A resource centre needs competent and enthusiastic staff. Staff need to be selected carefully and encouraged to improve their knowledge and skills through ongoing training.
A large resource centre containing several thousand materials and providing a range of information services will need at least two full-time members of staff (or equivalent) - a resource centre officer, who has overall responsibility for developing and managing the resource centre, and a resource centre assistant to carry out routine tasks such as ordering and receiving materials. A resource centre with fewer materials or offering fewer services will need only a resource centre officer.
Ideally, the resource centre officer should have both knowledge of the subject area, and experience or training in resource centre work. If the person appointed lacks experience in resource centre work, it is important to provide training.
If it is not possible to appoint a resource centre officer with knowledge of the subject area, it is important to identify someone who has this knowledge, who can supervise and/or liaise with the resource centre officer. This person needs to be able to discuss the information needs of people who will use the resource centre, and to understand the importance of access to and use of information. This person could be another member of staff or a member of the resource centre advisory committee, if there is one (see Section 2.2).
If staff are seconded to the resource centre for part of the day, it is important that they have sufficient time for resource centre work. Otherwise they may not be able to do a satisfactory job, and may become demotivated. It is also important that the other work they do is complementary to their resource centre work. For example, if their work also involves training, publications development, outreach, advocacy, health promotion or counselling, this work and their resource centre work will each be useful to the other.
2.1.1 Job descriptions
A job description and person specification (a list of qualifications and experience necessary to do the job) need to be drawn up for each member of staff. This will help to recruit the right people and enable them to know what work they are expected to do.
Section 2.1.2 is a sample job description and person specification for a full-time resource centre officer. An alternative might be to recruit two resource centre officers to job-share, or employ volunteers. Volunteers should also have job descriptions.
If it is not possible to appoint a full-time resource centre officer (or equivalent), at least six to eight hours per week should be allowed for resource centre duties. This would enable the resource centre to be open for at least two hours a day for three days a week, and would allow two hours a week for administrative duties.
If the resource centre is only open to staff within the same organisation, it could be open when resource centre staff are not on duty.
2.1.2 Sample job description of a resource centre officer
The aim of the resource centre is to assist in the overall goal of the organisation to achieve health for all by collecting, organising and disseminating information in health and health-related fields. The resource centre serves staff of the organisation, including those responsible for training and those undertaking research. The resource centre is guided in its implementation and development by the Resource Centre Advisory Committee. The Resource Centre Officer is accountable to the Head of Information.
The Resource Centre Officer is responsible for the day-to-day running of the resource centre. Specific responsibilities are to:
- develop a collection policy in consultation with the Head of Information and the Resource Centre Advisory Committee
- gather information and materials to meet the needs of resource centre users, in consultation with the Head of Information and the Resource Centre Advisory Committee
- develop and maintain an effective ordering system for new materials
- process materials, including entering new materials into the accessions register and classifying and cataloguing materials
- ensure that the resource centre is user-friendly and accessible, including assisting users to identify materials
- develop activities in which users can share ideas and concerns on the role of the resource centre
- work with users to identify activities that information could support, and provide materials for those activities
- promote the services of the resource centre through activities such as displaying new materials in the resource centre, and at meetings and workshops
- encourage and promote the use of information
- produce regular statistical reports on the functioning and use of the resource centre
- liaise with the Head of Information and the Resource Centre Advisory Committee to implement the resource centre guidelines and procedures
- Good administrative skills
- Computer skills [if your centre is or may become computerised]
- Good working knowledge of English and local language
- Knowledge of the health sector
- Resource centre experience or training
- Able to communicate and work well with users
- Able to take responsibility
- Friendly, creative and enthusiastic
- Committed to the aims of the resource centre