Facilities and Equipment

The facilities and the equipment you will need for a CIS depend on the communication channels you will be using and the number of staff you will have at any one time working together.

Some CIS opt to use teams of workers or individuals working in different locations. This might include some who work from home. This can lead to difficulties in monitoring, supervision and quality assurance.

The following guidelines focus mainly on having a team of information specialists working from one location, but some of the same principles will apply for home workers.

Work environment

It is essential that the information specialists answering calls be in an environment that is conducive to this task. Whatever the office space configuration, the information specialists need an atmosphere where they can speak quietly and can hear the callers. Acoustical partitions are one way of lessening the noise level. If working from home, it should be in a space were the worker cannot be overheard or interrupted.

CIS staff need a light, cheerful work environment.

A dedicated workstation for each information specialist, with easy access to resources, is ideal. An open plan seems to work best, where the information specialists can get the privacy that they need but have the support readily available whenever required.


The workstation for a supervisor should be in the same location as workstations for the information specialists. There should also be a place in another location where a supervisor can monitor calls and provide individual feedback to staff in private.


Cancer information and community resources must be easily accessible by the information specialists. If a computerized setup is not being used, it is essential to have enough copies of informational materials to accommodate the maximum number of information specialists who will be answering calls at any one time.

Database for data collection

Whatever data collection method is being used, paper or computer, it should be easy for each information specialist to access. Data collection is sometimes seen as a burden by the information specialists, so it should be as easy as possible for them to complete this task.

Telephone, computers, software, and other equipment

Many different types of telephone systems, computers, software, and internet access programs are being used by CIS services around the world. The ICISG can help you connect with technical specialists in other CIS offices who can discuss these issues with you.

Make sure you have a system in place for “backing up” any of the data you have on computer, be it community and information resources or call record form data. If you are using computers or other sophisticated technology for any part of your CIS, it is essential that you have a “crisis” or backup plan for how to keep operating if the technology is not working. Many offices keep paper copies of essential information resources for use when they cannot be accessed by computer.