Military Libraries come in all shapes and sizes. We’re academic libraries, supporting Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees. We’re public libraries, complete with children’s story hours and retiree’s financial resources. We’re also other types of special libraries: medical; history; science, technology & engineering; intelligence; and headquarters support. The Military Libraries Division brings together members from all U.S. military services, Canadian Combined Armed Forces, international military services, contractors, vendors, academic institutions and anyone with an interest in military librarianship. Check us out at http://military.sla.org/. – Gloria Miller is a Librarian at the Headquarters, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Redstone Arsenal (Huntsville), Alabama. She is currently the Chair-Elect of the Military Libraries Division.
by Cheryl Cyr
Prevention is the key to good health, both in life and in libraries. Military libraries, like so many others, are facing a future of budget cuts and it’s a reality that we will have to learn to do more with less. So, rather than waiting for the heart attack–massive budget cuts–we strive to keep our library as lean and healthy as we can.
Instead of having to go into crisis mode when the budget cuts come, we “plan for the worse” and are as proactive as possible by aggressively implementing smart process improvements using Lean Six Sigma, 5S methodology and other tools. Since our daily work can be all-consuming (my patron needs a full literature search with 47 keywords by tomorrow!) we build continual improvement into the yearly planning. We allot the time to analyze our systems and make the implementation of changes a priority. By planning our process improvements into the yearly plan we can project cost-savings by knowing we will have eliminated or streamlined workflow so at the end of the year if we lose 5% of our budget we have already learned to “do without.”
An example of this is how we reorganized the process for our Overdue Notices. We knew this was an opportunity for savings because it was a system that had grown unwieldy over time as technology and needs changed without the process being updated. We had to step back and look at the problem holistically to know where the improvements could be found. As a library team we designed a project with clearly assigned steps, deliverables and deadlines. We sent out a survey to our customers asking for their feedback on our borrowing policy. From those results we re-wrote our policy which allowed for extended borrowing time and, incidentally, much happier patrons! We implemented other changes, including the reporting, processing and delivery of notices and our final result was that we saved over 50 hours a month of labor!
And by being proactive instead of reactive, that means we could use that extra 50 hours to implement special projects, outreach or invest in another system analysis, but if the budget cuts at the end of the year required us to lose 50 hours a month- we would still come out healthy and alive!
Now that said, we don’t ever want the “higher ups” to think the library can indefinitely absorb budget cuts but by showing this initiative and business acumen it makes the library a stronger partner in the operation as a whole. And it’s being that active partner, rather than a passive recipient, which helps us be future ready.
Cheryl Cyr is currently a Reference Librarian at Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake Technical Library in California.