PSU Directories

There’s been a lot of reaction to the new PSU print directory. I was involved in the decision not to include employees in this year's directory. Here’s some of the background.

The central issue is this: The print directory is a cumbersome process to produce. Not so much for student listings, but employees. It is driven by a publication deadline, designed to get this to campus as soon as possible after the start of the semester. This deadline generates the need to have all employee listings by the end of August. That may seem easy, but it’s far more challenging and time consuming than it looks. First, not everyone is on campus during the month of August when this information is needed. Second, we are hiring a lot of people right up to, and beyond, September. As a result, the employee directory is an incomplete snapshot of who is here at the end of August. And even then, titles and roles change, so a large percentage of the employee listings are incomplete or inaccurate. When the print directories arrive, and throughout the year, we weather a storm of complaints about the directory.

Over the summer, our folks in ITS spent a lot of time developing and making improvements to the search function in myPlymouth. In fact, our web portal is one of the finest I know. myPlymouth is the envy of a lot of schools. When our folks go to industry conferences, colleagues from other schools are ravenous to hear how we do it. They waive registration fees for many of our people just so they’ll come and talk. I could not be more proud to oversee such a fine information system and the talented individuals who put it together.

Given those two factors, I advocated for a shift from print to online directories. This was presented to the President’s Cabinet last spring, at which time they responded that the print directory was still needed. To alleviate a no-win situation on the employee directory, I made the call to place the emphasis on the online directories and rolling out the new voice activated directory. And acknowledging that there are many who still need a print version, we made that available for anyone to print.

Since the directory was delivered, here’s some of the feedback we’ve received. Thanks to the many of you who delivered this feedback in tactful ways. 😉

The print version used to have titles attached to each individual. The online look up function does not include them. People would like that back.

Response: This provokes a bit of humorous history. Several years ago, the print directory had many employees listed with their official titles in the Banner system. Yet they were truncated to something like 8 characters. We had many ‘admin ass’ who were none too pleased. Thus began a laborious, annual process to get the data from Banner and go through and edit them. This added to HR’s burden and duress in August. However, because we know this is important to you, we’ll be looking for ways to get that info into the online directory.

Many people simply prefer the tactile print booklet. It’s always there, even when you log off or power down. It’s very easy grab and look up.

Response: Touche'. Which is why it is still printed. But we want your employee data to be as accurate as possible. A printed insert is available in myPlymouth. It’s only as accurate as the point in time which it was produced.

The advantage of the online version is accuracy, currency and darn near 24/7 availability. And when you leave the office, and the print version, you can access directory information from home or elsewhere.

The online version is pretty good for individual look ups. Nice improvements over the summer. But hey, can you speed it up? If you search by department, you can go get coffee before it is completed.

Response: Thanks, and we’ll be working to speed it up.

Who the heck made this decision without seeking input from users?

Response: That would be me. And this is where you can comment and give me some feedback. I simply ask that you let things settle a bit and spend some time using the two new systems. Dial 3333, call a colleague. Try it. Spend some time in myPlymouth. This is and will continue to be where more and more information is stored.

We are committed to making these new systems work for you. Please understand that we cannot simply add new functions online without letting go of some old processes. That is and will continue to be my mantra.

That said, we will compile the feedback received this year and consolidate it into recommendations for next year's issue.

This is unfair to the trades people. They often don't have ready access to computers. They keep a print directory with them and use it often.

Response: That is why we created an alternative print copy. I know it’s an extra step to get and print it, but it’s there for you to get and place within your print version. Also, try the 3333 voice activated directory.

So that’s how this whole thing transpired. If you have comments or feedback, please let me know in here. Use the link for LEAVE A REPLY at the top and bottom of this page. We’re listening.

Finally, as with most evolutions in technology, we need to try and adapt. I simply ask that you give these new systems a try.

Thanks for reading.


11 thoughts on “PSU Directories

  1. Hi Dwight...I had not responded to the change as I had no idea where it should go. Your explanation makes some sense I only wish it had come out before the books arrived; it might have cut down on some of the surprise. I was not pleased and immediately printed 2 copies of the 30 pages (1 for home). Although the book might be outdated when printed, it was still a valuable form of communication and I could always add the new people when needed. It was also quicker than going to x3333 and hoping that it had the right name of a person or I pronounced the name correctly. I also don't knkow why information had to be in my August to get the book in October. I have been led to believe (maybe wrongly) that the Course of Studies books for Winterim only have a 2 -3 week lead time. Thanks for this opportunity to vent.....Pete

  2. Dwight:

    To eliminate the faculty and staff from the "Campus Directory" was a strategic decision. I understand that from your viewpoint, your decision made sense.
    However, you should not have had to make it. An imperfect printed list is understandable. A Campus Directory lacking faculty and staff is not.

    I respect you for being a stand-up guy. -Duncan

  3. I for one, love the new directory. Most of the time I want to speak to an employee I look-up by department anyway. I think the online is simply and convenient. I really appreciated your follow-up e-mail with the reasons for the change tough.

    Keep up the good work!

  4. I rarely used the print version for faculty or students and have no problem with the entire directory going online. Like Jessica, I look up employees by department online. If only we would be given control of our department's website then we could make sure it stays updated!

  5. Amen. Printed directories are an anachronism, really. Online directories are faster, cheaper, more portable, more available, require less space and SAVE TREES. Perhaps this episode is symptomatic of a techological divide among the faculty/staff here at PSU?

    As to Barbara's point about our Math department website - this is a real sore spot. We have a departmental news section that is empty. What kind of message does this send to the world outside PSU? There are many interesting things occurring in our department which we would love to share, whether with students in our department, outside our department, faculty/staff inside or outside of PSU, prospective students and the general public. If PSU wants to gain more prestige and attention, then how to justify this situation? We need to be allowed to communicate. I realize there are people on this campus who will abuse this freedom, but there must be something that can be done.

  6. Hi Dwight,

    Just a comment on the Myplymouth portal. Do other people who use dial-up at home have a hard time loading that page? There's A LOT too it and I've wondered if that affects load-time.

    And, just a personal query-- people evidently can't find me on 3333 and my extension is not listed online. I have no way to change that, it seems, nor does my fabulous admin asst Mary. Who does have a way to change that, I wonder?

    Thanks for all the great info!!!!

  7. I always use the print directory, and was very sorry to hear that it was on its way out. I was willing to give the new system a try though. I was however, surprised to find that it wasn't as complete as the print directory. By complete I mean location. The new online version does not tell you where (physically) a person is. It tells you the department but not their office/room location. That is the biggest issue for me. With the way people relocate on this campus you need some reference material that will tell you that information (having this updated on-line would be great !). I mainly use the directory when helping students. I could say to a student go to the department office and ask where Professor X is, but I always thought it was much more friendly and efficient to just give them the Professor's building and room number. In the vast majority of cases the Professor was listed in the book, once and a while I would come across a new faculty member that didn't make it to the book, then I'd call the department office.

    I did go to myplymouth and print the 2006-2007 directory, and believe me I wasn't really looking for mistakes, BUT I did notice that Pres. Wharton is listed and President Steen is not. I also noticed that Frank Olcott Senior is still in our files as Exec. Asst. to the President.... that was a while ago !! So as far a the accuracy argument goes, I'm not so sure it's .... accurate 🙂

    Back to my main grief... I guess I don't mind having to change my ways, but please give me all the information I once had in the new version before you take away the old.

    Thanks for listening… Linda

  8. A couple of feedback items:

    - Many institutions create TWO directories, one for students, another for faculty. If the deadline for obtaining faculty/staff information is too tight, why not produce a fac/staff directory in January? Ad revenue will pay for the second directory, so publication cost would not be an issue. I find it interesting that most other universities and institutions don't seem to have a problem producing fac/staff directories in a timely manner (with MANY more entries plus home phone/address info). If HR needs more help, hire a couple of work study students to help or have HR work more closely with Admin Assistants in indvidual departments to get more accurate faculty/staff listings. PSU continues to grow with more faculty and staff than ever; maybe the administration needs to provide more support to HR or another appropriate department to get the job done.

    - Online directories are good, but not perfect. I needed to look up a student's email address a few weeks ago. I couldn't find it in the online directory because I misspelled her last name (I left off one character). Spent 10 minutes online before turning the ol' reliable print directory. The online directory needs to act more like the library catalog when it comes to finding names.

    - It might have made sense to consult departmental admin assistants on this before the decision was made. They are on the front lines when it comes to finding information for faculty, staff, and students and are probably the ones most impacted. I challenge Dwight to attend the next admin assitant meeting to obtain their views on the subject.

    - A better candidate for an online only publication would be the schedule of classes. This would give departments more time to finalize and tweak courses and room locations. The most recent schedule of classes came out last week and seems to already have a number of errors. At a minimum, schedule of classes should be printed on recycled paper (maybe we can throw some ads in to pay for them too!)

    For what its worth, I do use x3333 and online lookups on a regular basis, in addition to using the print directory. All of these tools serve different needs for different indivduals and all should continue to be maintained.

  9. My initial thought when receiving my new phone directory was that there should be two printed versions. One with student contact information and one for PSU employee contact information. After digesting the comments made, and listening to individuals on campus who have discussed it with me, I think both student and employee versions should be available only on-line, with the option to print them out. Information should be accurate though, updated monthly and with physical location (building and room #) of employees. (accuracy is most important).

  10. Well, I stayed out of the all-fac e-mail fray. But just thought I'd leave a comment about this situation. I needed to call the Provost's office to speak with her new admin assistant just now and needed to look up the number. I did not have a browser window open. It took me about 30 seconds to find the print directory on the shelf and the listing for the Provost's office.

    I tried it the other way and luckily, I did remember her name. It took maybe a minute. If I didn't and I looked in the department listing for the provost's office it would have come up, but without a persons title I may have been out of luck.

    I will try to use the online directory but as a creature of habit I find myself reaching for the book.

    One last issue: most of the time I have a browser window open and I would be happy to leave myself logged into my.plymouth so the directory would be "at my fingertips", but I am constantly annoyed that the window "times out" and I have to log in again and again. (This applies to advising sessions and teaching as well).

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