21 Everyday Library Projects

In the last 5 months I’ve worked with over 120 library staff on using practical project management skills in their everyday work. What I’ve noticed is that some staff have initially struggled to find a connection between what they do, and projects.

There is a perception that all projects are big, unwieldy, reluctant beasts that seem to grow and change uncontrollably overnight! So I thought it might be valuable to present projects in a different light.

Here’s a quick list of 21 everyday library activities that you may not have recognised as projects.

  1. dealing with a difficult customer
  2. having a team meeting
  3. reviewing a book
  4. answering a reference query
  5. teaching an information literacy class
  6. writing a report
  7. preparing a presentation
  8. organising a hui
  9. running a wriggle and rhyme or storytime session
  10. writing a blog post
  11. creating a reading list for a new paper or course
  12. training someone else
  13. undertaking research
  14. developing performance objectives
  15. evaluating ebooks for possible purchase
  16. evaluating usage of an existing database
  17. negotiating with suppliers
  18. preparing a business case
  19. evaluating the effectiveness of an existing service
  20. creating a survey
  21. running a holiday programme

What makes these activities projects? All of the above activities exhibit the following four characteristics of a project:

1. Projects are unique: All projects provide a specific response to a need (problem or opportunity) in a specific context. Each storytime theme whether it’s dragons, under the sea, or Easter is unique – the books, audience and your performance differ each time.

2. Projects are an adventure: Every project is different and always involves some uncertainty and risk. Dealing with a difficult customer certainly fits into this criteria!

3. Projects have a purpose: Ideally, projects have clearly-defined aims and set out to produce clearly-defined results. In libraries we may not always articulate the aims and results expected from a team meeting, book review, or preparing a presentation, but they are there.

4. Projects are limited in time and space: Projects have a beginning and an end, and are implemented in a specific place and context. Teaching an information literacy class, evaluating the effectiveness of an existing service, and answering a reference query all have a beginning and end.

So, the next time you are on the reference desk, organising a hui, or writing a blog post, remind yourself that you’re undertaking a project and embarking on a journey of adventure where you have the power to defeat any big, unwieldy beasts that block your way!