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What Our Library Stopped Doing

Laura Soto-Barra and Rebecca Jones

Laura Soto-Barra (L) and Rebecca Jones (R)


Rebecca Jones, Managing Partner, Dysart & Jones Associates, said that we often speak about the new things we are doing in our libraries, but sometimes you have to stop doing things to make way for something new. . We all like to do things in which we are competent, and we don’t like to be told to stop them.

Here are things we have stopped doing:

  • Card catalogs. When library catalogs became available electronically, we stopped using card catalogs because they were slow and inefficient. When computers came along, for the first time multiple people could access the catalog simultaneously. We reallocated our most precious, special, and expensive resource–our people. We are responsible for them and we need to make sure they have the skills and competencies to do other things. Librarians became team members on faculties, due diligence teams, and in community initiatives.
  • Assigning librarians to the desk or fixed service points. They were then able to start being fully engaged team members, becoming involved in community positions, leading customer engagement, etc.
  • Selecting, approving, or checking all items purchased. Librarians no longer need to do ordering and approving items.
  • Checking out items. Self-checkout stations have become common in libraries.
  • Processing purchased items. Now, everything arrives already processed.

We must use evidence to ensure that people have the skills and confidence for the future to grow and go anywhere. Look at the client value of the services we provide and get their strategic fit in the organization, as the chart below shows. If something is not strategically positioned where we want to go, divest it. If it has high client value, double it or stop it if it has low organizational value.

Client fit and strategic value

Sometimes changes will be better accepted if you make them fun. But don’t underestimate the grieving process that some people may have to go through when something disappears.

Laura Soto-Barra, R&D Chief, NPR Research Archives and Data Strategy (RAD), reviewed what they stopped at NPR. When you want to change things, you need alliances and cannot do it alone. Things that changed at NPR:

  • A new name for the information service, which was rebranded as RAD (Research, Archives, and Data Strategy).
  • New relationships with colleagues,
  • Merging of three separate libraries into one, and
  • Creation of a strategy.

The NPR library was formed in 1971 to serve journalists and archive their stories. But they were not considered partners and were largely invisible. When they were rebranded as RAD, they stopped being librarians, and became researchers, data strategists, and archivists. The new name gave them a new identity and new freedoms; they chose the job titles that described their work and responsibilities. We have become product owners and are agile, active, and confident. 

The RAD service has positioned itself in the organization and is not affiliated with any specific division but serves all colleagues as needed. They market themselves to the whole organization and have become trusted and respected. They maintain digital collections of information and acquire resources as needed, no longer subscribing to print publications (unless that is required to get the electronic version). Repetitive data entry-based work has been eliminated.

New relationships with colleagues have greatly increased RAD’s effectiveness and have enabled them to function as partners wherever needed in the organization.


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