The Holy Grail of Library Automation: The Shared Library System

Over the last year, I’ve been working closely with consortia in my home state of California. I’ve participated in something of a “listening tour” to hear what is working and what isn’t working at the consortial level and to find out what they really need that the consortium could provide.

What I’ve learned is that it is very hard for get beyond the basics:  shared e-resources, shared delivery and networking with their peers. Initiatives much bigger than that, strike them as beyond the realm of possibility.  What I would love to see is some “hive mind” where the members suddenly become aware of their ability to address many of the challenges that hold them back with one big change – moving to a shared library system.

The shared library system is the holy grail of library automation. It’s awesome and yet so difficult to acquire. For libraries lucky enough to have gone down this path years ago, it might not seem so magical, but the shared library system has many wondrous qualities.

You Can't Be Serious

Every once in a while I get a call from someone with an idea they want to explore that just makes no sense at all. At least not at first. The latest zany idea a client brought to me is a concept they dubbed, “pure central processing” and although my first response was, “You can’t be serious” it is definitely growing on me. Their idea was to eliminate check-in at each of their branches entirely by letting people return things but instead of checking them in there, the items would be taken elsewhere for check-in and then brought back later. They weren’t talking about moving from a staff check-in experience to a self-service check-in experience. They were talking about eliminating the check-in transaction and associated workflows from public service library staff and the library environment entirely.

Resource Sharing and Physical Delivery Consultation

NorthNet Library System was seeking assistance evaluating their physical delivery options for libraries interested in joining the Link+ resource-sharing network.  Link+ is a very popular resource sharing network that is composed of a software component (INN-Reach by Innovative Interfaces) and physical delivery of items (provided by Tricor).  

The goal of the engagement is to develop a solution for fairly distributing the total cost of Link+ between existing Link+ libraries and the new ones so that no current library pays more than their current costs and to develop a delivery model for getting items where they need to be in an acceptable time frame.

From Transact to Transform: Seizing the Opportunity of an RFID Implementation

The ALA Libraries Transform campaign communicates that libraries are more than places where circulation transactions take place, libraries can be transformative. And technologies like RFID, automated materials handling and self-service technologies are the tools that increase opportunities for libraries to provide enriching experiences to their communities. Although RFID projects involve technical hurdles, they can be a fantastic opportunity to transform library services! If libraries only install the technology without changing how they use staff, they miss the chance to change the dynamics of patron-staff interaction. 

Liberated From the Circulation Desk - Now What?

I’ve been involved in several library remodels and building projects lately for public libraries in the 15,000-30,000 square foot range. My job is to help select self-check systems, and to implement RFID and automated materials handling technologies for the purposes of optimizing materials handling workflows.  However, optimizing materials handling workflows is really about optimizing services to patrons.  Selecting technologies and making recommendations about how to optimize their use is the easy part.  The harder part is helping libraries transition from their traditional staff-based circulation workflows to self-service workflows which free up staff to focus on other patron needs without the constraints, and structure, provided by the traditional circulation desk model.

Library Materials Handling Consultation

Huntington Beach had an old conveyor system for moving books from one part of the Library to another. This system was very old and in disrepair. This consultation involved helping the Library develop a work plan for eliminating the conveyor, adding a new state-of-the-art automated check-in system, implementing an effective self-service environment and changing the ways many of the spaces in the Library to optimize staff and patron workflows.

Leaning Your Library's Material Handling Workflows

Presentation at ALA Conference in Las Vegas (2014). Sponsored by the Public Library Association. I really enjoyed doing this presentation because the crowd was very engaged. Got lots of good ideas from them. Thanks to all who attended!

The presentation introduces Lean and provides some ideas about how to look at library materials handling workflows with a Lean, customer-centric focus where the customer may be internal (co-worker) or external (patron).  Introduced concepts of Visual Management and 5S from Lean and identified where "waste" happens in libraries.

Optimizing Materials Handling on the Cheap: How to Lean your Workflow

Infopeople webinar to introduce attendees to some key principles of Lean and to provide some tips on how to apply Lean principles to library materials handling workflows.

Focused on some traditional library practices that get in the way including how libraries use bookcarts to define batch size, reliance on staging areas, acquisitions practices, and rigid staff roles.

Hopefully people came away with a new way to think about workflows from the customer perspective and not just from a staff productivity perspective.

Webinar: Optimizing Materials Handling on the Cheap: How to Lean Your Workflow

I'll be doing another webinar for Infopeople soon. This one is Optimizing Materials Handling on the Cheap: How to Lean Your Workflow. I hope you'll attend! More info below...

 

Date Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Start Time:          12 Noon Pacific

1PM Mountain

2PM Central

3PM Eastern 

  • Is your backroom overrun with book carts full of in-process material?
  • Does it take more than a couple hours to get your incoming delivery processed?
  • Does it take three days to catch up after a holiday closure?
  • Does it take more than four people to get a new acquisition into circulation?
  • Can you easily determine the age and status of items on every book cart?

 

As much as we love our book carts, they have helped us develop some very bad habits, and Lean will help us reduce or eliminate some of these bad habits. Lean is a management philosophy designed to identify and eliminate “waste” in a workflow. Waste can be any number of things including waiting, unnecessary handling or transport, duplicating steps, processing that doesn’t provide any benefit to the customer, and unnecessary hand-offs. By eliminating these wastes, we can find an optimal workflow that will get items to our customers faster and reduce our costs.

Alameda County Materials Handling Evaluation

Lori Ayre worked with Alameda County Libraries to evaluate the materials handling operations and workflows including staffing, procedures, use of spaces and technology and interlibrary delivery. After the initial consultation, it was clear that there were numerous issues beyond the topic of materials handling that needed to be addressed.  Therefore, The Galecia Group recommended the Library form a Materials Handling Task Force to further tease out these other issues in order to put the materials handling challenges in perspective and to identify suitable solutions for the Library while developing staff engagement in the solutions. This approach was accepted and Ayre worked with the team to further evaluate the issues. Engagement was concluded with the Task Force submitting materials handling recommendations to Executive Team.