Competency D

Apply fundamental principles of planning, management, marketing, and advocacy.

Statement of Competency

Competency D shows knowledge on how to use best practices when managing projects, promoting the organization and its services, and obtaining support for library programs.

Planning

Each project is unique. Therefore, it is safe to say that the approach to each project will also be unique. This is why planning is necessary. Planning is one the essential processes of project management. During the planning phase, the project manager is preparing the foundation for executing and controlling the project (Zwikael, 2009, p. 95). Literature (and common sense) indicate that planning is a significant element in project success.

The advantages of planning a project are many. Snyder (2013) writes that “planning establishes the scope of the project, refine the objectives, and defines the course of action required to attain the objectives that the project was undertaken to achieve” (p. 2). As the project proceeds, the project team can always check if the operation is working towards the objectives. Even though projects can be subject to change, having a plan reduces uncertainty and risk, it makes the project workflow go smoother because the project team would know how to react to unexpected events. Planning ensures that the project is completed on time, within budget, and to the satisfaction of the stakeholders.

Project Management

Information professionals today are expected to have soft skills in addition to traditional library skills. One of those skills is project management. Kinkus (2007) conducted a content analysis of several years’ worth of librarian position advertisements indicated that project management is in demand for librarian positions (p. 352).

Often funding limitations prevent libraries from hiring project independent project managers. Librarians are usually thrust into the role of “instant project manager” with little or no training. Fortunately, iSchools recognize the need to educate future LIS professionals in project management. Kinkus cited Winston and Hofffman’s (2005) survey in 2003, which was sent to 47 ALA-accredited master’s programs. Of the 26 replies that were received, 21 LIS programs reported that they had one course in project management.

The ability to manage projects effectively is essential and requires a complex combination of skills such as coordination of human and material resources, being able to work within the limits of time and budget, and aligning the activities as the team works toward the project goals. As libraries adapt to changes in technology and organizational structure, modern librarians need to learn to work with multiple departments and be able to communicate, advocate, and mediate when necessary (Howarth, 2012, p.2).

Advocacy

Even before we have projects to manage, we have to advocate for program support. Penny Hummel (2014), Director of Canby Public Library writes, “…in tough times, library advocacy takes genuine courage, not only because we may be criticized as overreaching, but also because we ultimately don’t control the outcome.” Hummel cites Mary Frances Isom, who at a 1919 library conference said that librarians are too timid and have not learned to take a chance. And Hummel stated that Isom’s observation still stands today (p. 5).

John Moorman (2009), a top library administrator of public libraries, stated that “advocacy is a state of perennial concern for today’s librarian and the library community as a whole…Advocacy is essential if libraries are to be able to succeed in the 21st century. This is true for all types of libraries.” To effectively advocate for your library, no matter what kind of library it is, you have to be truly knowledgeable of the community your library serves and effectively relate your library’s needs to entities that can fund your programs.  Moorman (2009) does acknowledge that some library staff can only conduct library advocacy on a limited basis because of government restrictions. If this is the case, it may be necessary to find community partners who can advocate for the library on your behalf. In my grant writing class, we conducted an environmental scan of possible community partners for this reason.

Marketing

Marketing library programs does not only pertain to promoting programs already created. Marketing begins before program details are finalized. One of the tools in project management that can be used is the stakeholder management plan. The stakeholder management plan describes how the team will move each stakeholder from the current level of engagement to the desired level of engagement. In other words, the project team needs to identify all the people that are impacted by the project. These people’s expectations can shape the marketing of the project hence the project team need to develop appropriate methods to engage these stakeholders in making project decisions and in its execution (Snyder, 2013, p. 157,160).

The New Mexico State Library has produced a very simple tool for marketing that can work for any library called Library Marketing Plan Workbook. According to the workbook, “The crux of marketing is to find out your customer’s real needs and desires and then to create and ‘sell’ a product or service which fulfills that need and desire. It is a proactive NOT a reactive function” (New Mexico State Library, p. 1). Taking a cue from the business world, effective marketing produces material that promotes the library’s brand, brings patrons to the library, and builds support for its programs.

Justification of Evidence

  1. Work Breakdown Schedule – Virtual Reference (LIBR 282 – Project Management)

In my project management class, we were given an assignment to practice our project planning techniques.  The scenario involved a project team that has been tasked with the design, development, and evaluation of a “virtual reference service.” Acting as Project Manager, I had to create a work breakdown schedule (WBS) consisting of ten major activities.

The WBS is a hierarchical outline of the work (expressed as activities) that needs to be done to complete the project (Wysocki, 2013, p. 156). The purpose of creating the WBS is to identify all the activities within the project. It helps with brainstorming while designing and planning the project. It also serves as a visual representation of the entire project which allows the project team to identify critical areas. This gives the project team a clear understanding of what they are expected to do and the proper sequence of activities. It also serves as a reporting tool on the progress of the project.

In a WBS, activities are decomposed into the lowest function levels. It is based on the requirements breakdown schedule (RBS) which takes into consideration the project goals, client criteria, budget, location, etc. Using these tools is a traditional approach to project management.  In completing this assignment, I learned that any project can benefit from creating a work breakdown schedule. With a WBS, a project manager can anticipate possible risks and changes. As Wysocki (2013) observed, “Effective project managers have to think rather than routinely react” (p. 26). Having a WBS can minimize the effects of change because it gives the project team an idea of the relationships and dependencies between the project activities.

  1. Lean Six Sigma Case Study (LIBR 282 – Project Management)

My second artifact is also from my project management class and it is a case study of how 3M used Lean Six Sigma in their Pollution Prevention Program. Lean Six Sigma is “a business improvement methodology that offers an organization a framework and tools to identify, approach, and prioritize quality improvement initiatives to reduce variation and waste” (Murphy, 2009, p. 215).

In this case study, I had to identify the key stakeholders in the case, the entities who have the most to gain or are to be the most affected. In this case, 3M wants to comply with U.S. Government regulations to protect the public from pollution created during the manufacturing process. I also had to identify the key enablers who made the implementation of the project successful, and for this case, were the 3M senior leadership who implemented the Lean Six Sigma training of the company’s executives. The implementation is supported down the organizational structure by the Environmental, Health, and Safety Operations (EHSO) managers, who enabled the deployment of Lean Six Sigma at the corporate level.

As with any process, there are barriers and with the 3M Pollution Prevention Program, the structural makeup of the company itself was problematic. Because it is an international company composed of independent business units, 3M had to use teams to help oversee processes and serve as liaisons. 3M wanted to motivate its project teams to have innovative ideas but there was the issue of the company requirement that their projects demonstrate a return of investment. Fortunately, 3M managers reported that their teams were still motivated to prevent pollution in the manufacturing process.

Lean Six Sigma was originally conceived for the manufacturing environment. But it can be adapted in service industries like libraries. In recent years, Lean Six Sigma project success is defined in terms of revenues minus cost (Murphy, 2009, 216). One may argue that libraries do not generate revenue, so why should libraries use Lean Six Sigma? Lean Six Sigma eliminates variation, defects, errors, and inefficiencies in project processes. Although libraries do not create dollars, its revenue is in the form of the quality of the service it provides its patrons. In her 2009 article, Murphy cited Yang (2005) who said that “libraries must maximize customer value by focusing on the customer’s perceived benefits minus their perceived costs or liabilities for using the organization’s products or services” (Yang, 2005, p. 6).

Kerry McGreath, who has 25 years of retail experience, favors a “customer centric” outlook. He believes that policies and procedures should be based on customer needs and in doing so, he has tripled circulation figures in Southlake Public Library in Texas, where he is the City Librarian (Reed, 2009, p. 217). In an interview with Reed, Barbara L. Flynn, Deputy Director of the San Diego County Library, emphasized that great customer service is a sound business practice. She said, “When it comes right down to it, it’s easier to provide high quality service than to make apologies or try to mend fences after bad service” (p. 218).

I have always practiced efficiency and in my artifact, I recount a project I managed that reduced time and waste. I did not know about Lean Six Sigma then but I could have done a better job if I did. I believe the use of this methodology in library projects is a scientific way of approaching processes and increases the chances of project success.

  1. My Future in Advocacy (Library Advocacy Un-shushed – University of Toronto e-course)

My last artifact for this competency comes from an advocacy class I took from the University of Toronto. It is a reflection on what I learned about advocacy and how I foresee myself as a future advocate.  At present, I am taking a grant writing class and we learned that in today’s economy, no library is safe from budget cuts. In 2013, Harvard, the world’s richest school, had a $33.7M deficit and one of its money-saving strategies is to reorganize libraries and technology services (Bloomberg, 2013). Therefore, opportunities to advocate for library programs are always present.

The advocacy class was quite eye-opening. Before this class, the word “advocacy” conjured images of protesters carrying placards. But I learned that advocacy begins with building relationships, not just with the stakeholders but also with decision makers. Relationship-building increases influence, which in turn, also improves support.

Another strategy I learned that makes for effective advocacy is to start at the grass roots level. In an interview, Peter Pearson, President of the Friends of St. Paul Public Library in Minnesota, said, “The most important activity we do in support of our library is the grassroots citizen advocacy in support of strong public funding for the library.” He advised developing a standing committee which will advocate for the library on an ongoing basis. He suggested that their effort start early in the year because “11th hour efforts” usually aren’t successful (Library Advocacy Un-shushed, 2014).

Course instructor, Wendy Newman (2014) said “the major communication challenge of librarianship in all types of settings is to tell our story simply and compellingly.” In today’s world of big data, statistics do not mean anything unless there is a narrative behind it. There is power behind the stories we tell. Newman said that we have to communicate “the essence of story in ways that will stick” (Newman, 2014). We have to know what our story is. Alvin Schader (2012) underscores the significance of storytelling. He said, “The biggest challenge facing the library community is telling its story – going beyond the data in meaningful ways that will resonate with sponsors, policy makers, politicians, and library users alike” (Schader, 2012, p. 4). In the business world, this is called the value proposition, a statement that “explains what benefit you provide, for whom, and how you it uniquely well. It describes your target buyer, the problem you solve, and why you’re distinctly better than the alternatives” (Skok, 2013).

As advocates we also have to always be prepared to use appropriate communication tools. Advocacy can be done through many means but I learned that signing petitions are ineffective because legislators are not really concerned with opinions of citizens outside their constituency. They are also not persuaded by protests or negative propaganda. They only lead to a communication breakdown.

Letter writing is still the most important modes of communication as well as having a well-prepared “elevator speech” that an advocate can use for any short encounter with a decision maker. Groups who have established a personal face-to-face relationship with their representatives are the most effective advocates. Newman (2014) said that “research tells us that personal visit of a group of constituents to the office of a decision-maker, especially an elected politician, is highly influential – far more than scores of boiler plate emails.”

Advocacy may seem daunting and even hopeless. But there are many resources that are available to us, like the ALA Library Advocate Handbook, the ALA Advocacy University, and Now Hear This from Fenton Communications.

References

ALA. (2014). Advocacy University. Website. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/advocacy-university

ALA. (2008). Library advocacy handbook. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/offices/sites/ala.org.offices/files/content/ola/2008lah.pdf

Bloomberg. (2013). Ivy league budget deficits prompt Harvard, Yale to seek cuts. Retrieved from http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2013-12-12/ivy-league-budget-deficits-prompt-harvard-yale-to-seek-cuts

Buthmann, A. (2014). Cost of quality: Not only failure costs. Retrieved from http://www.isixsigma.com/implementation/financial-analysis/cost-quality-not-only-failure-costs/.

Feeney, M. & Sult, L. (2011). Project management in practice: Implementing a process to ensure accountability and success. Journal of Library Administration, 51, 744-763, DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2011.6011273.

Fenton Communications. (2009). Now hear this: The nine laws of successful advocacy communications. Retrieved from http://www.fenton.com/FENTON_IndustryGuide_NowHearThis.pdf

Horwarth, J.A. (2012). How do we manage? Project management in libraries: An investigation. Partnership: the Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 7(1), 1-35.

Kinkus, J. (2007). Project management skills: A literature review and content analysis of librarian position announcement. College and Research Libraries, 68(4), 352-363.

Library Advocacy Un-shushed. (2014). Peter Peterson on grassroots advocacy for libraries. YouTube video. 12.15 min. Retrieved from Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmkQD7twTHI

Moorman, J. (2009). Advocacy today, advocacy tomorrow, advocacy forever! Retrieved from http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/VALib/v55_n4/moorman.html.

Murphy, S. A. (2009). Leveraging lean Six Sigma to culture, nurture, and sustain assessment and change in the academic library environment. College & Research Libraries, 70(3), 215-226.

Newman, W. (2014). Communicating the story part 1. YouTube video. 8.48 min. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2KuQbCIYl0

Newman, W. (2014). Special topics – part 4. YouTube video. 4.58 min. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=295&v=4Ii0OFt8IaI

Newman, W. (2014).  Strategy and communications – introduction. YouTube video. 2.55 min. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=156&v=kK-39C1j9dI

Reed, V. (2009). Good reference service? Great reference service? What’s the difference? The Reference Librarian, 50, 215-218.

Schader, A.M. & Brundin, M.R. (2012). National values profile of Canadian libraries. Canadian Library Association. Retrieved from http://www.cla.ca/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Advocacy&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=13784

Skok, M. (2013). 4 steps to building a compelling value proposition. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelskok/2013/06/14/4-steps-to-building-a-compelling-value-proposition/

Snyder, C. (2013). User’s manual to the PMBOK guide. 5th ed. (E-book). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Winston, M.D. & Hoffman, T. (2005). Project management and libraries. Journal of Library Administration, 42(1), 51-61.

Wysocki, R.K. (2013). Effective project management: Traditional, agile, extreme. (E-book). John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Yang, Kai. (2005). Design for Six Sigma for service. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.