Thursday, November 08, 2012

MLA 12 - Lean Mean Circ Machine

Lean Mean Circ Machine
Presented by Jennifer Cornell, Kevin King, and Susan Lindemann from the Kalamazoo Public Library
My reasons for choosing this program were mostly selfish: Mary Kelly and I are working on a second edition of our book, and we want to add more LEAN concepts this time around.  (Also, I just like to heckle Kevin King! He's a riot!)

I was completely blown away by this program.  There were definitely ideas that relate to my daily work and to the workflows at my library outside of my department.  Two of my co-workers in tech services and circulation attended this program, which I was glad to see.

Kalamazoo has implemented "5S" strategies and LEAN concepts to various areas of patron services.  The presenters talked about how they went from a three-week turnaround time on MEL interloans to a three-day turnaround.  They have a huge volume to work with, so that's pretty impressive!  They have analyzed processes like discharging and shelving as well, creating a streamlined set-up that works well for them.

They also cross-train staff in circulation and shelving procedures so that when someone goes on vacation, the work continues without delay.  I think this is incredibly important.  People can sometimes be out of the office for lengthy periods of time, and when work piles up on their desk, patrons are affected.

That's the most important concept from this program.  "LEAN" does not equal "efficient."  It is a way of looking at processes holistically and eliminating the most waste.  Waste is anything that gets in the way of serving patrons...which is what we're all about,  ultimately.  Work piling up on someone's desk while they are sick or on vacation is wasteful and gets in the way of patron access to services and materials.

The presenters provided some really interesting formulas for things like turnaround time and how often items are requested (once every 3.43 minutes or something like that at KPL!  Their slides gave the exact number.)  I also liked the idea that Susan Lindemann, the presenter who is in charge of LEAN things at KPL, came from a manufacturing background.  She was able to look at the library's workflows from an outside perspective.  Kevin and Jennifer were there to help her understand how libraries operate, and processes specific to libraries, but Susan didn't have any preconceived notions or "baggage" about how libraries "should" be set up.  She was able to look at the workflows very objectively.

Applying this to my day job: Making patrons go from service desk to service desk to get what they need is also wasteful.  It is not their responsibility to know what staff members can help them with what services.  When we direct them all over the building, it wastes their time and creates barriers to what they came for.  This applies to phone menus as well as the physical building.

One example from my own library is the way renewals are handled.  If you want to renew a book you got from our library, you do that at the circulation desk.  If you want to renew a book you got through MEL, you have to go to the readers advisory desk.  I'm not sure why that is or the history behind how this procedure came to be, but I can see how it could be confusing to patrons to know which desk to go to.  They just want to renew their book - they don't care who does it.  If they call the library to do this, they have to ask for a renewal, have the circulation clerk look up their item, see that it is a MEL title, transfer the call to readers advisory, where the patron asks again for a renewal, and the readers advisory staffer looks them up and does the actual renewal.  This is an area we could LEAN fairly easily.  I might have to do a separate post on one-point service desks.

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