3 Things To Add To Your Library’s “Stop Doing” List

Times are crazy. The recession may have caused libraries to be more fiscally responsible but it’s also increased the number of customers coming through the door. Trying to do more with less is a sign of the times and it isn’t going to go away in a hurry.

To help you accomplish more with less, I regularly suggest to clients that they consider a “stop doing” list rather than a “to do” list. A “to do” list lists all the things that you need to get done. A “stop doing” list is just the opposite. A “stop doing” list lists all the things that you need to stop doing.

So how do you decide what to add to your “stop doing” list? Here are three suggestions.

  1. Any processes, procedures, or services that “still have a few years of life”.
    For example, why do libraries still purchase videos when dvds and youtube are so prevalent? The effort and cost of purchasing them, making them shelf ready, and maintaining them, must surely exceed the benefit and usage of these items. If not videos, what about audio tape cassettes? Are you able to suggest where a borrower can purchase a cassette player to listen to what’s in your collection, or do you have one that they can borrow?
  2. Any processes, procedures, or services that “we’ve already paid for it” or “do you know that cost us (some exorbitant amount)”.
    For example, it wouldn’t surprise me if the technology and software supporting many library websites is the same as when the website was first setup. Of course it will have the latest upgrades and add-ons but does it really do what customers expect? Could you abandon your current website technology in favour of something that makes it easier for customers to use your services, and is probably more cost effective?
  3. Anything that “stunts or neglects” new and growing services.
    For example,  meetings take up a lot of time that could potentially be better spent on new and growing services. Skype, teleconferencing, wikis and chat all reduce travel time and you may also be able to reduce the length or frequency of meetings by removing items from the agenda that are for information purposes only, such as update reports. These items can be circulated prior to the meeting with only issues and/or decisions discussed at the meeting.

Ask yourself the question “If we did not do this already, would we start doing it now?” and if the answer is no, stop doing it so you can free up your staff to take advantage of new opportunities. This isn’t easy, but anything that really makes a difference rarely is.

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 26 January 2011.