Archive for Monday, February 6, 2006

Revival of KU Info will be welcome news to students

Information service will add walk-in, Web features when it returns in April

February 6, 2006


KU Info, the once-revered phone information service at Kansas University, is on hiatus as it plans its comeback.

Dial the number - 864-3506 - and a machine answers.

"KU Info is not going away," says one message. "We're still here to help you with your question, and we'll create an even stronger service to help you navigate the pathways and highways of KU information."

There was a time when one could call the number any time, day or night, and speak to a live person. But numerous changes to the decades-old service spurred some students last summer to protest its diminishment, circulating petitions pushing for its revival.

The university responded by appointing a new director, Curtis Marsh, and hailing his appointment as the mark of a new era.

The new service launches in April. Marsh said a budget has not been set yet. There will be 12 to 20 staff members answering questions by phone, through a Web site or e-mail, and face to face from two to three locations around campus.

Curtis Marsh is the new director of KU Info, the phone information service now on hiatus at Kansas University. Marsh and student Sadie Robb work in the Kansas Union.  The service is expected to be running again in April with new Web and in-person options.

Curtis Marsh is the new director of KU Info, the phone information service now on hiatus at Kansas University. Marsh and student Sadie Robb work in the Kansas Union. The service is expected to be running again in April with new Web and in-person options.

Technology is the key this time around, Marsh said. Hundreds of questions are answered on the service's Web site.

"That Web site is going to be our primary tool, the new index card," he said.

And, Marsh said, the system will address non-academic questions. If KU Info gets a question about drink specials at bars around town, for example, it will refer students to other Web sites where they may find the drink specials, Marsh said.

"We're going to be your one-click away from the right information," Marsh said. "KU Info may not be the final answer to your question, but we're going to know where to send you."

Rumor control

Those who recall its early years say they are sad to see the old service go.

"It's just sad that something that was so special to the university for so many years doesn't exist anymore - but that's true for a lot of things," said Susan Elkins, who was KU Info's director for 15 years before retiring in 2005 because of the changes.

KU Info was launched in 1970 for rumor control during the Vietnam War. It morphed into an information service that answered any and all students' questions. For many years, the office in the Kansas Union housed a small bed for students to sleep on while working the 24-hour line.

Marsh still has old index cards, once used to keep track of piles of information. They show the breadth of service it once offered. Entries include "balloon bouquets" and "asparagus farms."

Several years ago, for budget reasons, KU Info was transferred from what is now the department of student success to the libraries. In its new form, it will be jointly run by Student Success and Information Services. Marsh reports to two supervisors - one in each area.

In the meantime, some say they've lost track of the service.

Chris Smith, a senior from Overland Park, called KU Info years ago, but not in a long time.

"I just forgot the number," he said.

Scott Smith, a junior from Hutchinson, said the service is awesome. He called it once to find out whether a character in the show "Smallville" could fly or not. KU Info told him that in season five, the character learned of his ability to fly.

"They were really useful for a lot of things," Smith said.

But it's been a while since the service has helped Smith out.

"I called them a couple times over the break, and no one was there," he said.


SAHM2tylrnathan 12 years, 3 months ago

Hurray! I was sad to see the original KU Info go and think it is great to see it come back. I was prouder than proud to be a staff member under Susan and hope Curtis maintains the high level of student employees that she strove for. I don't think I have been through a more challenging interview process, even for my professional jobs. KU Info is part of the KU student culture and deserves to stay around.

Some people may not realize that KU Info used to be a safe number for students in crisis to call--be it rape, sexuality, or drunkenness. The person at KU Info was committed to finding some kind of help before the caller hung up. Who knows how much of a difference that personal contact may have made. Who knows what might have happened if it were only an answering machine.

I have two Lawrence phone numbers memorized from my days as a student in the 80s and 90s: 842-1212 and 864-3506. One of them does me no good in Rossville, the other I can soon count on from anywhere in the world again!

Donna K. j'89, g'95

teach1reach1 12 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, that Pizza Shuttle jingle still goes through my head...good thing I'm still here in Lawrence! Wonder if they would ship one to you on dry ice to reheat there...might be expensive, but I'm just thinkin' of pg cravings...

KU Info rocked! I am excited that a whole new generations of Hawks will get the experience. I have one funny memory where I was at a party and we had a contest to think of a question that might stump KU Info. Didn't matter which question they tried (3 that night), KU Info always had the answer. They were awesome!

eej5 12 years, 3 months ago

I too am a proud former KU info staffer. And I've been sad to see its demise. I hope it does return to something great, but I actually think the Internet was part of the problem, and the new directors comments about technology being the key scare me a little.

When I was there, we rarely used the Internet. As staffers we read a lot. Every paper, every day. We clipped them. We had countless resource manuals and could find anything in a few seconds. It seems like the past several time I've called -- usually because I couldn't find what I need on Google -- the staffer spent five minutes searching online only to come back and tell me he/she couldn't find the answer. Sometimes I'd tell them to check a certain book, even telling them where to find on the shelf. They didn't like that, but I got my answer.

I wonder... are there still 17,851 trees on campus?

E. Johnson BSJ '98

dlhj 12 years, 3 months ago

Congratulations Curtis on your new job! I loved KU Info when I was in school, they always knew all the answers no matter how obscure. Curtis will do a great job as the director, KU Info is in good hands.

bearded_gnome 12 years, 3 months ago

glad to see this coming back! a really great service.

robinrander 12 years, 3 months ago

I'm pretty sure Clark showed his ability to fly 2 weeks ago. If the LJ World would like to hire me to be the Smallville fact-checker, I'm certainly willing.

SAHM2tylrnathan 12 years, 3 months ago

teach1--It was pure horror to live near Manhattan for awhile and hear the same jingle WITH THE WRONG PHONE NUMBER!!! ;0p

I never was much of a Shuttle fan (although one year we decorated the 10th Floor Ellsworth Christmas tree with Pizza Shuttle circle logos cut out from the box lids). These days I am in love with the heavenly pizza from an Irish pub and pizza place (I know, Irish and pizza???) in St. Marys. If you are ever travelling Highway 24 west of Topeka and have a chance, grab a pie at Tully's on the south side of 24 in downtown St. Mary's.

Anybody with a connection can google, but KU Info staffers can talk even the most frazzled freshman through enrollment and pass/fail deadlines. And they won't make them feel stupid for asking!

SAHM2tylrnathan 12 years, 3 months ago

eej--When I was there, we barely had a computer! (circa 1993/94). I know there was a Mac in there, but all the nuts and bolts were on the index cards and the walls! I thought it was ever so cool to have the key to the stairwell when I had to come in and do the early morning shift. What a great job that was!

eej5 12 years, 3 months ago

Yes -- the key to the stariwell was cool -- I had forgotten that. One semester I did a late night shift until 2 a.m. then opened at 7 a.m., so I would just sleep in the Union on that little bed. Crazy to think of that now. I was there about 95/96, and it was still like you describe -- index cards everywhere.

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