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Lean processes

I recently read The Wikiman’s ‘The curse of ‘oh, we already did that’’ and he made some good points about trying things again when they’ve failed before.

As part of my Masters I wrote my dissertation on the use of Web 2.0 tools by Libraries and during this I spoke to our Site Librarian about tools such as Facebook, to find out we used to have one before I started, but no one was interested. This year we tried again. I’m not sure whether we just haven’t promoted it adequately or if people just aren’t interested but it’s not doing very well at all (the only ‘likes’ we have are from Library staff!) but honestly I’m not going to let it put me off. We’re planning on completely re-doing our website in the next twelve months and this will include a new content management system – I’m hoping that a plugin for Facebook will be a bit easier to embed than with the current CMS, which should drive more traffic towards it.

The Wikiman also talked a bit about Lean – there’s no distinct definition but it’s a way of looking at your processes and asking ‘can you make it more efficient?’ We recently did this with a few processes in our Library and I like the changes that have been made. We looked at our registration process first: we had different forms for different types of users; now we have one. OK, so there are some boxes that aren’t relevant to everyone, but it’s better than interrogating new members. Another change was that for NHS registrations we now sign up to NHS Athens on their behalf. Yes, it’s added a few minutes to the time it takes to process the registration form, but we’re saving hours troubleshooting the process over the phone when we can’t see the screen to point out the problem (assuming of course they’re seeing what I think they’re seeing!) Obviously our Athens users statistics have gone up, but our usage statistics are also going up too so these accounts are being used, when previously they might not have registered at all.

One of the reasons we did it was to save staff time. Typically this eventually leads to the question,  ‘if we end up saving a lot of time, will my job be at risk?’ Firstly, we haven’t saved that much time, a few minutes a day each – but the idea of us doing this was to free up our time for other things. Various possibilities are floating round for long term plans including an instant messaging support service (which our university partners offer on their own websites) and just generally being in the library helping people (instead of sitting in the office processing registration forms) but they are things we just don’t have time for at present.

If you get a chance I recommend reading the Wikiman’s article – he had a rather nice example of asking ‘yeah, but WHY though?’ in the penultimate paragraph!

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