Seeking Your Advice: Physically Reorganizing Technical Services to Increase Workflow and Productivity

As many of you may know, the Library of Congress recently underwent a reorganization of their cataloguing and acquisition departments. From my understanding, they have also physically reorganized their departments so that cataloguers with similar expertise are sitting together (and perhaps with the acquisitions expert in that area?). In essence, they have broken into physical “teams” grouped together by expertise and collections.

This makes a lot of sense to me. What if we were able to do it all over again? How would we physically reorganize our technical services department? Would they be seated by an acquisitions staff member and be assigned their own processor? Should an individual from acquisitions and a cataloguer of the same area of collection expertise be seated in close proximity to help in developing the collection together? How can we lesson the amount of time items are spent being physically carted around? For example, items are received, carted over to cataloguing, carted over to processing and then carted over to delivery. Can we take out any of these steps?

I am very interested in this idea of increasing workflow and efficiency by physically reorganizing the technical services layout. I’m not only interested in the proximity of staff, but of the physically layout of such a work space (ie. Shelving issues, workspace solutions, and so on).

One post discussing the physical layout of technical services that is of interest is Karen Calhoun’s Continuous Improvement in Technical Services.

If any of you have recently moved into new spaces, have reorganized or have thoughts on reorganizing your departments, I am very interested in hearing you thoughts and ideas! If you don’t want to share them as comments, please send me an email

Thank you to all!



Filed under In the Cataloguing Department

7 responses to “Seeking Your Advice: Physically Reorganizing Technical Services to Increase Workflow and Productivity

  1. bjy

    You might be interested in this article since it touches on physical paths in TS workflows:
    Dragon, P., & Barricella, L. (2006, April). Assessment of Technical Services Workflow in an Academic Library: A Time-and-Path Study. Technical Services Quarterly, 23(4), 1-16.

  2. Melanie

    Actually, I’m afraid you have a slightly faulty impression of the reorg that we’ve undergone here at LC. We used to be split between Acq, which was organized geographically, and Cat, which was organized by a combination of subject expertise and language. We have now combined Acq & Cat, based upon the geographic organization of Acq’s buying, with the catalogers on each team expected to handle every subject and every language from the specified area. And we haven’t actually moved physically yet; it is very much a work-in-progress. My personal section is split between at least four different locations at this point in time.
    For the catalogers, there is currently a decrease in efficiency, as we deal with subject areas that we hadn’t done before; while we’re not stupid, it does take time to learn the appropriate subject headings and class numbers for social sciences or philosophy when all you’ve done is history or literature. And unfortunately, training is difficult to achieve.
    Eventually, this may in fact lead to an increase in efficiency, but that time is not yet.

  3. Laurel Tarulli

    Thank you to both for your reply. BJY – I’m going to check out that article. Thank you!

    Melanie – thank you for the clarification. I interpreted the reorganization of workflow at LC to mean one of physical organization as well as one of combining cataloguing and acquisitions expertise. Although yours is not yet a physical reorganization, are you finding the increased collaboration between acquisitions and cataloguing useful? Or, at least, can you see the long-term benefit of such an arrangement? And, given that this is a work in progress, do you think working in close proximity physically will help? (or, perhaps make no difference at all?)

  4. Melanie

    I think that being physically close will make a big difference. At this point, it’s really hard to tell what improvements it will make, but simply getting to know the Acq librarians on my team, most of whom I have met maybe twice, will probably make a noticeable difference. I haven’t really noticed any increased collaboration at this point because we never see them.

    And perhaps, eventually, there will be greater efficiencies of workflow. But at this point, I am unconvinced that the changes we are making here will be beneficial. I’m willing to wait and see, and give it my best effort, but I’m not yet clear on how these changes will benefit things. Part of the problem, I think, lies in the fact that we are so BIG.

  5. Laurel Tarulli

    That brings up a good point. In the public library sector, where I work, the cataloguing and acquisitions departments are quite small. In my own library, we have 6 full-time cataloguers (although me and my manager also catalogue) and 7 or so acquisitions staff. I wonder if public library settings provide a different experience because of their size.

    But, when you’re dealing with the size of LC, that is a huge challenge. Building the relationship between acquisitions and cataloguing certainly sounds valuable, especially if, in the long run, acquisitions staff with specific collection expertise collaborate with their complimenting cataloguer with the same expertise (whether it be collections divided geographically or by subject).

    I’m very interested to see how things play out at LC. I know you’re at your earliest stages, but it is interesting to hear first hand about the adjustment period and the problems and solutions that are being faced due to the reorganization.

  6. Pingback: Métier (14/04/09) « pintiniblog

  7. Pingback: Catalo/acquisitions: réorganisation des services, réorganisation physique « pintiniblog

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