Archive for Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Q: Who answers 864-3506? A: KU Info staffers, once again

December 26, 2006


KU Info has a pulse again.

"We're back," director Curtis Marsh said.

It's been nearly a year since the popular information service at Kansas University staged a comeback. And organizers say the service is back to its old ways: helping KU students, alumni and the community with questions that need answers.

The service started in 1970 for rumor control during the Vietnam War. It morphed into an information service that answered any and all questions and for many years operated around the clock from an office in the Kansas Union.

But in 2005, some students lamented changes to the service after its hours were scaled back and it moved to the libraries.

After a period of reshuffling, the service was revived in April. Now it answers nearly 200 questions a day by phone, e-mail or at a walk-up desk in the union. Half of the questions come from people stopping by the desk, with about 40 percent coming from phone calls and another 10 percent by e-mail, Marsh said.

KU Info in the spring will begin offering the training it provides for its own employees to KU staff members across campus. The aim is to share the tools for answering students' general questions, Marsh said.

Sadie Robb, a student assistant, works to update winter break voice messages for KU Info with program director Curtis Marsh, at the reception desk in the Kansas Union lobby. With the new reception desk, KU Info assistants can answer walk-in questions in addition to calls and e-mails.

Sadie Robb, a student assistant, works to update winter break voice messages for KU Info with program director Curtis Marsh, at the reception desk in the Kansas Union lobby. With the new reception desk, KU Info assistants can answer walk-in questions in addition to calls and e-mails.

And KU Info will begin offering a tip of the day on its Web site - - and on the Kyou portal, which is the computer network for employees and students.

"Things have been going really well," KU Info staff member Sadie Robb said. "We're helping a wide variety of people."

Robb said she had fielded calls from across the country - some from alumni and some from people who'd heard about the service from others.

"It's fascinating," she said. "I sometimes wonder just how it got to be so popular. Not only do people know about KU Info, but they remember KU Info."

The number - 864-3506 - sticks with people, she said.

"I think people remember us before they remember a lot of university numbers," she said. "Somehow our number proliferates."


sourpuss 10 years, 11 months ago

KU should always preserve Ku Info. I'm not sure there is anything quite like it anywhere and it is part of what makes KU what it is, and not just "another state university." It couldn't possibly cost that much... perhaps they should fire a useless administrator if they need funding next time.

wagenseil 10 years, 11 months ago

It was never broken, so it should never have been "fixed." Still, nice to see that KU has been willing to admit that it made a mistake. Now finish the job and re-hire the old director, Susan Elkins, who has much as anyone was responsible for making KU Info the beloved institution it became during the 1990s.

lynnd 10 years, 11 months ago

before you start wishing for the old directors, give the new one a chance. I'm sure the previous ones were great but Curtis will do a wonderful job with KU Info.

kugrad 10 years, 11 months ago

Just to be clear, I'm not wishing for the old directors, just pointing out one who was outstanding. I wish the new director and staff great success! I'm glad that KU saw the error of its ways and brought back KU Info!

lynnd 10 years, 11 months ago

sorry, KU Grad, I should have been more clear. My comment was directed at wagenseil, not you.

MaryKatesPillStash 10 years, 11 months ago

How is it so different from when Elkins was the director, wagenseil? The current director is doing a fantastic job.

H_Lecter 10 years, 11 months ago

I've been a customer for 30 years. They were able to tell me what planet I was looking at and how to mix a drink and then some school-related questions as well.

I'll always be grateful.

kugrad 10 years, 11 months ago

I think KU info was something of a shadow of it's former self in the late 90's. Pat Khede really was the best KU info director and the one dedicated to year round 24 hour service that involved speaking to an actual human being. In the late 90's, policies changed a great deal. It was hard to get through to an actual person. The employees were not as resourceful as in the past and often unable to answer questions that old staffers knew were in the files (and it was a matter of maintaing files, there were no computers in KU info during their prime years). Students staffed KU info 24 hours a day. I was really irked at the abandoning of the long-held tradition that ex-KU info staffers could always make a direct call on the "emergency" line. After Pat K. left, the new director and staff would throw chicken fits when ex-employees would use this hard-earned priviledge. Old KU info employees stay in touch, so I'm not just speaking for myself here; we all felt offended and somewhat betrayed by the lack of rigor and reduced service level. KU info should be restored to it's 24 hour glory!

SAHM2tylrnathan 10 years, 11 months ago

We used to get lots of calls for the finals schedule--Google found the page as the first item for "KU final exams 2006"

The number of trees on campus was a bit more roundabout (no Lawrence traffic pun intended), but it did show up in a news story about the reopening of KU info).

And it's easy to find the movie schedules, concerts, etc. at

But in a world where there are fewer and fewer reasons to have to talk to a real-live person, I'll call KU Info any day instead of turning to Google. It was my best campus job--undergrad or graduate degree. Sue Elkins was a pro at conducting job interviews that focused on hiring creative, intelligent students who were always looking for more ways to help their callers. Sometimes they got answers they didn't even know they were looking for yet just by having another human to interact with.

Glad to have it back.

fletch 10 years, 11 months ago

As a student, I worked on the committee that ended up guiding KU Info to the Library system in 2003. It was a bitter pill to swallow. The administration at the time was going to just shut down the service completely and replace it with a website and computer kiosks. Luckily, we were able to get enough support to at least keep it alive, but it unfortunately ended up with the Library system, who didn't really want it to begin with. They tried their best to incorporate it, so I don't mean them any ill will. At the time, the choice became send it to the Library system or lose it all together. We figured alive was better than dead. I'm thrilled to see that students have once again picked up the torch we left for them and were able to get KU Info reorganized. While I'll always miss Sue Elkins (she was an institution in the old Organizations and Leadership office), I hope the director keeps it going strong.

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