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.