31 March 2017

March GLAM Blog Club: What I Wish They Taught Me in GLAM School (business process improvement)

The lovely New Cardigan community for gallery / library / archive / museum (GLAM) professionals has launched #glamblogclub, suggesting a monthly topic to encourage Australian GLAM folk to write something regularly. March's prompt is What I Wish They Taught Me in GLAM School. 

I need to preface my response to this topic by saying that I'm just not into complaining about what I didn't get taught in library school and I dislike it when others do too. I can't imagine how hard it is to design and deliver curricula that try to meet the diverse needs of graduates and employers across so many different sectors in an industry that is subject to such a fast pace of change. I have a lot of respect for academics working in increasingingly casualised and market-driven universities to provide librarians of the future with a solid base from which they can (and must) continue to build the skills and knowledge that they will need to succeed in any one particular job or sector. The Library Loon writes often and well about the pressures on LIS educators which include constant (and often ill-informed) criticism of things that "should" be part of library courses. As professional practitioners we need to move beyond our own limited experience of the study that we have done and to be more aware of how difficult it is to get programs of study designed, endorsed internally and externally accredited. Some empathy with the hard-working people that undertake this labour for the greater good of our profession would go a long way, particularly at a time when their own futures may be uncertain

In any case if there were one skill I think I could have applied in almost every job I've done, one thing that had I learned it early on would have made me a better librarian, it would not be specific to GLAMs but is something far more generic: business process improvement.

The analysis of business processes, including recognition of the potential for automation of the processes, assessment of the costs and potential benefits of the new approaches considered and, where appropriate, management of change, and assistance with implementation. 
I'll be talking about this at the New Librarians Symposium in June so I don't want to drill into too much detail here. I will just say that every librarian - regardless of position, level or sector - carries out work that could be documented and analysed systematically in order to improve the way it's done. Library processes are full of unnecessary manual handling, duplication, kludges and workarounds (often but not always due to crappy technical systems) that over time morph into "but we've always done it that way". We all intuit that things in our workplaces could be improved and many of us make our best efforts to change things, but we might be more effective in this if we looked outside GLAM school to the other disciplines that provide methods and tools for just this kind of work.