Open Conference Systems at Dalhousie, International Association of University Libraries, 2016 Conference

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Managing an agile library organization
Daniel Forsman

Last modified: 2016-03-07

Abstract


In 2010 Chalmers Library started using scrum in software development projects. The cross-functional teams consisting of primarily developers and librarians where successful in delivering rapid results of high value to end-users. As a result of working close together, the methodology started to spread in the library organization. Following a re-organization that came into effect at the beginning of 2014 staff and management agreed to pursue agile principles throughout the entire library organization.  By utilizing agile principles and different methodologies a framework for responding to change and allowing all members of staff to take part in developing the library emerged.

Granting self-organizing teams the power to focus on developing library operations left middle management in a tough position. The role of management became defined to solving problems and removing obstacles for teams. Management early realized that they themselves where one of the biggest threats to continues development by library staff.

During 2015 Chalmers Library started to develop a framework for defining the role of management in an agile library organization where the mandate to choose tools and commitment to change are in the hands of staff.  Transparent processes for including staff in strategic planning for the Library encourages collaboration and engagement at all levels.

During the process the library has come to define its own principles rooted in the practice and understanding of the agile principles and several methodologies.

Introducing agile principles released a force of creativity and engagement amongst many of the staff that felt they could pursue areas of development over looked for a long time. Management found that helping staff to not commit to too many things at the same and facilitating a stern product ownership was challenging. Allocating resources for development at all levels and at the same time keeping day-to-day operations running fast became cumbersome.

Today we are closer to understanding how to manage a library with agile principles at the core of all activities. It is a learning experience and we are still learning. Adopting a culture of agile and completely transforming the library will still take some years.

This paper outlines the work done so far at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden focusing on the management aspects of the process:

-       Lessons learned from introducing agile principles to a Library organization.

-       Describing our current framework for planning, performing and reviewing our iterative work.

-       Defining the strategic planning process and allocation or resources for development teams in the Library.

-       A review of the developing manifesto and principles of our mutual work culture at Chalmers Library.

There is a keen interest in agile and its methodologies at many libraries around the world. It is my ambition that this paper will help answer some of the most common questions/concerns on how to implement them and the lessons learned so far.

Keywords

Management, Libraries, Agile, Scrum, Service Design, User Experience, Customer Experience, Change

About the author

Daniel Forsman is the University Librarian at Chalmers University of Technology. He presented papers at IATUL 2012, 2013 and in 2014. He has presented at several international conferences including Emerging Technologies in Academic Libraries, the Stellenbosch Library Symposium, Computers in Libraries, IGeLU, ELUNA and several conferences on electronic media, library systems and services. In 2015 he participated with a chapter on agile principles in the book “Library Management in Disruptive Times” published by Facet publishing.