Wednesday, 15 June 2011

LMS Groups - by Function

Further to my comments on Saturday about the various groups involved in the project I thought I would share this diagram that James has done for us. 

Please remember that this is a work in progress!  As we start working with existing groups or new ones are formed we will update this diagram.  However I believe it is useful to share this as it is now.

You will note the Customer Service Group as part of the change managment role.  This is the network's existing group.  We plan to make some formal links to this group shortly, and to use their expertise to assist in this process.

I am happy to discuss the roles, membership or functions of any of the groups.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Another milestone – one more marathon completed

As mentioned on my 24 May post, yesterday was a significant day for the LMS project!!  Right on schedule we completed our Vendor Demonstrations on 10 June.  And what a marathon it was.  Over 60 people from a range of libraries committed all or part of 6 days to sit and analyse various LMS offerings.  Hundreds of questions were asked, hundreds of cups of coffee were consumed, hundreds of animated conversations occurred whilst consuming the coffee, cakes & lunches.  And all up there was a real buzz in the air. 

The level of engagement by library staff as they poured over cataloguing, circulation, serials modules etc, or attempted to grasp the complexity which sits behind the powerful “discovery layers” of the products was great to see.  I am feeling very optimistic about what we have seen.  I am now very confident that whatever the final decision, all libraries are in line for a real treat – with improvements for our customers, which will wow them.

For those of you who were there – wasn’t it great?  And for those of you who supported your colleagues by doing their desk shifts or other duties while they were hard at work with us – thanks for your support in this way.

The next stage of the process is that the hard working Subject Matter Expert groups now have to consolidate their assessments and have their reports in to the Evaluation Team by next Friday the 17th.  This will allow the ET to meet on the 22nd to consider the shortlisting of the current vendors into a smaller group or only 1 or 2 to then undertake some “hands on” bench testing of the vendor/s’ software in a test environment.

I can’t wait for the next stage to commence.

Same Same, but different*

I was having a conversation with library staff the other day about the LMS project & it became apparent that a bit more information about library consortia elsewhere & what may be different in SA was warranted.

When we embarked on this project, part of our research was to consider who else had done something similar that we could learn from and what was unique about our local circumstances. 

It soon became clear that there were hundreds of consortia around the world, many of which were larger and more complex than our own potential network.  If you are interested in this you may like to visit Marshall Breeding’s site here.  While it is not definitive, it certainly has some great information about libraries, LMSs and consortia.

However it also quickly became evident that the issues that are unique for any consortium are three distinct things:
  1. Local telecommunications infrastructure,
  2. Local governance / decision making / culture
  3. Funding Model

      The project has therefore been putting additional energy into these three areas in parallel with the LMS selection process.  We are doing this to ensure that we understand and can address the issues that are unique to SA.

As mentioned in my 12 April post there is a Wide Area Network (WAN) group currently looking at our current telecommunications infrastructure, what will be needed to deliver the LMS to each council, and what the gap is between the current and future needs.  This group is working to ensure the 1st of our unique issues is addressed prior to rolling out the LMS.
As mentioned in my 4 April post we have an interim user group which has been looking at the issues of decision making.  This group has produced a document which lists all of the areas where the network will have to make some decisions.  This list will be out to libraries for discussion in the near future.  And while this is happening we continue to develop the longer term governance framework for decision making on LMS issues.  I will have more to say about this soon.

And finally – the all important money!!  Following the LGA’s consultation in January on a funding model with an allocation per council the LGA has been considering some modifications to that original model.  As soon as there is something to report on this front I will let you know.

So – while the LMS selection process is proceeding I trust that you can also see that the other parts of the jigsaw are also being addressed.  James Kemperman has done me an interesting diagram of all of the groups associated with the project.  I will post this here next week.

*With apologies to all who have shopped in markets across Asia.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Consortium, franchise, branch network or what?

The LMS Interim User Group has been doing some great work in looking as where decisions will have to be made to enable the smooth running of a consortium utilising a shared LMS.  Underpinning the group’s work has been some principles or assumptions that then drive the findings of the group.

In discussions with some members of the group and a range of others I have been struck with the diversity of views about what the consortium will be & how it will operate.  Some have a view which would see the whole network operating as a multi-branch system with almost everything being identical while others have a vision which has much more local flexibility.  So I figure it is time to have a discussion about the way things will/could work.

Below is my perspective & I'd love to have a conversation (on this blog or elsewhere) with others about this.  Of course there will be formal channels to further resolve these issues.

I’d like to use a few analogies to illustrate my sense of where we are heading. 

The Commonwealth Bank is a single entity with multiple branches.  Policy is decided in head office and whichever branch a customer goes into they will get identical terms and conditions for their loans and deposits.  All of the brochures will have been designed in head office and will be identical.  There is some localism, whereby particular branches engage with their community by supporting a local netball or football club, but that is about the most diversity you will see. 

In library terms such a model would see identical loan periods, and other borrowing rules. It would see centrally set policy down to the smallest parts of the operations.  This model is as far away as possible from where I think we should be aiming for.

A different model may be to look at a hotel chain like the Novotel, which has hotels in different locations.  You wouldn’t even think of them as branches.  The Novotel in Queenstown NZ has drying rooms and lockers for ski gear and a number of bars with open fires in them, while the Novotel in Fiji will have 4 swimming pools and evening lovos on the beach.  The rooms in the two hotels will be differently decorated and priced, but certain aspects of quality would be assured.  But someone who had stayed in one Novotel would know what to expect in terms of quality, price, service etc, even though service delivery altered to match local circumstances.  They would know what to expect.  It isn’t a Sheraton or a Peppers or Country Comfort, but a Novotel.  There is a understanding of what to expect from this  brand name which means that if people like the brand they will visit another Novotel hotel with confidence.

I think this is more where we are headed.  Under the trusted brand name of “Public Library” there will be different iterations that will meet the needs and circumstances of the local communities they serve.

One of the arguments for the “Commonwealth Bank” model rather than the “Novotel” model is that customers need to be assured of what they will get, and this should come right down to every last detail.  I’m not sure that this is advisable, much less workable.  I believe we should be looking at service standards rather than prescriptive rules. 

So, rather than saying that the borrowing rules in every library have to be identical we could set a service standard which said, “Every customer who borrows items will be provided with a receipt which states what has been borrowed, where it was borrowed and what the due dates for each item are.” 

Such a service standard would provide for local flexibility around loan periods, but avoid customer confusion or uncertainty by providing the information the customer needs.

This is only one small example, however I trust that it illustrates the philosophy that I believe we should be striving for.  Service standards, rather than rules should govern most of what we need to do to make a consortium work. 

One of our staff described my position as “defaulting to localism rather than centralism”, and I think that is a fair description.  I believe we should only set consortium-wide “rules” where we either have no choice, or there is a compelling reason to do so.  Other than that – let managers get on and manage, providing services to meet the needs of their local communities.

Any comments???