But how do we check out books?
I spent yesterday helping a school librarian get started with her new automation system. She and another school librarian spent summer ’05 doing the hard work that it takes to become automated. The instructions that accompanied her system were pretty good and when I got there yesterday, things were really in place. Barcodes were on the books. Patron barcodes were ready to go. Policies were all set. BUT, when the librarians had finished following the steps in the set-up manuals, they were stumped. ‘What next?’ ‘How do we actually get going with the system?’
The instruction materials did not include the big picture. The step-by-step instructions were easy to follow, but the librarians didn’t really know what they were doing as they followed them. Yesterday, when I went down to help out, we basically did some role-playing. Here’s what to do when a patron wants to check out a book. Here’s what to do when a book is returned. Here’s how we can place a hold. Here’s how a teacher can place a hold. Etc.
The librarian and I also talked about how-to get the word out about the new system to the students, teachers, and administrators at the school. And we agreed, as her experience with the shortcomings of the vendor documentation demonstrated, that she should emphasize how the system would help them with their assignments and jobs FIRST and then give some basic instructions to help them get started.
Emphasizing the context and the big picture seems like such an obvious thing, but it’s amazing how often we overlook it and how often vendor documentation overlooks it, too.