Three developments in provision of technical services at the University of Vermont Libraries united to prompt a thorough workflow review. While loss of technical services librarians and staff finally triggered this examination, the growing challenges of e-resources management, and the lingering effects of a partial merger of technical services functions within the libraries also led to a sense of urgency. The Dean of University Libraries charged a task force in spring 2014 to “understand and evaluate acquisitions and resource description processes across University Libraries.”

A cross-library task force conducted a literature review, interviewed each person in the library who performed any form of technical services work, held focus groups, and conducted a survey. The resulting qualitative data was used to develop themes: collection development and management, project management, electronic resources, cataloging, and serials. Technical services staff ranked the issues in order of importance within each theme. In true Vermont fashion, “town hall” meetings were held to address top issues in each category. The task force conducted follow-up meetings with functional units to discuss concerns in their unit that had not been named as top issues.

The task force drafted two reports, one midway through the process that identified broad categories of concern and resource-intensive steps to address them, and a second report that worked through specific issues to suggest steps existing staff could take to improve workflows and processes. As a result of the work of the task force, the University of Vermont Libraries identified necessary changes in hiring, outsourcing, documentation, and communication. One lesson learned was the value of being flexible about the process. Using a qualitative research approach involving the identification of themes, triangulation with a variety of methodologies, and checking in with the population being studied was a useful approach for involving employees in workflow review.


Presented at: Annual Meeting of the American Library Association, ALCTS Technical Services Workflow Efficiency Interest Group; June 27th, 2016; Orlando, FL.


Technical Services, Workflow

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