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Repositioning for the Future: BCPL's New Service Model

Baltimore County Public Library

Innovation Leader: James C. Cooke, Planning and Projects Manager, Baltimore County Public Library, jccooke@bcpl.net

Problem Statement

With BCPL likely facing leaner fiscal circumstances in the future, it seemed more important than ever to “rethink” our organizational and business models. A new model, building on our successful history and strengths was needed to move the organization in a new direction and to embrace new realities, such as a greater reliance on customer-directed (self) service, and the possibility of staff reductions. Its overarching purpose would be to guide us in our efforts to remain relevant to the communities we serve, be efficient and effective in our operations, be proactive and prudent in light of fiscal uncertainty, and be a leader in the provision of library services in the 21st century.

Innovation

Repositioning allowed us to adjust to short-term (1-3 year) economic factors while rethinking some elements of future service delivery. The new service model outlines an updated approach to major library service elements by focusing on customer-directed (self) service and shared responsibilities and redefined staff roles, while planning a course of action in the event of future financial reductions. Its guiding principles are to put customers first; promote customer independence; rely on self service for at least 80% of all circulation transactions; develop a leaner organization through attrition and redefinition of roles wherever appropriate; develop and empower staff to provide efficient and effective services; make balanced decisions at all service points; and be flexible and embrace change. Its key customer service elements include engaging customers proactively at their point of need; educating customers and promoting independence by using self-service technology; balancing customer expectations against our mission and fiscal constraints; and cross-training all staff in customer-directed service to teach customers to self- service with regards to checkout, holds, searching for items, accessing computers, applying for a card, renewing items, paying fines, and monitoring accounts.

Progress

The new service model was introduced to all staff in early 2011, and was well received. Implementation of some elements, such as self service checkout and holds, redefining staff and agency roles, and staffing/vacancy review is already underway…and already beginning to produce results. For example, single service desks with shared staff responsibilities are in place in several branches, and already 60% of system circulation is achieved through customer self-checkout.