Archives For Implementation

Photo of three people walking silhouetted by sunset

CC-BY Abhijit Kar Gupta

Libraries exist to provide amazing services and resources to our users.  We are so committed to this vision that we continue to offer these services even after users don’t need them.

As non-profit service-oriented organizations, the motivation to pull the plug on a library service is minimal. If even a single user finds a printed pamphlet valuable, we’ll continue trifolding away. But is that the best use of library time?

Maintaining old services diminishes the innovation capacity of libraries. Our resources (staff time, building space, and money) are finite. In order to do new things, we have to stop doing some old things.

Don’t panic, book loving librarians! I said some old things. Of course we continue well-used old services. The printed word is still going strong.

In order create a makerspace or expand reference hours, however, library leadership would have to examine how every inch of floor space and every hour of staff time is used.

In an environment where we hardly ever give things up, libraries can turn to tech companies for inspiration on how to sunset services. Software reaches the end of its life cycle at the speed of light, and product life-cycle management is an entire discipline.

Here’s four lessons about sunsetting from the tech world that we can apply to libraries:

Choose to Sunset Wisely

Pragmatic Marketing, a software product management firm, offers a guide to retiring products. This errs a little far on the business side for library taste, with a lot of talk about profit margins. This advice on how to decide to sunset, however, rings true for libraries:

“The easiest way to know that a product should be killed or sold off is when it no longer fits the company’s distinctive competence and market strategy. Regardless of the costs, a product that doesn’t make sense in the context of the rest of your products just confuses your customers.”

“Distinctive competence” is an great concept for library leaders to consider. Our distinctive competence in libraries is matching users with resources.

I encountered a library where staff invested significant time at the photocopier duplicating journal pages in order to send printed scans of the table of contents to users. This was in 2014, in a time when most journals offer free table of contents alerts by email. It was time to end the physical copy service and instead point users to the email services direct from publishers.

When we examined this through the lens of distinctive competence, we realized that we don’t want to be known for labor-intensive copy making. We want to connect users with a fast automated service that they can control.

Retire Slowly

Even if the decision is clear, you have to move cautiously when sunsetting a service. In 2013, Google announced the sunset of Reader, their widely used RSS feed product. They gave users several months of advance warning:

“To ensure a smooth transition, we’re providing a three-month sunset period so you have sufficient time to find an alternative feed-reading solution.”

Google gave plenty of time for users to adjust to the idea of the service going away. Libraries could take a page from this example by targeting communication to the few remaining users of an aging service, like typewriters, to let them know gently that there will be other options soon.

Answer ALL the Questions

Geomagic, a suite of tools for transforming 3D scans into CAD models, recently consolidated their software offerings and discontinued some products. Their Q&A page on the sunset covers everything a user might want to know, from basics like “What are we doing?” and “Why are we doing this?” all the way to extreme specifics:

How did you decide which products to move forward with?

What happens to my dongle for a retired product?

I am a non-maintenance customer. Will my retiring product still work after Dec 31, 2015?

The Geomagic example anticipates any question that a user might have and gives them as much information as possible up front.

Communicate Sensitively

Slinger Jansen, a computer science professor at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, led a research inquiry into the software sunsetting process. The resulting technical paper has a softer side:

“Think, for instance, of the support engineer who knows every nook and cranny of the software product, or the user who has configured the product just to her specifications and is described as the wizard of that product by her colleagues. We advise practitioners to make compromises and be sensitive towards the emotions that surround legacy products, both in their internal and external communication.”

This is a good reminder that every single library service has a champion on staff. Sensitivity to the feelings of those “wizards” in your messaging about sunsetting – even internal communications – will help that devotee let go.

Library Staff Day

hhibner —  March 26, 2015 — 2 Comments

My library held a staff in-service recently. It was very successful, so I thought I would share a few do’s and don’ts of planning an in-service.

The Committee

Our in-service planning committee consisted of one person from each department. I led the committee, plus there was a Page, a Clerk, a Librarian, a Reference Assistant, and the Public Relations and Marketing person. I highly recommend having people from various departments on the committee. It creates a more holistic, “bigger picture” program that is relevant to everyone. What I don’t recommend is long meetings. We put our program together in four one-hour meetings. Have an agenda and then send a follow-up email after every meeting that reminds everyone of what was decided.

The Activities

We were asked by the Director to include one team building exercise. After talking it over, the committee members all agreed that we didn’t want to make anyone do anything silly or embarrassing that would single them out or require them to touch anyone (I’ll admit, that one is my hang-up). We decided to play trivia. We created teams that included people from various departments. Our library is a three-story building, so there are a lot of people we rarely see and never get to work with. Trivia teams were encouraged to come up with a team name. Some of them even dressed alike. We got to have fun in a non-threatening, team environment with people we didn’t necessarily know well ahead of time. The questions came from a trivia question-a-day calendar from a few years ago that one committee member had, so they covered pop culture categories.

My next suggestion is to give everyone on staff an opportunity to weigh in on what learning opportunities are offered on in-service day. We asked for suggestions, and the most-requested topic was emergency procedures. They wanted to do a fire drill and talk about all kinds of emergency situations like tornadoes, medical emergencies, active shooter scenarios, etc. We had a city police officer, an EMT, and a fire chief come to give a quick talk. Then they watched us go through our fire drill procedure and do a mock evacuation as if we were open for business. After the all-clear from them, we came back together as a group and the fire department critiqued how we did. It was very valuable, since we learned a few things about our PA system, our new security panels, and our signage.

The rest of the day was filled with department-specific meetings and project-specific updates. That’s not as exciting, but very relevant to everyone and a good opportunity for departments to train or share information with everyone in their department at once. Even our regular monthly meetings don’t catch as many staff members as this staff in-service day did, so take advantage!

The Food

I can’t leave out the most important tip of the day: have food and make it good. That sounds really easy and obvious, but as it turns out there are a lot of ways of doing this and you will never make everyone happy. We provided a nice breakfast spread with a variety of bakery items and fruit and beverages. Then we provided boxed lunches with three sandwich options or two salad options. My advice is to acknowledge dietary restrictions, of course, but limit the number of choices. Make it clear what is included, and what substitutions can and cannot be made. The reality is that you’re providing lunch (you’re welcome), you’re giving enough options to satisfy diverse lifestyles and restrictions, and if anyone just can’t make it work they are welcome to provide their own lunch. If they just can’t remove the cheese or abide the white bread the sandwich comes on, that’s not necessarily on you. Do the best you can to accommodate health risk, but don’t get too caught up in personal taste. At some point, it is what it is and you have to move on to bigger problems.


Ultimately, a staff in-service is a paid-time work day that is meant to be interesting and informative. If you can build in some fun, that’s great too!


Photo cc-by Calvert Cafe & Catering.

The goal is not simply to “work hard, play hard.” The goal is to make our work and our play indistinguishable.

– Simon Sinek

Play in 2015

Renovation Realities

Eva —  April 2, 2014 — Leave a comment

We just finished a small renovation project at my library. The library is about 53,000 square feet, and the renovation affected about 8,000 square feet, but it was an important area–right in front of the entry, so it affected everything. (Click on over to our flickr to see the befores and afters.)

New seating, new flooring.

New seating, new flooring.

The whole project started with flooring; the main entry is a high-traffic area and the carpet was very worn. As part of our strategic plan we were examining the use of space in the library, and decided to put together a group of employees to evaluate the way our residents interact in that main space, do some research, conduct some site visits, and brainstorm ideas on what we could change to improve our service. They then met with the designers, Library Design Associates, who took their ideas and desires and wishes and came up with a great plan for a consolidated service desk area to replace the three separate service points we had before. The end result is beautiful, I think, and that’s due almost entirely to the work and contributions of the people on the committees.

Before any demolition or construction began, we did a lot of planning. We knew we wanted to do the work soon after the new year, and worked backwards from there to come up with a timeline for decision-making and interim deadlines. We had some delays when our electrician had to back out of the project just before work was to begin, and of course we had the “usual” construction delays (stuff didn’t come when it was supposed to, stuff broke, snow storms), but because we built in some cushion, we remained largely on schedule.

This was my first big construction project here, and I am so proud of my staff and my patrons. We had to temporarily move an entrance, move checkin operations, and close the children’s library for two weeks, but everyone remained excited and in good spirits. It was great to see everyone pull together, and to see every day how they continue to work together as one library team.

We have just a few punch list items, including signage–we are heavily debating verbiage and wording right now!–but I think the renovation looks fantastic thanks to everyone’s planning and hard work. We plan to replace the rest of the flooring in the library over the next several years, using donations and money that we’ve been setting aside for just this purpose, so stay tuned!

photo credit: zen via photopin cc

photo credit: zen via photopin cc

Sprint triathlons are shorter than the Olympic race and seem like a blink of an eye in comparison to an Ironman event.  Upgrades are a sprint triathlon of sorts, you don’t need to plan and train as long as a new Integrated Library System (ILS) implementation, but you do need to be prepared. As there are three legs to a triathlon: swim, bike and run, there are three phases to an ILS upgrade: planning, testing and upgrade.   There is a bonus fourth phase if all went well – euphoria.

As a project manager for an ILS upgrade, this is not the time to be seen flailing.  You need to be strong with a clear message and plan; communicate the reason for the upgrade.  Is your library a beta tester?  Will the upgrade eliminate a problem or two?  Is there a new feature that you are excited to implement? Anytime there is an inevitable or upcoming change, you can expect a little  dissent and fear from your colleagues, patrons or funders.   Look at your annual library use statistics and find a time when the library has lower door counts and circulation.  You can’t predict blizzards and other natural disasters, but holidays, baseball season and other community events do effect your library.  Use data from your ILS , not your intuition and decide the best day and time to upgrade.  Once a date is set add to the project calendar multiple training dates and times for staff.  If your library is fortunate enough to have a training server to load and test the new software before “Go Live” let staff know when the software is going to be available to them.  Communicate any changes to the plan.

This phase in not only a test of your patience, but also your workflow, homegrown scripts and customizations. If you don’t already have a dedicated testing server then take advantage of any training that the ILS vendor provides.  If the upgrade has significant changes to workflow give all staff the opportunity and compensation to attend training sessions. If you do have a training server, issues that are revealed and dealt with before the go live date minimize frantic phone calls on day one. If your ILS has an offline mode, have planned fire drills practicing the procedures of circulation and patron  registration without the luxury of confirmation and verification, just in case the upgrade takes longer than expected. The  last thing you want to do is be blindsided or ill-prepared to handle everyday library business.  Keep track of questions that arise during this phase.  You might need to log these with the ILS support staff or  find “workarounds” to obstacles in workflow before the upgrade.

The big day has arrived, the upgrade went as planned and the phones are quiet. Unrealistic? No. If you planned,  tested and trained in the weeks leading up to this moment then show stoppers,obstacles and workflow kinks have already been worked  out.  Be relieved when the first complaint of the day is “How come my notices print in landscape instead of portrait?  It is wasting paper.”  Euphoria!