Creating Winning Library Programs Part IV

This is the fourth and final post in our series on Creating Winning Library Programs.

In the last 3 posts of this series, we’ve been suggesting a hitherto unexplored way to plan and execute a new program/service at your library. Specifically, we’ve introduced some ideas from the discipline of lean product management and applied them the idea of building a new digital collections service. Let’s have a quick review of where we are so far.

  1. We have defined a testable hypothesis. In a nutshell:

“We believe community members need access to our archival materials but visiting the physical archive is too cumbersome. They would be able to solve their research problems better if they had digital access to them. We’ll know we’re right if more people visit the digital access site than visit the physical archive.”

  1. We made a very small part of the collection available online, just enough to test the veracity of our hypothesis.
  1. We collected basic feedback from our patrons and looked at our site analytics.

With the hypothesis and data in hand, now we can move to the next stage, iterate, pivot, or abandon.


Red building next to blue building

Usually at this early stage, you are likely iterate on the current implementation based on customer feedback (see last post for some ideas on how this might play out). Iteration can take a number of different forms. Assuming the original hypothesis was validated, you can refine or even change the hypothesis based on the feedback you received.

Perhaps you discovered a new functional need, a new patron segment, or you simply want to continue providing more archival content. Now that you have data, you can let the data drive your decision-making. This is the most straight-forward situation and there is a fairly clear path ahead.


picture of coffee spilled all over

Let’s assume the data says that the hypothesis appears to be wrong. We did everything right, maybe tried several different types of collections and delivery methods but it seems that students, teachers, and municipal workers just aren’t using the digital archive. We have two choices here: quit and use the resources for something else or……


Picture of motorcycle pivoting

Pivoting describes a process that shifts our original hypothesis in some fundamental way. Maybe we targeted the wrong patron segment, and it’s really genealogy researchers that need access to the digital archive.

A pivot would allow us to redirect our efforts toward that segment of our users instead of students, teachers and municipal workers (“segment pivot”). Perhaps there is a definite need for the digital archive but the user interface is so hard to use or so slow that it prevents people from doing their work. The requirement then might be to find a different platform to store and deliver the digital content (“platform pivot”).

You can read more about pivoting here and here (although written for entrepreneurs, still helpful).

All done for now

Because of the nature of our work as librarians, we’re privileged to gain exposure to a lot of multidisciplinary knowledge, more so than in almost any other profession. The discipline of lean product management is particularly well-suited for application in library management because a lot of what we do is very similar to bootstrapped startups.

This final post wraps up our series on applying lean product management principles to librarianship, we hope you’ve found some helpful tidbits along the way. Feel free to post your questions about how to apply these principles your library!


Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply