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Staff Time - A Limited Resource (continued)

As important as task assignments and staffing levels are, most decisions about them are made on gut feeling, not on data. Faced with staffing decisions, most managers do what seems right. For example, if one branch has two children's staff and five staff for adults, and that seems to work, they'll staff the new similarly sized branch that way too. If one library with an annual circulation of 200,000 gets its materials shelved within 24 hours with X number of full time library pages, other libraries with similar circulations and staffing should be as efficient, or so the reasoning goes. It's not that library managers want to operate on feelings, but most just don't have any readily available data to base their decisions on.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Lacking actual data about how long it takes to process nonprint materials, the head of technical services guesses 20 hours a week will be enough. If the nonprint circulation increases by 20 percent when the new materials arrive on the shelves, someone in public services will guess that a 20 percent increase in shelving hours will be needed to reshelve the materials. Will these solutions avoid future problems?

Staffing decisions are made like this every day in libraries based on guesses. With some data to support your decision making, you can turn your guesses into reasonable estimates.

Decisions Require Data

Many library managers would argue that their intuitive decisions are not guesses but are based on experience and knowledge about their library and its operations. Experienced managers have a "mental model" of the services their organization offers and the staffing and other resources needed to provide those services. This internalized view helps them cope with the myriad decisions they are called upon to make every day.

However, every mental mode needs regular updating, and intuition and gut feelings are not defensible outside the library. As public agencies face continuing pressure to control costs and demonstrate value, funding requests and budgets need to be supported by data. Traditional library statistics reflect only a portion of a modern library's activities. Tasks such as Internet training, PC support and website maintenance are rarely counted or reported. We need better data to update our own mental models so we can develop an accurate understanding of the work processes and service demands within our own institutions. more>>