Thursday, June 04, 2009

One More Thing

Every year, my department (Adult Services, SSLDL), writes goals for the new year and responds to the goals we set for the past year by writing an annual report. The annual report gets submitted to the Library Board and Director.

The annual report is a bunch of statistics on things like programs offered, program attendance, reference questions asked, how many items in each collection, technology that our department uses and supports to the public, and any special projects we completed over the year. Along with the statistics are summaries for each area that describe what the numbers mean. My co-worker, Mary Kelly, writes a "state of the collection" report that talks about the status of the physical inventory: what's been found, fixed, saved, weeded, etc.

One of our goals this year is to prioritize our duties and projects. Our budgets have been cut in a few areas - collection and programming - and we want to make sure that the money, time, and other resources that we have are being put to the best possible use. We are evaluating everything we do and spend money on. I'm pretty excited about this goal.

How, exactly, are we going to do it? Well, first, Mary devised a daily projects sheet. It's broken down by the hour, and we simply report on what we worked on during each hour that we are at work. Reference doesn't count, since it is a constant at our library (we take about an hour a week of off-desk time). We're tracking the things we are working on between reference questions. So far, three days in, I can see that something as simple as "make Page schedule" took approximately three hours. Off-desk, that would take about 15 minutes, but there were so many interruptions at the reference desk that it just didn't happen quickly. Another project, "update events calendar on web page," took about four hours. Half of my work day was spent on this.

I'm hoping that we can determine a few things:
1) Are we the right people to be working on each project? Is there someone who could do it faster, or whose job description indicates that they should be responsible for it? (My co-workers won't be happy to hear that we've assigned our projects to their departments!)
2) Is the project worth doing at all? I have to enter each season's programs in three places: a road sign schedule, a big screen TV kiosk, and the library web site. Could they be combined or a few of them eliminated? Can some of our other projects be automated?
3) Are there more efficient procedures to get these duties done?

I've been thinking this week about the "one more thing" conundrum. Do we sacrifice really cool projects because no one has time to take on one more thing? No one wants to be responsible for yet another assignment, but we toss around cool new ideas all the time at our library. For example, I'd love to take advantage of the interest group feature of our e-newsletter software. However, if I offer to post to the technology interest group, or the new fiction interest group, I have one more thing to do every week or every month. It's cool, and our patrons would love it, but I just can't see making time for one more thing. It would require a regular post, as well as PR to let our patrons know we have this cool new e-newsletter to sign up for. The bottom line is that we can't afford to hire out to a service to do it for us, and we can't afford to hire new staff to take it on either. If we want to keep pushing the envelope with cool new things, we have to do it ourselves.

I think I'd lean toward picking up one more new thing and letting one more old thing go. The daily project sheets will determine what has to go.


  1. Holly - we've been thinking about e-newsletters at my library, can you tell me what software you use?

  2. Sara - we have an account at for our e-newsletter, courtesy of the Friends of the Library. We've done two newsletters so far with Mail Chimp and it's really easy!