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Library Shelving Facility staff members process one million items in 11 months

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This is the team that processed one million items in Yale's Library Shelving Facility in FY12: (left to right): Roy Hamilton, Gary Burcheski, Ian Cassell, Bob Pollack, Roque Roman, Shane Gray, David Joyner, Jeff Rao, George Cafasso, Emeka Uzuka, Ryan Nelson, John Piscitelli, Mario Cariello. Missing from photo: Mike DiMassa (see below), Steve Lacobelli, Earl Marina. Photos by Michael Marsland.
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LSFAt approximately 1:45 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29, the staff members at Yale's Library Shelving Facility (LSF) accessioned (i.e, recorded the addition of) the one-millionth item to be transferred to the facility at 147 Leeder Hill Drive in Hamden in fiscal year 2012. It was a book entitled “The Wisdom of the Mythtellers” by Sean Kane and it was sent from Sterling Memorial Library. While there was neither a chiming of bells nor a shower of confetti when the milestone was reached, there were congratulations all around for the office of 15 who topped their goal (878,000 items) in less than 12 months.

“It’s pretty exciting,” says Ryan Nelson, office assistant at LSF. “It’s nice knowing that we were all involved. People don’t realize how many a million is until you individually touch each one of that million – it’s not a number on paper, it’s physical. The item doesn’t just pass through our hands when we receive it --we clean it; we process it; we put it away; we treat every item like it might be the only one in the world.”

DiMassaLSF Director Michael DiMassa (at left) celebrated his team’s achievement in an email to all library colleagues at Yale and
J. Lloyd Suttle, deputy provost for Academic Resources: “This recent success has been the fruit of meticulous planning and exceptional staff performance. A great deal might be said about the plan, but it seems more appropriate to focus on the magnificent manner in which it has been executed by the LSF staff. After all, no plan, however good, will succeed without the committed effort of those required to carry it out. Working tirelessly as a team for the past 224 days, LSF staff members (in photo above) have without fail supplied the effort necessary to meet or exceed the department’s stated accessioning goals for FY12. In this work, staff members have been led by Manager Gary Burcheski, who in turn has been ably assisted by Materials Assistant Lead Ian Cassell. Together, manager and staff have done a superb job meeting the demands of an augmented transfer workload while at the same time still maintaining the highest standards for the many other functions performed by the LSF.”

Facts about the Library Shelving Facility

stacksSince 1998, LSF has served Yale libraries that are experiencing overcrowded stacks, being renovated with less shelving capacity and/or being torn down. In addition to shelving over-flow academic materials, the facility's staff also retrieves them upon request and--in conjunction with staff from SML Shipping and Receiving--delivers them by truck to to one of several possible pickup locations around campus. In fiscal year 2010, a plan was put forward to increase LSF’s accessioning potential to meet the demands that would (and have) resulted from the creation of the Center for Science and Social Science Information (incorporates the services and facilities of the Science Library, the Social Science Library, and the ITS Stat Lab) and the emptying of the Mudd Library in preparation for its removal to make way for the new residential colleges..

At right: The climate-controlled stacks are six shelving modules (of varying sizes) with the total size of the facility at 63,810 square feet of shelving modules in addition to an 8,000 foot processing area. 

From Kissinger papers to comic books: One team, one system
The “magnificent manner” in which the LSF staff members worked "tirelessly" to reach and exceed their accessioning goal is the result of teamwork that follows a strict six-step process: the item is delivered, cleaned, wrapped, sized/sorted, accessioned and verified, and then shelved. Efficiency is paramount and enough data has been collected on how staff members work that they know how long it takes to complete each step. Over the years new software has both sped up the process and brought more complexity to the work -- enough complexity has been combined with additional tasks that the team's positions were upgraded from B-levels to C-levels.

Working@Yale recently sat down with the whole LSF team to talk about the way they work. Excerpts from the conversation follow.

"The best way I can describe this place to people who ask me about it," says Nelson, "is to have them picture an assembly line with us as the moving parts. We are what keeps the line going. We are all trained exactly the same way so at any given moment we can be pulled off one station and put on another and it's seamless."

Adds Roy Hamilton, materials assistant: "We have a process in place where each individual task has a standard set by the collection of data on a daily basis. We analyze the data to determine a preset amount of work that we know we can master with a certain number of staff. Originally it was thought that 17 people would be needed to make all the Mudd Library transfers --which had a lot to do with reaching the million mark-- but in the end we were able to do it with 11 of us."

“Yes," says Shane Gray. "Order is very important to us here. We do not deviate; we do first things first. If something has to be wrapped because it’s damaged, in order to stay efficient, we'll take time out to wrap that individual product, put it back in the system and move it along. Each piece is touched by us--it could be part of the Kissinger papers or it could be a comic book. Each object is important and we make sure it has the Orbis bar code number. That’s how everything falls in line. Since I've been here, it has been this way and it has only improved with new technology."

Says Hamilton: "Because the complexity of the work has evolved over time, we've learned more and more. There have been changes in software and process improvement with special collections. The process improvement required us to do a lot more  SharePoint work and to have more connection with people on campus. All of this was about being efficient and trying to provide the best service we could. This led to our working together with Human Resources to get our jobs upgraded, which took some time and required some meetings. But I think everyone is happy our collaboration was successful in the end."

LSF’s customer service keeps on truckin'
Each day that items transfer into LSF, others leave either by the Eli Express or Eli Express Special Collection truck that delivers requested materials to patrons all over campus. It's the circulation/return side of the department's operations: retrieval, delivery, and re-filing of not only books, but also films, slides, statues, artifacts and maps. Photo below: Staff members like Ryan Nelson drive orderpickers to reshelve items and use a handheld barcode scanner to confirm the accuracy of their work.

“Our main goal,” says Manager Gary Bucheski, “is to be as efficient as possible and get requested material into the hands of patrons as fast as possible; we’re committed to a 24-hour turnaround. It’s a complicated process, but the team makes it look easy.”

Sitting inIn FY12, 100,061 items were requested, retrieved and delivered to on-campus locations for use by patrons, while 100,131 items were returned to LSF and re-shelved. The most items retrieved in one month last year was 11,435 in October; the most re-shelved in a month was 15,091 in June – the biggest month ever in the history of LSF.

This suggests satisfied customers and DiMassa notes that “we haven’t had any complaints about the level of service since we opened.”

In 2009, the staff members received a Service Quality Award from Yale Libraries for the enthusiastic and professional way they took on intensive training to master new procedures for the handling and security of Yale’ special collections. The award marked the culmination of a library-wide process improvement initiative begun in 2007 which recognized the LSF’s primary role in delivering special collection materials throughout the library system. 

Burcheski continues: "Our staff communicates with everyone from managers to students. They do a very good job interacting with a whole gamut of staff throughout the library system, especially with Art and Manuscripts, and Archives where someone is dedicated to LSF operations. The work may seem easy while we are talking about it here; but it's not. It can be rather complex, but we feel good about what we do and getting to where we are today is remarkable."

Many of the library staff members who received DiMassa's email about the LSF's millionth milestone also felt it was remarkable judging from the congratulatory emails that DiMassa received. One was from Suttle to President Levin and Provost Salovey:

"We sometimes fail to recognize that the task of cataloging, packing and shipping materials from on-campus libraries is only half the battle -- the other half is processing (sometimes called "ingesting") those materials at LSF. Mike DiMassa and his staff deserve enormous credit for keeping the CSSSI and Mudd Library projects ahead of schedule and under budget. Processing more than one million items in eleven months is astounding."