Consolidation of Library Systems to Increase Efficiency and Improved Service

In this interview Dr. Andrew White, Associate CIO for Health Sciences, co-author of
E-Metrics for Library and Information Professionals and former Interim Dean of Stony Brook University Libraries, recently appointed, discussed the Project 50 Forward Operational Excellence Libraries Initiative. This included the recent consolidation of the University Libraries and the Stony Brook Medicine Library. He also spoke about other initiatives to increase efficiency, reduce costs,  and add convenience.

Why the need for change?
Andrew WhiteWith the migration from a predominantly print to a predominantly digital model we needed to provide a different range of services to support the evolving needs of undergraduate students, graduate students and faculty who depend on the library. Then we had to develop processes and build operations to support those services. Also, the increase of interdisciplinary research necessitated the consolidation of the Medicine and Main Campus libraries into a single cohesive system.

What was the process for identifying areas for improvement?
In order to ascertain exactly what was needed and identify the most efficient way to accomplish our goals, we went through four different rounds of consultation. We met with a group of deans of university libraries to identify immediate shortcomings. We consulted with a group of library middle management from other institutions in an effort to identify a new organizational structure. We received additional input from a nationally acclaimed business advisory group that evaluated the Library’s operational efficiency and financial sustainability. I also met one-on-one with every library staff member on both sides of campus to make sure that we were addressing all the needs of Stony Brook’s various constituencies. The result was that the conversation changed from one primarily concerned about budget allocation to a discussion about services and efficiencies. We realized that when we make services more efficient, budget and operations management improve as a result.

What is being done to improve and modernize Stony Brook University Library processes?
Our goal was to more effectively and efficiently manage Library processes and to upgrade and simplify an increasingly wider range of services for Stony Brook students and faculty. To achieve these ends, the Health Sciences Library and the Stony Brook University Libraries were administratively merged, restructured and rebranded as the University Libraries.

What is the most important improvement that merging the libraries will accomplish?
With two separate library systems there were several areas in which there was duplication of effort as well as a lack of cohesive policies and procedures. For example, because the Health Sciences Library and the University Libraries have two independent databases for their catalogs, it was difficult to search for data across disciplines. Merging the databases into a single search interface provided a comprehensive data source, which has implications about how information is presented in a searchable interface. Other areas where redundancies have been reduced by consolidation are staffing, billing, procurement and information technology.

How has the digital age impacted the operations of the Libraries?
Access to information has escaped the “Four Walls” of the library because today most research journals are digital. There is now one central location for students and faculty of the University and Stony Brook Medicine to access the data they need and have it delivered to their screen. The migration from print to digital journals has also enabled us to eliminate or greatly reduce low value activities such as binding and storage. We have also reduced the operational cost of photocopying and printing at the libraries. Where once we had five different kinds of copiers in use throughout the library system, which required five separate service contracts and multiple supply sources, there is now one standard in all our libraries. Additionally, all copiers have been replaced by multifunction devices, capable of copying, scanning and printing. They can also scan documents to a flash drive or send them directly to email. This switch has resulted in considerable savings in paper, toner and the cost of service as well as providing an extra level of convenience for users.

What has been the result of the cost savings?
100% of the cost savings are being reinvested back into the Library. We are in the process of standardizing the PC’s for the entire staff, which we believe will achieve similar efficiencies to that which we realized with the standardization of library copiers. We are also investing in the continued professional development and retraining of our staff. Additionally we will devote some of the resources to our collections.

How will the Library improve storage space allocation?
The transition from paper documents to digital resources has also enabled us to improve the manner in which the Library acquires material. We are in the process of moving away from an ownership model to a leasing model — paying an annual fee to provide online access for our users as opposed to owning journals. Required storage space is reduced, which can be utilized for other things.

Will the policy for paying late fees be affected?
With the merger of the libraries, all fee schedules are now standardized across campus. We have also developed a system that enables borrowers to pay late fees with their credit cards, either online or at the Bursar’s Office. Now more than 70% of late fees are paid that way, which provides for increased convenience for Library users, while lowering claim processing costs.

How have satellite libraries been affected?
The consolidation of satellite libraries on campus has been an ongoing process. Several years ago there were several more satellite libraries located in many different buildings throughout the campus, including Engineering, Earth and Space Science, Biology and Computer Science. Through the years, most have merged with the main Libraries. As we enhance our ability to deliver information digitally, we will continue to explore the need for multiple library locations. Today the Health Sciences Library is the only one on the Medicine Campus. In addition to the Melville Library, the remaining West Campus libraries are Chemistry, Marine Science and Math, Physics & Astronomy.

How will students and faculty benefit from these changes?
Common data, fine and fee schedules, circulation policies and a single search interface all streamline processes and simplify the user experience. Students now have easy 24/7 access to many library services and resources from their dorm rooms, laptops or tablets. The switch from print to digital media allowed us to increase the amount and variety of journal offerings. The library is more readily accessible, searchable and convenient for students and faculty. As part of the Middle States accreditation process, we are exploring a program to train students in ‘Library Literacy’ as part of a discipline’s core curriculum. Students need to learn how to access and use authoritative, peer-reviewed content. No longer merely a silo of information, the Library has become an important component of the total educational process — a true partner in the University’s mission.

When will the new system be up and running?
Many of the new systems and processes are already in place: a single, Google-like search interface, a single website for easy access to information, the consolidation of fees and standards. More will be coming in the days ahead. But there is no end point. We are continually working to be more responsive to the evolving needs of our users. We have set up a user survey team to ascertain what’s working and what more needs to be done. To take the survey, visit www.library.stonybrook.edu/survey.

As we get feedback we will institute changes and improvements necessary to keep up with our users’ evolving needs.

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March 18, 2013