Libraries, by their nature, use lots and lots of paper.
But for the Essex County Library, reducing the amount of paper they used actually made them more productive and even improved their customer service.
In their pre-intranet days, library staff used to make 20 copies of their thick manual, policies, procedures, and instructions.
This is a common practice in many organizations. Everybody wants to have their most important documents within an arm’s reach, and so they make and keep their own copies.
Aside from killing trees, this practice made staff lose hours in productivity. They spent a lot of time making copies, and then more time finding what document they needed — and making sure it was the most recent one. Not to mention needing to find the space to keep all those paper documents!
It also meant not being able to respond to their clients’ queries and needs promptly.
According to Essex County Library representative Janet Woodbridge, they had the following objectives for their intranet:
- reduce the amount of paperwork they produce
- communicate information to all staff at the same time (a challenge given the library has 14 locations!)
- make work information accessible and easy to find
They also needed a solution that was easy enough for their library staff to use, since they weren’t tech savvy.
The Intranet Solution
To help the Essex County Library reach its goals, Vialect set up an intranet for them using Noodle intranet software.
The biggest part of rolling out their intranet was transforming their paper manuals and documents into wiki-style web pages.
With Noodle intranet’s WYSIWYG editor, this task was easy. Now the library’s wiki documents are fully searchable, easy to navigate, and accessible in any of the library’s branches.
Staff are assured they’re always referring to the most recent, updated version of any document. More importantly, the information is easy to find when they need it — resulting in better service to their customers.
Essex County Library’s Noodle intranet is now an essential tool for its staff.
Knowledge Management Challenge to Libraries
As “knowledge institutions,” libraries are gateways to knowledge and culture. Yet traditional practices of archiving and disseminating information are no longer effective today. Technology allows us to share information instantly, and library users are aware of that. Their expectations for accurate and timely service are higher than in previous years.
It’s a challenge for today’s libraries to meet rising expectations and demands from their customers. Budgets and manpower are limited, and may even be smaller than before. And older library employees and managers may not have the skills and comfort level required to use existing and emerging technologies.
But the Essex County Library experience shows that these challenges can be overcome by finding the right tools for their requirements and resources.
Are you a library seeking a better way to manage your internal information and knowledge? What are the challenges you face? What solutions are you looking for? Share your experiences in the comments below.