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MOVE TEAM!

Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH
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Innovation Summary

In 2011 Cuyahoga County Public Library embarked on an ambitious plan to replace nine branches and renovate nine branches. Six of the replacement buildings opened in 2013. A new branch every sixty days! To coordinate the moves and openings CCPL designed an innovative approach that relied on an old fashion value: teamwork.

Innovation Leader: Tracy Strobel, Deputy Director, tstrobel@cuyahogalibrary.org

Problem Statement

The daunting prospect of moving and refreshing six collections, installing hundreds of computers, orienting six staff teams and coordinating six opening celebrations is enough to put even the most courageous librarians into a panic. As the design and construction of CCPL’s new facilities progressed it became clear that six branches – a total of 179,000 square feet of library space – would be completed in 2013. There was no place for discussing whether or not it could be done, the challenge was speeding toward us as each brick and carpet square was laid. In all six cases, the new branches were larger, the collections were smaller, the number of computers doubled and the staff count stayed the same. In the past, the Library system’s approach was to rely on branch staff to coordinate and execute a move. It was up to the Branch Manager to lead the effort and solicit support from the administrative departments. He or she was tasked with dotting all the I’s and crossing all the T’s. This practice would require six managers and staff teams to invent their own process, create their own ‘to-do’ lists and likely make the same mistakes. It would not take advantage of repetition, it would not share lessons learned and it would over burden individuals already stressed by the prospect of significant change. We needed to design a process that harnessed the talents and energy of the right people, eased the burden on branch staff and took advantage of this opportunity to “WOW” the communities we serve. And, by the way, we only had four days per branch to execute each move!

Innovation

CCPL’s Deputy Director recognized that the secret to surviving and succeeding would be to create a single team to coordinate and execute all six moves. This team would identify, plan and perform the same tasks for each new facility thus learning from their mistakes and refining their process. A single cross disciplinary support team was established that brought together twelve individuals with both expertise and enthusiasm. Dubbed MOVE TEAM, these twelve rock stars were the best and the brightest from the Collection Management, Information Technology, Marketing and Facilities Departments at our Administrative Headquarters. MOVE TEAM existed to ‘swoop in’ and transform a brand new building with empty shelves and lonely furniture into a bountiful and bustling community hot spot. The twelve individuals embraced their new responsibilities with gusto.

The work was divided into 5 categories:

  1. Collection: preparing and moving the “old” collection, purchasing and processing the shiny new stuff, placing and primping everything on the shelves.
  2. Technology: Computers, projectors, podiums, printers, phones, flat screen displays, self-checks, copiers…
  3. Facilities: lighting and temperature controls, security, keys, room partitions, drive-up window operations…
  4. Marketing: signage, opening day celebration planning, publicity, community relations, media relations…
  5. Staff Training and Orientation: The local branch staff had to learn so much.

The MOVE TEAM taught them everything they needed to know! The team met as a whole every 4 weeks. A single spreadsheet was developed and continuously improved. Members reported on project status. The week before each opening, the old branch closed on Sunday and MOVE TEAM would descend on Monday. The new branch needed to be ready by Friday morning for architectural photography and a “Mayor Preview”. The opening ceremonies were conducted on Saturday. Expertise, enthusiasm and extraordinary effort were the key ingredients to our success.

Progress

Repetitio mater studiorum est | Repetition is the mother of all learning. MOVE TEAM was based on this philosophy and the success of their efforts reinforces its truth. In the end, six new branches opened. Six communities were delighted beyond their wildest expectations. Twelve individuals were exhausted by their efforts but energized by their accomplishments. Circulation rose in the new branches 30-50%. What was once considered a nearly impossible undertaking became a celebrated achievement. Had CCPL stuck with past practice, branch teams would have struggled and suffered in a time of significant stress. Our innovative approach to successfully facing this extraordinary challenge demonstrates that great achievements come from working both smarter and harder.