Maintaining Service and Morale during Transitions


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Dealing with the transition to a new ILS system in public libraries, specifically moving to an Open Source ILS (Koha) Prepared for the Back in Circulation Again conference, October 15-16, 2012 at the University of Wisconsin School of Library & Information Studies. It is one section of a three part presentation by Andy Barnett, McMillan Memorial Library (Wisconsin Rapids, WI), Trish Frankland, Lodi Public Library (Lodi, WI), and Margie Navarre Saaf, Madison Public Library (Madison, WI), with the other two parts not represented here.

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  • Prepared for the Back in Circulation Again conference, October 15-16, 2012 at the University of Wisconsin School of Library & Information Studies. It is one section of a three part presentation by Andy Barnett, McMillan Memorial Library (Wisconsin Rapids, WI), Trish Frankland, Lodi Public Library (Lodi, WI), and Margie Navarre Saaf, Madison Public Library (Madison, WI), with the other two parts not represented here. Transitioning to a new ILS is necessarily traumatic. Everyone becomes ignorant all at once. MCM last changed ILS in 1995, so that our staff had little experience of what was coming. Moving to Open Source brought an additional set of challenges.
  • In the immediate run-up tothe transition, the Circulation Services department (our clerical level staff) was central to our efforts. We wanted a seamless experience for our patrons. In checking out, there should be as little change as possible during and after the transition. Staff was scheduled for time in the Koha sandbox, where they could tryout and test the software. There were also live webcasts and taped webinars. Throughout the process, the sandbox and go-live software were moving targets – under constant development.For the transition, being solid on the off-line circ software was vital – and it was new / Koha software. So we ran it and practiced with it.Our management staff was very present during the transition and the first weeks. We had three librarians directly supporting six FTE, with coverage most nights and weekends. This doesn’t mean it was a top down process, just thatDuring the transition, we provided only limited service since we were not live. We couldn’t register new patrons, change addresses, renew or replace cards, accept fines – and they had to have their card to check out.Very important that staff have the right expectations – what would happen, how much trouble there would be, that management understood the issues and would stand behind staff. In our case, the start of the long process of unending software development, with the library as a beta tester.
  • Our other staff had different requirements. The shelvers needed training on PAC features, but only minimal training on the circ parts, as they only check in and don’t use the rest of the features. Using the PAC is a patron level skill, so all staff need to be adequate at it. We schedule fewer shelvers during the transition (not much shelving), but more of them when we went live (lots of shelving to catch up on).TS had their own set of issues and they went for live training, the only part of our staff to get that.Everyone who worked the reference desk (all management at that time) played in the PAC sandbox and watched webinars.Circ/TS/Adult/AsstDir all served/observed on system migration committees, so we stayed informed and involved.
  • For patrons, we were part of a system-wide effort to inform patrons. Press releases, handouts, notices on the website, columns by the director. You name it. It’s all worth doing.Didn’t have much effect. I mean, we still get people surprised we don’t have a paper catalog. We delayed card expiration for six months, so that patrons (and staff) didn’t have to deal with that as often. Cutting down on mandatory interactions is a good idea.There was a great deal of one-on-one training, complicated by Koha undergoing many changes in the first couple of months. The changes were all for the good, but they were changes.We updated our Dewey subject list, which was posted near the NF. Staff used it more than patrons, but that was expected.Throughout, it was important to remember, patrons were competent at finding things, until we changed everything. We are to blame for their problems with our PAC, so we are responsible for making them whole.
  • Handling materials is probably the most hectic part of it all. You feel backed up and there isn’t much you can do about it. But there are some things.Some of our items could be checked in – rental collections, walk-in collections – basically anything that can’t be placed on hold.SCLS is a hyperactive delivery network. MCM does “only” 20% of its circ using other libraries material. Do you send it back to the owning library? Hold it to see where it really goes? Addressing the issue matters more than the answer, as long as you are prepared for the consequences.Be a library about your returned material – organize, organize, organize. We set up a staging area so that as little as possible sat on the floor or in drop boxes.Though you can’t check things in, there is a lot you can do. Check the AV to make sure it is correct. Handle the security. Gather things by collection and get them in order. Before they can be checked in, have them cart ready.It helps the staff to have something productive to do and it will save them time and effort later.
  • There are some long-term things you can do. Change is a muscle, it needs a workout. As a metric, has your furniture moved lately? Is that because it is perfectly placed or because change is difficult/unimportant in your library? Try reading POKE THE BOX by Seth Godin or A SENSE OF URGENCY by John P. Kotter.Self-check is important because it gives the patron a consistent experience. If your self-check does pirate voices, that won’t change when you move to a new system. The changes to the staff side should be as invisible as possible to patrons. Plus, the less you require mediated checkout, the more time staff have for helping patrons with other issues.It also helps to make your library as browsable/ self-service as possible. Can a patron find the vegan cookbooks without using the PAC or asking for help? If the catalog is down, can staff find the vegan cookbooks without fuss or delay? There are some workarounds (using WISCAT), but nothing beats a library that is designed to help patrons find things on their own.World class signage, easy to find genres and subject areas and wayfinding in general. That goes beyond the scope of this presentation, but the slideshare site has MCM’s other presentations on the subject.
  • Maintaining Service and Morale during Transitions

    1. 1. Maintaining Service and Morale during Transitions Andy Barnett McMillan Memorial Library
    2. 2. Short Term - Circ Staff• Goal – consistent experience for patrons• Scheduled time in sandbox / webinars• Practice with off-line circ• Lots of handholding and presence• Ready for only limited service – no changes to records, cards required• Proper expectations
    3. 3. Short Term – Other staff• Shelvers - PAC sandbox and webinar. Scheduled less during downtime, more later.• TS – Webinars and live training• Reference desk - PAC sandbox and webinars• Management team all on migration committees, so well informed
    4. 4. Short Term - Patrons• Lots of press, articles, handouts, website• Still, pretty oblivious• Delayed card expiration• Lots of one-on-one, with a moving target• Updated Dewey / Subject signs – useful for patrons and staff• You made them incompetent.
    5. 5. Short Term - Materials• Identify collections that can be checked in• Process for delivery items• Reserve a large staging area with tables• Have items cart ready except for check-in – Check AV – Security – Sort and subsort• Keeps staff busy and feeling organized
    6. 6. Long-Term Preparations• Culture of change• Self-check – a consistent experience• Browsable library – Clear and obvious signage – Genres and subjects – Wayfinding