A matter of life & death


The library team of a major university announced that they had a "life & death" decision to make. Their decision question was, "Should we rename our department?" This was a radical decision because everyone knows what a library is and how they function. Well, as it turns out, that was not so. While everyone knows that the library was a repositor of books, many - especially undergraduates - don't know their larger and more expanded role. And if the librarians did not do something about that, their reason for being will be called into question and they might well lose their job!  



That larger, expanded role is that of a researcher. All librarians in the university are Masters degree holders in Information Management and they are supposed to aid undergraduates in their research. However, the students elect to by-pass these services and head straight for Google, to the dismay of both the librarians and the students' supervisors.



The team when through the 8-step SDM process and no sooner than they had completed step 3 had they already found out the crux of the matter and the solution to their problem.



Step 3 is the Thinking In Time step. It is during this step we take a look at the past decisions and events that have contributed, or shaped, our current situation. When the librarians looked at their situation, they realised that they did not do much marketing of their services. True, they had a 1.5-hour talk during first-year orientation about the library, its location and, of course, their services.


When they probed further, they realised that they did not do any other outreach to the students, assuming that they would already know of their services through the 1.5-hour orientation program.



When asked if they thought that a one-time engagement during the first week of university life would make an impact on the students, they quickly realised that it was not effective. They realised that it was not a matter of the name of the department that had to change, but how they reached out to the students.


They quickly inscaled a marketing plan which sought to promote their services more aggressively. They changed their assumption from a one-time engagement was enough to that of a yearly engagement. They realised that by trying to be unobstrusive in marketing their services, they actually caused the problem. It was not about the students, it was really about them!



Today, they are happily going about providing their research services to the students of the university. And they didn't have to change the name of their department to get there.


Lessons Learnt


1. We are usually negatively impacted by our assumptions. If we are not conscious of them, we may be trying to solve the wrong issue.

2. Our situation is the reflection of all the decisions and events that impact it. Sometimes, the solution does not lie in the future, it lies in the past.



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