rationale for RFIDSS: the Mgmt view

Responses as I remember them, from chat which took place less than an hour ago at work.

What were the main reasons behind getting the SS in?

  • One main driver for RFIDSS is staff savings – although none have been made at B——y (yet). At H—-e, 53 hrs have been taken out of the working week, leaving just one supervisor and two assistants, an arrangement which will work just fine when they get RFIDSS.
  • Choice for customers. Caters for both hunters and gatherers.
  • Cut down queuing.
  • Remove barriers to the customer’s journey through the library.
  • Free up staff from transactional work to provide a higher quality of service, like a personal shopper.
  • Can tie in with evidence-based stock management, which takes away the guesswork so that each branch gets the stock it needs, thus maximising the usage of the stock AND improving customer service. The potential of RFID in back-office processes was a factor in deciding to go with RFID rather than barcode-based SS. RFID tracking can also be extended all the way to the supplier.
  • Scope for out-of-hours service: drop-boxes, perhaps in leisure centres etc.

Irrespective of the main drivers, if it improves the customer experience, it’s a Good Thing.

With new machines (already at B———n and soon to be at H—-e), aim is for 90% ‘throughput’. Some functions on new machines can be controlled from HQ, rather than by the supplier.

B—-h SS machines were from Intellident. B——y ones were from DS/Axiell, because of their superior integration with the LMS (also DS/Axiell). After the compulsory procurement process (in which cost counted for only 35% of specification), 3M was chosen. Better understanding of library issues; also a huge company in which to feel confident.

the Management view

Have just conducted what will have to be the equivalent of an interview with the Management figure involved. She has a new job, which used to be done by four people, and works in an inaccessible village. So there are no windows for us to do a proper interview. I can email her with questions, or interview by phone if we can arrange a suitable time. She has agreed to check a draft of my introductory chapter to make sure there are no glaring errors.
On the issue of naming the authority in the text, she said that she couldn’t say one way or the other without seeing the text. Hmm. So will have to keep it anonymous (but I cannot avoid referring to things like the council newspaper).
Subsequent posts will detail her responses to my questions.

The chat was a bit stilted. I wasn’t expecting to get an audience today, and I was very tired by 4.20pm when I was summoned!

First interview!

Conducted my first interview this evening. Was quite nervous, even though I know the interviewee and the location was familiar to me! Nervous about getting the data, not about conducting the interview as such (I would be very and differently nervous with a stranger!).
It went well I think, on the whole. Interviewee was very responsive and helpful, but didn’t give too much juicy material (that’s not her fault though! mustn’t keep thinking I’m looking for something earth shattering and controversial!).
I asked too many closed questions – thinking to broach a subject and then lead into open questions.
It was too conversational at times, with me making statements when I should have been reframing the interviewee’s statements or just asking more questions.
I digressed unnecessarily a few times too.
On the whole, it wasn’t as focussed on my research questions as I had expected. I tried to let the interview wander around a bit, being flexible.
I was surprised to find myself able to listen quite a lot as we were going along, and ask sensible-sounding questions following on from what she said.
Location was OK, timing was good, overran a bit (hour and a quarter) – again, unexpectedly.
Might have come across as biased about a few things, as if I was making value judgments about potential responses.
Overall, though, good confidence booster, and hopefully some decent data.

Post-presentation comedown

Was nervous for my presentation. I ummed a lot, and didn’t have a spiel prepared, but it seemed to go pretty well. I reckon I must know my stuff more than I think I do, because none of their questions threw me and I was able to justify my decisions and positions fairly strongly I think.

Presentation and poster

I presented on Thursday. I was very nervous, as usual. It is so different from handing in an essay! No idea how severe a grilling you’re going to get. In the end, I think it went quite well – at least, my grilleurs seemed to approve of my direction and justifications.

They did make several suggestions to cast my interviewing net wider: one suggested including a sizeable bit on the LMU library – pioneers of 24/7 self-service library. The other suggested getting in touch with Cornwall (his old employer!) as they too were early adopters.

I wasn’t sure how to take these suggestions: were they saying that my project, as it is, is not as broad as it should be? or just suggesting ways to make a good project even better? In any case, these two ideas, while they have their place, will not account for much in the investigation because (a) I am not very interested in interviewing managers and (b) academic libraries have such different staff base and customer base from public libraries as to be almost incomparable.

One of my panel did say that it would be ideal to interview staff in a library on the cusp of implementation, to compare their thoughts with those of staff already in the thick of self-service. The timing might not work out, but HES could provide those staff…

He also pointed me towards National Library Plans on the DCMS website, where I could find details of staffing changes etc. Strange that I haven’t come across those before.

This weekend I am trying to get started on the proposal (early, because subject to contract we will be moving to Egypt in the summer!), but have been hampered by a spillage of tea on the computer. Still, all seems to be well now, although it is nice and sunny outside…

Need to revise my Gantt chart!!

Objectives statement

Why is the subject worth researching?

* Perceived gap in the literature: there is work on library staff and automation; there is a little work on library staff and RFID self-service, but almost exclusively on academic libraries.
* Timely: RFID is relatively new as a technology in public libraries, and still spreading.
* Immediate spur to curiosity: implementation in researcher’s own workplace – and the reasons given for it.

What are my objectives?

1. Establish what are the main factors affecting the job satisfaction of library assistants in public libraries.
2. Survey and analyse the reasons given by public library services for introducing RFID self-service.
3. Discover to what extent these rationales are borne out by an implementation.
4. Discover whether and how self-service implementation has affected the job content and satisfaction of library assistants in public libraries.
5. Evaluate the changing role of the library assistant in public libraries following RFID self-service implementation.

How am I going to achieve these objectives?

* Literature review – Objective 1. I intend to critically review the literature on job satisfaction within the discipline of library & information studies. This will naturally broaden to work on the subject from other disciplines, e.g. management studies. I will pay close attention to factors affecting staff attitudes and job satisfaction related to automated processes. This will hopefully inform the factors I focus on in my interviews (see below).
* Document analysis – Objective 2. Survey of local news reports and local authority press releases about RFID implementation; also of published discussions arising from such reports. Analysis of the results of the survey will give an overview of how authorities think about issues related to the project, and will provide something against which the effects of a real implementation can be compared.
* Qualitative interviews – Objective 3. I will interview a sample of library assistants in two public libraries, as well as representatives of the management responsible for the implementation. Qualitative methodology was chosen because I want to elicit the opinions and attitudes of library staff, and I hope to be able to generalise to some extent beyond the specific instances explored in this research. Interviews will be conducted one-to-one – focus groups were rejected as being too vulnerable to skewing by forceful personalities – and will be semi-structured, partly due to my inexperience as an interviewer. My approach leans strongly towards constructivism: it was clear from early on that the method of investigation would have a huge effect on the results obtainable, thus discounting the possibility of a positivist approach.
* Other methods considered: Observation: too difficult in an environment where I am known and would make the participants feel self-conscious. Questionnaire: inappropriate for attempting to gather data on opinions and attitudes.

Fallow week

No class last week for some reason, so spent whole day indoors getting nowhere. Have since got some way to designing my poster, and am trying to read enough to be able to defend my choices in the presentation on 25th March. Attempting to set out my positions on various methodological issues and to justify each one convincingly!
Really not sure what level of interrogation to expect…