Lean and Mean Library Machine

Last week I presented at the CILIP UC&R West Midlands event Lean and Mean Library Machine. More on that coming soon… for now here are my notes from the rest of the event.

First up was Dave Parkes from Staffordshire University. He presented some ideas for how library services as a whole can and will need to adapt in the face of large scale cuts and the changing educational climate. As librarians have always had to deal with change he thinks we are uniquely placed to cope with the cuts ahead.

How we do this is by upgrading our skills mix – according to Parkes we don’t need to be tech junkies (although some of us might like to be) but we need to have an awareness of new technologies and how they can be applied in libraries and more broadly in education. He sees that for libraries to survive we need to be active in every aspect of the university’s work.

At Staffordshire University the library is about to be rebuilt, and rebranded as the Knowledge Hub. This will place the library at the heart of the university. The focus here is on the user – or as Dave prefers, Member. All members have a stake in the library and the services provided need to be driven by the stakeholders. At Staffordshire this has been manifested in a change in collection development policy where the inter-library loan service has been cancelled and replaced by user-driven purchases.

Next to speak was Stuart Hunt, a colleague of mine from the University of Warwick. His focus was on process improvement and the use of Processfix Rapid Improvement Workshops. The aim of these workshops is to identify one area of the library’s service e.g. acquisitions, or enquiries and to eliminate waste in this area in order to improve efficiency. Waste is defined as anything that does not add value to a process, or anything a customer is not prepared to pay for. The principle behind this comes from the lean manufacturing system first implemented by Taiichi Ohno at Toyota.

I followed Stuart and after my presentation came Richard Wallis from Talis talking about what technology can do for the Lean Mean Library Machine. He has shared his slides on Slideshare:

His points are summed up nicely on the penultimate slide:

  • We are all already using technology to help us improve our services
  • Innovation in this area is constant and as technologies evolve so do our services.
  • Although setup costs are often substantial, implementing new technologies can help us save in the future
  • The benefits are felt across organisations – within our own and through partnerships with others

In the final session of the day we worked in small groups looking at the challenges that academic libraries might face as a result of funding cuts. My group looked at the following scenario:

You are an academic librarian delivering a full induction and training programme to four departments. As a result of a library restructure you take on four more departments, how do you ensure that the quality of training is maintained across all subject areas?

In an ideal world there would have been a proper hand over with colleagues who had previously worked to support the additional four departments. This would have included a handover of materials used for training. We realise however that this almost never happens and so suggested some alternatives for if you were starting from scratch.

  • To ensure consistency of content a generic session could be designed that could easily be adapted with examples relevant to the different subject areas.
  • Detailed teaching plans could be written so that the sessions could be handed on and delivered by another member of staff in future.
  • All materials for the sessions should be saved on shared drives.
  • An online tutorial could be used to support the face-to-face sessions.
  • Sessions could be run for multiple departments at once to reduce duplication and pressures on staff time.

This was my first UC&R event and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to be involved. The presentations were thought provoking and the opportunity to share ideas through the scenario work invaluable.

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