Evaluating Your Technical Services Department
How to Begin:
- Get a good working group together.
Emphasis on “working.” Someone not currently involved with the process can often help. Look for a set of “fresh eyes.”
- Document your current workflow step-by-step.
- Establish measures for where you are now.
- Question each step in the workflow.
- Can it be automated?
- Is the work done at the appropriate level?
- Involve the staff.
- When you reach a milestone, celebrate…and let the rest of the library staff know!
- Do you have a backlog? Where is it – ordering, receiving, cataloging, processing?
- What’s your average turnaround time for items…from when they arrive at your door, not from when you unpack the boxes!
- Do you regularly work your holds list?
- Who selects materials and are they part of the Tech Services department?
- Do you have frequent working meetings with your Tech Services department heads?
- Fixing errors is not free.
- Does the public service staff know what you’re doing?
- How often is the Tech Services staff out in the public service departments?
- What work is not being done that needs to be done (for your patrons).
- Evaluate the cost of any project you do or are considering taking on.
- What focus drives you?
- What is a reasonable amount of daily production for each department? Are there standards?
- Is your Tech Services department involved in evaluating or adopting some of the new trends in libraries?
- Just in time, rather than just in case (Business terms which mean producing the goods quickly after they’re ordered, rather than having a huge inventory just in case someone wants it.)
- 24, door to floor (Getting items onto the shelves within 24 hours of when they hit the branch library door.)
- Floating collections (If there are no holds, the item stays in the branch where it’s returned.)
- Do both your selectors and your acquisitions staff meet with major vendors?
- Do you have the right people doing the right job?
- Are your selectors or other staff keying in ISBNs? Do they circle selections in print journals?
- Are they taking advantage of other vendor database features?
- How do they identify in advance what will be popular?
- Do they use selection profiles that make sense or are they cookie cutter?
- Why do they buy what they buy? What trends do they see in circulation, customer visits, etc.
For example, if Large Print use is up are we purchasing more or devoting more shelf space to it? Are you purchasing less nonfiction due to patrons using Google instead?
- How do you evaluate standing order purchases? Magazine purchases?
Standing orders can be a huge budget sink. Ask your vendor to send the list of what’s coming up the next month ad review and cancel as needed.
- How has the popularity of Google searching changed your database purchases?
- Do you acknowledge planned obsolescence?
- Are your Acquisitions staff re-keying what’s already been keyed by selectors?
- Do they have electronic invoicing or are they passing along paper?
- Are you getting the best discounts you can? How do you know?
- Who negotiates your discounts? Doyou negotiate?
- Is Cataloging staff keying in ISBNs that order staff has already keyed?
- What is “quality” cataloging?
This handout was originally presented at PLA and published on Cynthia Orr Consulting. Check there for periodic updates of the information.
This work is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License