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Memphis Public Library’s Delivery & Distribution Efficiency Project

Memphis Public Library & Information Center

Innovation Summary

The Delivery & Distribution (D&D) department is responsible for daily delivery of collection material, inter-office mail, and other miscellaneous items between the system’s 19 locations. Based at the Central Library, D&D was also previously responsible for shelving tasks with Central’s 700,000+ item collection. An extensive evaluation of D&D’s operation and 30 year old procedure resulted in a more efficient department and library system operation.

Problem Statement

Until recently, D&D was a department of close to 40 employees (30 FTE) based on the ground floor of the large five-floor Central Library. The department’s manager and two supervisors had a wide range of responsibilities, both geographically and in terms of operating hours. In addition to sorting and shelving material on Central’s five floors, D&D retrieved and delivered materials across the 19 library system locations. The department’s operating hours started each day at 9pm and continued through the night, morning, and into early afternoon. Much of D&D’s work occurred when the library system was closed and other library system employees were not present.


With such a wide-spread operation and separate work hours, and given that the department was still operating under 30 year old procedure, there was a need to conduct an efficiency evaluation to determine whether D&D was reaching its operational potential.


The efficiency evaluation resulted in operation and procedure that provides higher levels of efficiency, safety, security, and internal customer service. First, due to reassignment of responsibilities and staff, a department that was once 40 employees is now 13 employees. Rather than continuing to manage shelving responsibilities across the entire Central Library, shelving staff was reassigned among four subject departments. As a result, these employees are now part of their respective subject department teams, report directly to subject department supervisors, and work normal operating hours along with the other departmental staff. This change has improved shelving efficiency, created a stronger subject department team, and improved communication among the staff that has departmental collection responsibilities (i.e. reference staff develops the collection and shelving staff maintains the collection). Delivery of material across the 19 library locations improved, as well. Instead of operating throughout the night, D&D now retrieves and delivers material during daytime hours (operating hours begin at 6am and ending before libraries close public service for the evening.) As a result, the delivery staff is no longer exposed to the dangers of entering and leaving branches on their own in the dark since branch staff and security guards are present during delivery hours. In addition, the new schedule allows for better communication and a more efficient delivery. Branch staff is able to interact with D&D staff during delivery, and at times personally hand the driver a special delivery item with specific instructions. This often results in a customer obtaining material the same day they requested it from a remote location. Finally, the new schedule allows for a better use of D&D staff time. For example, one of the inefficiencies discovered during the evaluation was that the 9pm night-shift team completed all required work in 3.5 hours and spent the remaining 4 hours with nothing to do. As a result of D&D’s operating hours adjustment/reduction and more direct supervision, staff no longer has excessive down-time.