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close this bookInternational Reader in the Management of Library, Information and Archive Services (UNESCO, 1987, 684 p.)
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View the documentThe management study
View the documentA cost-analysis of cataloguing at the Universiti Sains Malaysia library for 1975
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The management study

I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

- Rudyard Kipling

Most librarians participate in a number of management or system studies in the course of their careers. Some conduct the studies, others are subjects, most implement the recommendations or use the findings in decision making. Even if one's involvement is limited, every professional should understand the principles and objectives of a scientifically conducted management study and know when a study is worth undertaking, who is most qualified to do it, and how best to act on its recommendations.

Who Should Make the Study

Until recently, few librarians had a sufficient knowledge of scientific management to feel comfortable in the role of systems analyst. For many years it was customary to import consultants from business and industry. Although these consultants were usually proficient in the use of analytic tools, they often did not understand library operations. They approached problems as though in an industrial setting, with a tendency to view activities solely in terms of cost. The importance of service objectives were minimized, misunderstood, or ignored.

This situation has changed somewhat in recent years as several management firms have strived to overcome these shortcomings. At the same time, more librarians have become competent in the use of analytical tools. It is now common for a large library to retain systems analysts as full-time staff members. Smaller libraries may rely on the skills of staff who also perform other responsibilities-for example, a children's librarian, cataloger, or department head who may be asked to double as an analyst whenever the need arises. Some libraries, however, still prefer to employ outside consultants.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each alternative. Regular staff members can harbor personal biases or be so caught up in internal politics that their objectivity is imperiled. Outside consultants can speak more candidly on controversial issues since they can leave the scene once the project is completed. On the other hand, staff analysts will be available to assist in the implementation of a study's recommendations after the outsiders have departed, and the ability of an organization to follow through is vital.

The ideal combination of talents is a librarian well versed in the fundamentals of systems analysis. Trained librarians are best prepared to understand what scientific-management techniques can accomplish and to recognize the limitations of these techniques in a library setting.

The Steps of a Management Study

The strategy one employs in making a management study is basically the same whatever the level of complexity. There are six steps: 1) defining the problem; 2) gathering the data; 3) analyzing the present system; 4) designing an improved system; 5) implementing the new system; and 6) evaluating the new system. The first four are discussed in this chapter, the last two in Chapter 3,

Defining the Problem

An organization usually does not contemplate a management study until it has identified a problem or deemed a change in the system necessary. It may be a member of the library staff, such as a library assistant, a department head, or the director, who brings the situation to light. In many cases the systems staff member points out the problem, often before it becomes apparent to other employees. Regardless of who first identifies the need for a study, someone in a position of authority must authorize it.

The analysis must have clearly defined boundaries: the operations (people, tasks, processes) to be studied must be clearly distinguished from those to be excluded. One should define the problem in the context of the library's overall objectives, otherwise one is liable to diagnose the problem incorrectly, For example, in recent years the profession has gradually shifted its emphasis from acquisition and organization of collections to exploitation of a library's resources. A library that is apparently able to acquire anti organize its collections efficiently may not achieve its primary objective if those materials are not also readily accessible to its readers. Incidents of such imbalances are common in libraries.

SELECTING AN AREA FOR STUDY There are several guides that an analyst can use to identify problem areas most likely to produce worthwhile results. Special attention should be given to: 1) production bottlenecks; 2) jobs that are frequently performed; 3) jobs that require frequent movement of people, forms, or equipment; and 4) jobs that require large budget expenditures.

Production bottlenecks Bottlenecks in any procedure should always receive prompt attention. A breakdown in even a seemingly minor link in a work-flow chain can be a serious matter. For example, adhering call number labels to book spines is a mechanical task; nonetheless, it is a necessary prerequisite to circulating a book. From the point of view of a user it is just as serious if a delay occurs in labeling as in cataloging, for in either case the book is delayed and the user must wait. A bottleneck can be symptomatic of several problems-staffing shortages, poor supervision, cumbersome procedures, and so on.

Jobs that are frequently performed The more often an operation is performed, the better a candidate it becomes for analysis. Even a small savings could be significant because of the high frequency. For example, suppose a public library orders 10,000 books a year; suppose further that by introducing a simple work-flow improvement one were able to reduce the average time needed for ordering by one minute per book. This seemingly insignificant adjustment would produce an annual savings of 10,000 minutes, 167 hours, or a month's labor by a full-time employee. Searching, typing book orders, classifying and cuttering books, reproducing catalog cards, filing cards, charging and discharging books, and shelving are obvious examples of high-frequency processes. In contrast, a project such as expanding a card catalog is not undertaken very often. Even though a systems study would no doubt save some time and expense for any process, a study of more frequently performed processes would produce more tangible benefits.

Jobs that require frequent movement of people, forms, equipment "Movement" is not necessarily limited to movement between two distant points. Short distances multiplied by high frequency equal long distances. Materials, forms, and equipment should be placed in the area where they will be used. Related library routines should be located so as to reflect the natural flow of the work and thereby minimize the total steps. The increase of a few steps for one person might save thousands of steps for others. This analysis of movement is inextricably tied to the study of functional library architecture. What is the optimum physical arrangement between acquisitions, cataloging, reference, the public catalog, and the major bibliographical tools? One must analyze such factors as who on the library staff uses the public catalog? How often? I low far do they have to travel to consult it? Flow long does each trip to and from it take? And so on.

Jobs that involve large budget expenditures A job that is expensive is an obvious candidate for study. High cost alone is insufficient reason for elimination or even partial curtailment. Reference service in a large library is expensive, yet who would suggest not offering it? It is reasonable, however, to seek ways to reduce a high-cost center if savings can be made without reduction in the service. For example, some libraries, upon analyzing the nature of reference questions, have concluded that many are directional and need not be answered by a professionally trained librarian. Less-costly personnel would not necessarily lower the quality of service. In today's library, computer-based systems are prime candidates for study because of their sizable operating costs.

DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN SYMPTOMS AND PROBLEMS In defining a problem an analyst should take care not to mistake a symptom for the problem. To illustrate this point, consider how people from different levels of the organization can view a problem from different perspectives. Two examples:

A Case of Uneven Work Flow

Division Head's perspective: The work flow in the department is uneven and there is a need to redesign jobs.

Section Head's perspective: The people in this section do not work at the same speed; some are very fast while others barely work up to minimum. These individuals are not carrying their share of the load.

Worker Number 1's perspective: Some of my co-workers just do not care.

Worker Number 2's perspective: All was going well until Joe started cutting out. You know, Joe doesn't give a damn about the rest of us.

The Departmental Bottleneck

Division Head's perspective: This section is not as productive as one has a right to expect; I wonder if a procedural bottleneck has developed somewhere within the unit.

Section Head's perspective: The staff do not take time to check the accuracy of their own work, so I must cover for their carelessness.

Workers' perspective: The Section Head has a compulsion to check all our work. The Section Head is a real [expletive deleted]; we are all fast, careful workers.

The manager who authorizes an investigation, on the advice of an analyst or colleagues, may decide to redefine the problem in light of additional information or terminate the investigation altogether once the problem is identified. An analyst, tot), may also recommend a change in or termination of a study as a result of learning that what was first believed to be the problem was in reality only a symptom.

Gathering the Data

One must gather data in order to document a procedure or a system. Moreover, it is this information, organized and analyzed, that will expose deficiencies and help one design, develop, implement, and evaluate an improved system. The nature of the data to be collected will vary depending upon the problem: in technical services many tasks can be described in quantifiable terms; that which is performed at a reference desk will be more difficult to measure.

What vexes an analyst is not scarcity but rather overabundance of facts, facts that must be sifted through, evaluated, anti arranged. Often the crucial task is to develop a methodology that discriminates between needed and unneeded information. There is a limit to how much can be derived from a given body, of data, and one should resist the temptation to generalize beyond its usefulness. One must also consider the costs in time anti effort to collect the data. More than one analyst has been chagrined to learn that it had cost more to gather the facts than was saved by adopting the recommended system.

One should consider the following points:

1) Time-how much time is available to complete the study;
2) Money-what is the size of the budget available to the analyst; and
3) Current records-what data are already available.

An analyst will learn from experience to judge when enough facts have been collected and the time has arrived to begin analyzing the present system.

Analyzing the Present System

Once the data are gathered an analyst should be able to model the process, problem, or system under investigation-that is, describe it precisely and understand the interrelationships among its elements. The analyst should he so familiar with the system that it could be replicated elsewhere given sufficient time and money,

The data collected Will Usually describe the work that each staff member performs or the flow of forms or materials as they proceed from one work station to another. One should become accustomed to asking questions beginning with the words why, what, where, when, who, and how.

1) Why. Why is a process formed? Is it necessary to achieve the unit's objectives?

2) What. What is the purpose of the process in relation to the objectives of the library? What does it contribute to the overall system?

The what and why questions can sometimes be combined. For example, why is a given set of files maintained and in what way are these files employed?

3) Where. Where is the jot) performed? Where else could it be done? If work stations involving related jobs Could be grouped together, time-consuming problems of transportation might be reduced or eliminated.

4) When. When should a job be done? Could a jot) be performed at a different time to better advantage? For example, circulation-discharge routines might be performed during slack periods rather than during rush hours.

5) Who. Who should perform a job? Who possesses the best combination of qualifications? Can the work be performed by a person with less training? The who question involves the separation of duties among personnel classifications and between people and machines.

6) How. flow is a job performed? How might it be done better?

One can use these questions to examine almost any managerial problem. A checklist (Figure 2-1) will buttress this simple approach. The analysis of data allows the manager to better understand the Current situation. Questioning assumptions and traditional practices may spark one's creative processes. Some libraries, in order to facilitate creativity, appoint task forces of qualified staff members to review the data collected during the course of a study. This provides staff with an opportunity to contribute, particularly those who may not have been directly involved in the study and who may not harbor unusual biases, but who do possess an understanding of the present system.


1) Can any steps be eliminated?
2) Can any steps be subdivided?
3) Can any of the operations be combined?
4) Can the sequence of steps be altered?
5) Is there any unnecessary transportation?
6) Can part of the operation be performed more effectively as a separate operation?
7) Could a lower-paid employee do the operation?
8) Can another person do the job better?
9) Can a machine do the job better?
10) Are work loads balanced?
11) Can peak loads (if activity be eliminated?
12) Can delays be eliminated or used for other operations?
13) Can "bottleneck" operations be eliminated, rescheduled, etc.?
14) Can the operation be done in another department to save time?
15) If the operation is changed, what effect will it have on other operations in the system?
16) Can spot checks (or inspections based on sampling techniques) be employed instead of 100-percent inspections?
17) Is work being unnecessarily duplicated?
18) Can a patron, vendor, etc., be consulted to make operations easier and more economical?



1) What are the pros and cons of hiring an outside management consultant?

2) Give some examples of frequently performed library tasks. Why are they good candidates for management study?

3) Describe some typical library work situations that may require frequent movement of people, forms, or equipment.

4) Give some examples of typical procedural bottlenecks in libraries.

5) Management, professional, and clerical personnel often see a given work situation from differing points of view. Illustrate this with a typical library- example.

6) What are the six key words to use in analyzing a procedure?

7) Describe some common examples of government and professional constraints upon library systems.

8) Why is a clear understanding of organizational objectives a necessary prerequisite for successful management studies?

9) State three or more appropriate objectives for a given library circulation department.

10) What specific approaches are suggested for developing an improved system?

11) Describe typical peak and slack periods of activity for various types of libraries. For each case explain how the library might or does try to accommodate this variation.

12) To avoid overcomplexity library systems should be designed to accommodate the normal transaction. Special subroutines should be designed to handle the exceptions. Illustrate this principle in terms of some typical library procedures.



Barnes, Ralph M. Motion and Time Study: Design and Measurement of Work. 6th ed. New York: Wiley, 1968. Chapters 3-6.

Johnson, Stanley, and Ogilvie, Grant. Work Analysis. London: Butterworth, 1972. Chapters 1 -3.

Mundel, Marvin E. Motion and Time Study. 5th ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1978. Part One (Chapters 1-6), "introduction to Motion and Time Study."


Burkhalter, Barton R. Case Studies in Systems Analysis in a University Library. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow, 1968.

Burns, Robert W., Jr. "A Generalized Methodology for Library Systems Analysis." College and Research Libraries 32, 4 (July 1971): 295-303.

Chapman, Edward A. "Planning for Systems Study and Systems Development." Library Trends 21, 4 (April 1973): 479-492.

Chapman, Edward A.; St. Pierre, Paul L.; and Lubans, John, Jr. Library Systems Analysis Guidelines. New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1970.

Corey, James F., and Bellamy, Fred L. "Determining Requirements for a New System." Library Trends, 21, 4 (April 1973): 533-552.

Gough, Chester R., and Srikantaiah, Taverekere. Systems Analysis in Libraries; A Question and Answer Approach. Hamden, Conn.: Linnet, © 1978. Chapters 3-5.

Hayes, Robert M., and Becker, Joseph. Handbook of Data Processing for Libraries. 2d ed. Los Angeles: Melville, 1974. Chapter 6, "Methods of System Description

Heinritz, Fred J. "Analysis anti Evaluation of Current Library Procedures." Library Trends 21, 4 (April 1973): 522-532.

Minder, Thomas. "Applications of Systems Analysis in Designing a New System." Library Trends 21, 4 (April 1973): 553-564.