Springtime Refresh at Ambler

Continuous improvement is a kind of assessment that we don’t usually think of as assessment per se – there are no statistics, there isn’t a formal plan for data collection, and our efforts may not result in a report to stakeholders. But the work that Jasmine Clark, our resident librarian, has done with staff at Ambler definitely falls into the category of assessment towards workflow improvement. In this blog post I’ll use the assessment components of identifying needs analysis and measuring success – to frame Jasmine’s work with staff that has created efficiencies, standardized workflows, and fostered change at the Library. I sat with Jasmine and Sandi Thompson, Head of the Ambler Campus Library, this week to talk about the project.

Photo credit: Darryl Sanford








NT: Tell me about the details of to your stint at Ambler?

JC: I needed to pick a rotation and I was interested in higher-level decision making, how organizations are run. Sandi & Andrea [Goldstein] expressed a desire to take a more comprehensive approach to the existing documentation at Ambler.

ST: For many years much of the information on policies and procedures was kept in a physical notebook at the public service desk. We were having trouble keeping it up to date, particularly with the migration to Alma. 

JC: I was able to bring my past experience with creating documentation to bear on this project, which involved collecting policies and procedures, moving documents to an online environment, standardizing workflow, and training users in using the system.

I looked at various technologies – Google drive, Slack, JIRA, and Confluence. We didn’t want to get too fancy, and needed to take into account the current skills of staff, their interest in technology, as well as the amount and nature of the data we’d be working with. So I decided to use Confluence, linking out to Google documents when necessary. As it turned out, Confluence is a perfect solution for our current needs. 

At Ambler, the “print” was the primary location for documentation. This made it hard to access, and hard to maintain. Now, Confluence: Ambler Campus Library is primary and if we need a printed copy, it’s exported as PDF, printed, and placed in the reference binder.

NT: How do you know if you’ve been successful in accomplishing this change – which is about both technology, but also the organization and how it shares information?

ST: Moving to the Confluence environment has had a multitude of benefits. When a student has a request, we’re not dependent on a particular individual to provide that service. Having everything in a centralized location online allows for other staff to comfortably fill in when someone is absent.

We’ve drastically improved the accessibility and the sharing of our knowledge and awareness – from notifying everyone that a student will be late for work  to how to process an interlibrary loan.  We are less silo’ed in our work, and this has led to a lot of “cross-training”.

JC: Yes, and I’ve seen staff who have taken real ownership of the site. They go beyond using it in a passive way, but also contribute to its accuracy – making corrections, interacting with the documents, updating on their own.

Training is an important part of the process, of course. Our workflow is realistic and based on everyone’s level of comfort and pace. I provide support as they are learning. I let staff know, you will not be “looked over” even when you are not familiar with technology.

NT: Are there other success indicators?

ST: There is a social media function, so we see an uptick in commenting on the blog post. Just the fact that people are using it for everything – having a place to go where everything is current and everything has made it the“go to” place for information. 

Reviewing the documentation has forced us to look at procedures in a different way, with “fresh eyes” looking at the work we do and how it might be changed. This was an unexpected result.

JC:  Something like this changes workplace culture. It’s become the norm to share information. It’s started discussions about new problems to solve.

NT: If you could describe the benefit of the project in one word, what would it be?

JC: Efficiency!

ST: Collaboration!

NT: Taken together, those two things really do speak to using process improvement work as an approach to building a team; working together to create a shared knowledge base. And really improve our service to users. Thanks for sharing this with us.  

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2 Responses to Springtime Refresh at Ambler

  1. Annie says:

    +1 to this: “Our workflow is realistic and based on everyone’s level of comfort and pace. I provide support as they are learning. I let staff know, you will not be ‘looked over’ even when you are not familiar with technology.” Great work Jasmine!

  2. Jasmine Clark says:

    Thanks Annie!

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