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LEAN process improvement review

San Jose Public Library

Problem Statement

As SJPL was investing time and Bond dollars to develop plans for new library buildings we were also looking to improve our existing processes. One of our most labor-intensive and increasingly-demanding processes (as circulation rose each year) is materials handling. We decided to look at the process, specifically check-in and sorting, of returned materials to determine the best and more efficient methodology for accomplishing the work.


Rather than simply assume the investment of dollars in automated sorting would give us the best return, our approach was to take process improvement methodology from the manufacturing, engineering world and apply it to our existing process and analyze it against results of automated sorting. The methodology chosen was LEAN, which utilizes process analysis techniques and tools involving the staff who are doing the work to provide the best result.


While automated sorting provided a more dramatic result in reduction of time and staff needed to process materials, it did not improve staff motivation and morale in accepting the change. We found the LEAN process improvement methodology to be very effective in improving our check-in and sorting materials handling process because staff were involved and developed the ideas. This buy-in led to smoother implementation and transition of changes.

We intend to apply the LEAN methodology for process improvement to other library practices to gain future efficiencies and improve our organizational outcomes regarding change and innovation.