for selection vary across units. Each unit is expected to have at least a 10% FTE assignment to the Liaison program for every ten staff or fraction thereof. Units may pool Liaison assignments as long as this proportion is met. For example, two units with five staff each could have a single Liaison assigned to provide support for both areas. Increasing either unit staff by one person would either require the appointment of another Liaison, or increasing the existing Liaison's assignment to 20%. It is the responsibility of any Liaison who feels that insufficient time is being allocated to perform necessary Liaison work to notify the Systems Department.


Liaisons submit requests for routine assistance by calling the Systems Department or sending email to the SysHelp mailbox: This usually results in the creation of a Trouble Ticket, or ongoing record of the problem, which can be viewed at

Trouble Tickets are the primary way problems are tracked and solved. It is important that Liaisons do not send email or leave voice mail for particular Systems staff directly concerning a problem that must be addressed quickly. The absence of that staff member might lead to a long delay. Sending messages and calls to SysHelp enables efficient routing of requests. Please note that SysHelp is not the mailbox for the Systems Department. Sending requests to the entire department both confuses the issue and delays getting someone assigned to the problem.

End users should always go to their Liaisons for help, and not submit requests to SysHelp directly. Systems will keep the local Liaison informed of any IT work or support being done in the area. Following this protocol will minimize duplicative effort and get problems solved faster.

Liaisons must keep records of all IT equipment maintained in their areas, as well as knowing details of network assignment and workstation usage for all computers. These records are sometimes needed to track down problems that are affecting the campus at large, and must be kept current.

When software updates are required to protect network security, they must be installed as scheduled by the Systems Department. In some cases, this will require an immediate full-time effort to the exclusion of all other tasks. This is fully supported by the Library Directors. Unless a Liaison reports to the Systems Department that there is some local obstacle to compliance with this policy, it is his personal responsibility to comply for all of the workstations under his jurisdiction. Failure to do so can lead to serious disruptions, including loss of network connectivity for entire buildings.

Liaison orientation sessions are conducted by the Systems Department to update procedures and introduce new Liaisons to the program as necessary. Individual consultations about IT issues or the program are always available for Liaisons on request.


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