March 10, 2011

New ombuds resource guide built on a familiar platform

A new online resource for Iowa State employees was built with software designed for creating class resource guides. The builders -- ombuds officer Elaine Newell and librarian Jeff Kushkowski -- think they're on to something.

"I saw a resource guide created for the College of Business and immediately thought it would be a perfect vehicle for my office to provide a variety of information about conflict resolution and other issues that people typically bring to the ombuds office," Newell said.

The ombuds office offers confidential, impartial help to employees and graduate students with problems in conflict resolution.

Library assist

Kushkowski helped Newell set up the Ombuds Office Guide, a useful collection of materials not only for those who visit the ombuds office, but also for those who are reluctant to take that step.

"Sometimes people are nervous about coming to talk to me," she said. "This gives them information that they can use anonymously."

The guide contains information about university resources and the bread-and-butter issue for ombuds offices -- conflict resolution. The guide links to books in the university library about conflict in the workplace, handling difficult conversations and dealing with difficult people. Future updates to the guide will provide users the ability to search for journal articles.

"One of the most interesting sections in the guide is a set of vintage videos on workplace conduct," Newell said. "Even though some of the videos are more than 50 years old, their content still is relevant for today's workplace, and they're more fun to watch."

Kushkowski said the office guide is built with the LibGuide software that ISU librarians use to create resource guides for individual classes and general subject areas.

"We currently have more than 230 guides on topics ranging from anthropology to zoology," he said. "About 60 guides each semester support specific classes."

New use for academic software

Newell and Kushkowski believe their ombuds resource guide is unique.

"Many other ombuds officers around the country have resources included on their websites," Newell said. "But as far as I can tell, Iowa State is the first ombuds office to partner with the library and use this software to provide self-help information for people who are trying to deal with conflict.

"I'm always happy to work with people in a face-to-face meeting," she added, "but for those who'd rather try to work out their own conflicts, this guide may give them just what they need."