Relaunching a library service

What do you do when you decide to do what is verging on library-based insanity, and basically scrap your current library service, and relaunch everything – physical layout, LMS, and classification system? In my case, spend a year, planning, developing, preparing….and then a frantic few weeks hauling stock!

The background to this apparent madness is this: when I took on this role I inherited a library using a layout that didn’t seem to make sense, a classification system I wasn’t familiar with, and an LMS that had been in place for 20 years but didn’t seem suited to our needs. As I was new to the library, a major part of the time I had available while settling in during my initial few months was dedicated to exploring how well these things were working, both for users, and library staff. I had the benefit of my colleague also being new to the library, only a few months after me, so together we looked at these issues with fresh eyes.We came to the following conclusions:

  1. The physical layout over the three floors was not intuitive, and separated core materials over multiple floors, which led to confusion for users and extra travel around the library.
  2. The classification scheme was more suitable for a large library in a common law jurisdiction than a medium sized one in Scotland. Materials on the same topic were split by jurisdiction into different locations in the library, which was confusing for users and did not allow users to browse easily.
  3. The LMS was more suited to a large institution than one the size of my library, and had accumulated too many errors in records to be regarded as reliable. It was also overly complex and difficult for library staff to use, and far more expensive than equivalent products with better functionality

So, what was my solution to these issues?

  1. I decided to change the way the library was physically laid out. This was linked to the classification scheme.
  2. I changed the classification scheme from Moys, to one developed in-house for Scottish law firms – this scheme allows far better browsability of the shelves, and is designed to incorporate the specific legal terms and issues unique to Scots law.
  3. I worked with Procurement to identify and implement a new LMS, which halved the ongoing costs of the system, and gave library staff a greater ability to manage materials effectively.

Well, those are the main points of my relaunch plan. The actual implementation takes a little bit more effort than that!

  • I needed to adapt the classification scheme I had chosen, and update it – it was developed in the 1990s and some of the terms used in it were very dated. It was also originally developed for use in a commercial law firm library, and therefore neglected most areas of criminal law – this whole area needed to be expanded massively.
  • I wanted to be sure the subject terms we would use would reflect current legal terms in use on standard legal databases. I downloaded a standard legal taxonomy from a large publisher, and went through it methodically, pulling out the terms I knew we would use, and adding in some Scottish-specific ones. This was imported into the new LMS and allows us to tag materials consistently, and in a way that users would recognise.
  • I’ve been working with the Assistant Librarians (there’s only one AL, but one is on maternity leave, and the cover librarian has picked up where the initial one had to stop) to import the records for all of our textbooks from COPAC, and catalogue them in the new system. We have at least 3,500 textbooks and 45,000* other items in a variety of locations (both in the library and in a multitude of sub-sites within this building and others), so our focus has been on getting the core textbooks onto the system. I made the decision that we would also be cataloguing the contents pages from the textbooks, to make sure that the books and their contents were findable through the LMS in a variety of ways.
  • The AL and I have manually added hundreds of staff/users on to the system, and monitor staff bulletins to ensure that new staff are added as soon as possible.
  • I measured every shelf in the library, and every law report series/run of primary and secondary legislation/journal volumes, to calculate how much shelf space they’ll take up, then drafted a detailed plan for exactly where they’d go on the ground floor in the new layout (I ran out of time to do the same for the other floors).
  • We decided on what items can be sent to our storage and archive rooms, to reduce duplication in the collection.
  • The three staff currently in the library spent many hours mapping the old classification system to the new one, to enable us to relocate the textbooks from their old shelfmark to their new one more efficiently .

Since last week, my colleagues and I (the excellent Assistant Librarian and a fabulous intern) have been working on the actual physical relocation of stock. We’ve now got the ground floor rearranged to its final layout, have moved half the stock from the mezzanine floor to new (temporary and permanent) locations, and we’re now ready to do the big shift of the textbook stock. This is where the users are going to see the biggest change, as almost everything on this floor will be changing its location.

We’re now in the quiet period for my workplace, and luckily we have had the extra help of that fabulous intern – having three people work on this has been so helpful, and we’ve got about half of the stock-moving done in a week. Since I estimate that we’ve moved about 8,000 volumes in the last few weeks, and we probably have the same to move again before we’re done. It’s physically demanding and exhausting, but it’s satisfying to see things taking shape.

Despite me having tried to explain what we were doing in the library and why to a variety of people in advance of this move, it’s only now that people can actually see for themselves how things have changed that they’re beginning to see what I’ve been talking about. Already we’ve had positive feedback, which is very good to hear – it’s been a LOT of work to do this, and knowing that users are happy with what’s been done is a great vindication!

It’s not finished yet either – once we have the bulk of our textbooks on the LMS we’ll be officially launching the new system to users, and training them on the new uses of the system – they can see their own account to check what they have on loan, see who has the items they want out on loan, request books of photocopies be sent to them, and all sorts of exciting new things that just weren’t possible before. The relaunching of the service continues…

So, what would I advise if you were planning to do something similar in your service, that on first glance seems to be verging on masochism?

  • A core part of this relaunch was the new LMS. Take the time to find out the detailed specifics of how you can buy a new or replacement service – despite trying to get this sorted out early, not having been involved in a public sector procurement process before I had no idea quite how long it would take – what is simple in the private sector (“this is the best product for our needs”) becomes an epic and labyrinthine process (“we need a new LMS…this is what an LMS is”). I had trialled a variety of LMS, expecting that I would be able to then select the most suitable one, only to find that all my efforts had to be scrapped and I had to start again, and work in a very convoluted structure. So – seek advice early! I did, but unfortunately, what I was told was incorrect, so – seek advice early, AND get a second opinion on that advice too!

  • Despite all my best efforts of measuring, and matching, and over-estimating, and allowing for expansion space….things haven’t gone quite as hoped with how materials fit on the shelves. This has meant making some ad-hoc decisions on temporary new locations, and will mean another phase of stock moving will have to come later. So – even if you think you’re giving plenty of space…give more.** And have a fallback plan in case of overspill of stock if the estimates don’t work out.

  • Things will always take longer than you think – I wanted the new LMS to in place and being catalogued onto by September 2015, but due to a variety of delays, it wasn’t partially ready until December 2015, properly useable/staff being trained until February 2016, and our old LMS went offline at the end of January 2016. This meant we had only a few weeks to try and get stock onto the new system before it went live and our old one became inaccessible. Needless to say, this was NOT ideal! It also pushed back our stock move plan from spring 2016 to summer 2016.

  • Don’t get distracted – the AL and I keep on finding things that need sorted as we look closely at the stock while moving it*** and have to keep reminding ourselves of our priorities – just get things moved, THEN you can fiddle with them.

  • Ask for more storage or disposal boxes than you think you need, because these sort of stock moves also include some informal stock reviewing – I’ve decided to send a variety of things for disposal (no, we didn’t need that partial third set of those law reports), and others to storage (SIs and SSIs are not something I expect to need regular access to). However, I had only requested enough crates for what I had already decided to send elsewhere, and additional items needing moved weren’t accounted for. The lack of crates to put things in for these purposes means stock sitting temporarily on trolleys until we can get

  • We weren’t able to get internal physical help for this stock move (it would have been available to us), as so many of the move decisions were based on knowledge only I had in my head, and because we kept having to make ad-hoc decisions, it would take as long for me to instruct someone who was helping to do it, as to do it myself. I hate having to work like this – I try and share my knowledge with my colleagues as much as possible, so this was not a natural way for me to work. It also meant I needed to be constantly involved, which was difficult to balance with my normal demanding workload. If you have the time to plan something like this, try and factor in writing up detailed instructions/guidance for anyone who’s offered to/been instructed to help.
*To be honest, it’s probably actually far more items than that – we just keep finding more stock in random locations!

**How can something that took up 30 inches of shelf on one floor take up 40 inches on another floor?

*** Why were the loose parts from that volume from 1991 not sent for binding? Does this volume need a repair on the spine? Everything is so dusty, should we be cleaning these?

And now…time to get these empty bookshelves filled up!

A sweet apology from FedEx

So, FedEx screwed up, really quite impressively. To their credit, someone got in touch with me via email within a few days of me posting that, to apologise and ask for the specifics so they could get it dealt with. I’ve been a bit busy this week, so I’ve not had a chance to reply to them yet. In the meantime, my complaint letter must have winged its way to someone, as yesterday I got an email, confirming the information I’d asked for, and apologising for the bad service. Excellent: I’d got what I asked for, and that was an end to the issue.

But this afternoon, a package arrived for me. A big, heavy package from FedEx. I went off to collect it, with no idea why they were still contacting me: as far as I was concerned, the matter was closed.

But the label on the box gave a clue as to why it was there:

Slightly concerning that this is needed often enough to be a proper label…

And the contents gave even more of a clue: an apology note, and lots of delicious goodies!

Strawberry and cream cookies, shortbread, jams and marmalades, and dinky jars of classic sweets, yay!

OK: so they got things wrong. A lot. And drove me utterly up the wall for months. But once my complaint actually made it to the attention of someone with some customer service skills, they did their best to fix it. They deserve some credit for that.

So, FedEx, thanks for sweetening my day. Just make sure you keep an eye on your invoicing department in future?

Let’s fix it, by breaking it!

Last week was a very trying week for me, website wise. One of those weeks when you just want to scream, because you can’t believe people would do such frustrating things.

I monitor a lot of web sources for news that’s relevant to my employers business, and to do that, I rely heavily on RSS feeds. They allow me to see the output of sites quickly, and mean that I don’t have to visit those sites repeatedly each day to be able to track their content. So, RSS feeds are VERY important to me. And in the context of Government sites, they’re important for the general public too, helping to enable them to see what’s happening in various departments, e.g. if consultations have been published that they might want to respond to, or if new regulations have been issued that may affect their business.

Meanwhile…the Government has stated that it’s consolidating websites into the address, and 24 departments will be moving to that address over the next 18 months. The first two moved last week, and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) was one of them. Of course, this move to a new web address broke all the RSS feeds. Since I’m monitoring hundreds of sites at once, it was only a few days later, when I saw a Cabinet Office press release about the move, that I realised that the RSS feeds were dead.

Not a great start for a new site – the feeds had been killed, with no warning, and no message to say “As of X date, these RSS feeds will no longer be active. Please go to X address to find the new feeds.” Not even a temporary redirect to the new site – just dead, and gone, without notice. Thanks for that – I missed 2/3 days of press releases due to that.

So, off I go to the new version of the site, to try and find where the RSS feeds are now. The DCLG page looks nice: it has a “Latest” section, “Our Publications”, and “Our Announcements” sections, all relevant to me.

However…the Latest section is just that  -3 stories, no archive of them is accessible that way. The Policies and Announcements sections do allow you to “see all of our publications” or “see all of our announcements”, but clicking through to these, it’s obvious that this is merely the results of a search being run on the site when you click through, not an actual archive. And there’s no RSS feed from it. There’s no RSS feed anywhere to be found.

Now, I have raised this issue via the feedback form, and have (quickly – top marks for a fast response at least) been told:

There is a feed for publications at
There are also feeds for each topic at
Feeds for orgs and announcements are coming soon. 

This is ok (ish) as a temporary fix, but it still has issues: the feeds are for ALL Government publications, and ALL Topics. You can go into topics, and take the RSS feeds for each of the various Topics, but it’s not topics I want, it’s specific departments. I may want to know about how a roads development may impact on certain areas, but I want the planning elements of it, so taking the feed for Transport means I’d be getting (and have been getting) large amounts of irrelevant information (Channel Tunnel safety, bus statistics, Concessionary Travel notes…).

So, until there’s a specific Departmental feed, I just have to wade through everything coming in on those feeds. Joy!

To add to the fun, The Scottish Court Service also redesigned its website last week.To continue the popular theme of “not telling users in advance”, it too broke its RSS feeds, without any notification. So the feeds that I subscribed to, to keep an eye on cases being issued from the Court of Session and Sheriff Court are no longer work. And there isn’t even the slightest hint of an RSS feed on the new Judgments pages. So that’s another site redesign successfully removing a way of monitoring the output of the site, and multiple cases that were issued that I’ve missed, because I didn’t know the feed was dead.

Also, to see the cases involves going to the Search Judgments page, and clicking a radio button. This then causes the page to reload. Once it’s reloaded (in the case of the “50 most recent cases”), there is now another button to click…which causes the page to reload again. Surely there must be a simpler way of displaying content that to have to go through all these clicks and reloads?

And the Infuriating Dropdown Menus (as demonstrated painfully for quite some time now by The Scotsman website) have made an unwelcome appearance. These dropdowns frantically appear if you accidentally stray too close with the cursor, and overlay the actual text you want to read: “The Courts” page in particular sits and overlays the page text for quite some time, and does not pop back up out of the way if the mouse is moved off it.

I don’t understand how these things happen – yes, there has obviously been massive amounts of work done to redesign these sites, and move them. For example, all the old DCLG links to documents I have in our Current Awareness service still work, as there’s a redirect in place for them (unlike when DTI/DBERR/BIS changed themselves every few years – that in itself almost gave me a nervous breakdown, hundred of dead links!). But at no point does anybody think “I know, lets ask the users of the site about how they use it, and what the most important elements of it are for them, so we can make sure we retain them.” They could have asked for input via, oh, I dunno, a release sent out on the RSS feed? I’m no web designer, but this move towards removing methods that allow users to monitor Government output is frustrating, to say the least!

And do you know the best bit? Only 2 of the 24 migrating sites have moved so far, DCLG being one of the first. Even contemplating the chaos that could result from this move is making me whimper….

The FedEx omnishambles

OK: I have tried and tried to get this company to respond to me, in any manner at all, but they have spent 4 months doing nothing but screwing up even the most simple of requests. So, for the edification and amusement of others (and the cathartic therapy of me), I present to you: the FedEx Omnishambles.

Sit back, relax: this one is EPIC.

It began, in August this year. An item was posted to me, and it came to my work address. The item incurred a Customs fee. Then it all went to hell.

Here’s my first letter to FedEx, (with some edits for clarity, and to help me retain a small amount of privacy).

Federal Express Europe Inc.

P.O. Box 119

Matlock Road



Dumpling in a Hanky

Home Address



30th October 2012

Dear sir/madam, 

I am writing to complain about the ridiculous level of incompetent service your invoice/billing department has delivered when dealing with me. 

An item was sent in the mail from America, using FedEx, to my work address. This address is:

Employer FirmName

In Town

Big Burgh

Post Code

FedEx then issued an invoice for the cost of customs fees.

The first invoice, number 1, dated 8th August, was sent to Employer FirmName, as it claimed the recipient was illegible. This was clearly untrue, as my name and details (Dumpling in a Hanky) could be seen in the attached paperwork that came with the invoice. This meant that the invoice was sent around the multiple offices of the company until finally being tracked down to me at the end of August, by which point it was overdue for payment. I called to ask for my employers details to be removed as the customer. I was told this was possible, and I awaited an updated invoice.

This did not arrive, so I called again a few weeks later: apparently, for some reason, nothing had been done in the intervening two weeks, and my request for an updated invoice had not been progressed in any way since my call. 

Instead, I received an overdue payment demand for the original invoice. I called, and once again asked for my employer to be removed as the customer, and for the original invoice to be cancelled in favour of this updated one.

On the 18th of September, I received a new invoice (number 2), which not only still included my employer as the customer, it had now renamed me from Dumpling in a Hanky to Dumpling FirmName (ie. taking part of my employers name, and substituting it for my surname).  I called again and was told that the removal of my employers details from the payment demand was not possible, in direct contradiction of previous information. I asked for confirmation to be sent by email that the previous invoice was now null. I was getting increasingly frustrated, as by this point the issue had dragged on for a month. I spoke to someone called A B on the 18th of September, who told me to email her directly on, and she would investigate and get back to me. I emailed A with copies of the invoices, and waited for her promised response.

On the 20th of September, having heard nothing from A B (and indeed, I have heard nothing from her to date), I called yet again, and spoke to somebody called Suzie. I asked again for emailed confirmation of the closure of the original invoice, and for my name to be corrected on the new invoice. I was told they were “looking into” the current invoice, and she had requested that I be emailed about the issues, as I was clearly anxious to sort them. I could not pay the invoice, as it had the wrong name, and as far as I knew, had been cancelled while a new, accurate invoice was being raised.

On the 26th of September I received an invoice in the mail, still addressed wrongly to Dumpling FirmName, confirming that the first invoice was now null.

I called on the 2ndof October, asking where the new invoice with my correct name on it was, and once again asked for this to be emailed to me when it was ready, and gave my email address again. I was told this would happen when it was ready.

I called on the 11thof October, and spoke to someone called Rashid, to ask where the invoice was. He told me it was “in progress”, and I would be emailed when it was ready.

Today, 30th of October, I have received an overdue notice, for yet another invoice number 3. This is a brand new invoice which was apparently issued on 2ndof October, yet I have received neither the paper version, nor the repeatedly-requested email version. The payment due date is 3rd of October, which implies that it was expected that this invoice was to be sent by email rather than mail.

To tell me I am overdue paying an invoice that I have not received, despite spending THREE MONTHS trying to get an accurate version issued to me, is adding insult to injury. It also appears that each time when I called in October, I was given the wrong information once again, as the overdue notice claims the invoice was sent on the 2nd of October, yet I was told when I called on the 2ndand the 11th that it was still in progress.

On calling yet again today, I requested an emailed copy of confirmation that the second invoice, number 2 was now void, and the best that Kendal, the person I spoke to on the phone, could offer was a screenshot from the system, which hasn’t worked on my mail system. My request for an email copy of the new invoice, number 3, meant she did indeed send me a copy of an invoice. The original invoice, which was cancelled in September. I have replied to Kendal, and await, yet again, an email copy of this new, phantom invoice. Based on previous experience, I do not have any belief that this will arrive.

So, I am left, yet again, without an accurate invoice which I can make a payment on. Surely this is the most basic function of an invoicing department: to issue accurate invoices? I have now had to call over a dozen times, and wasted hours of my time over the course of three months, trying to sort out this very simple issue.

Therefore, please can somebody send:

Confirmation that invoice 2 is now closed/null.
A copy of invoice 3.

I do not believe these are complex requests, but I cannot and will not pay until I have an actual copy of this newest invoice, which is addressed to me.

So…that was sent on the 30th of October. Kendal never did email me the invoice I asked for.
Here’s the text of the email I then had to send on the 14th of November, to which I attached a copy of the above complaint. I got the email address during yet another one of my calls to their call centre.

Please find attached an outline of my complaint about your customer service. This was sent by me on the 30th of October. To date, I have still not received either a response, or any of the items I have requested to be sent to me. 

I have, however, received today yet another overdue payment demand for the invoice I have never been sent. So, once again, I have had to contact your pointless call centre – the first time, to request once again that a copy of this phantom invoice be emailed to me, which did not happen. 

And a second time, ten minutes later,  to yet again request that the invoice be emailed to be. Thankfully, this copy actually arrived, but as you can see, is only a single page, which clearly instructs me to read the payment ” instructions overleaf carefully”. Impossible, when there is no overleaf to the invoice.  

This, on top of the fact that these invoices are now addressed to Employer Co, which is situated in PSL – this is total gibberish, and only vaguely resembles the actual address of Employer FirmName, in Big Burgh. 

I cannot believe that I have had to waste FOUR MONTHS trying to get the simple item of an invoice, correctly addressed, to be sent to me. So I repeat (again) my requests: 

Confirmation that invoice 2 is now closed/null.
A (full, with payment instructions) copy of invoice 3.

Guess what I got in response to that? Nothing. Nada. Not even an automated acknowledgement of my email.
What did I get instead?
ANOTHER overdue payment demand the next day, yay! And if I don’t pay in 7 days (11 of which had elapsed before it was sent to me), the bill is being passed to a debt collection agency. How splendid.
So, in utter exasperation, I have scrabbled around and found information on how to pay them, and posted it off, Recorded Delivery accompanied by a printout of my first letter, the email I sent, and a third complaint letter:

Federal Express Europe Inc.

P.O. Box 119

Matlock Road



Dumpling in a Hanky

Home Address



16 November 2012

Dear sir/madam, 

 I am writing, yet again, to complain about the level of service your company provides. As you can see from the attached documentation, I have been trying to get some very simple issues resolved, for over FOUR MONTHS now. I have called dozens of times. I have sent the attached letter outlining the issues and my attempts to get them resolved, weeks ago. I have emailed the ukmaster@fedex.comemail address with this information, as I was told to during yet another of my recent phone calls to the company. Not one of these approaches has met with any type of response. 

Instead, I am getting repeated demands in the mail to pay an invoice that I was firstly, never sent to me, despite me calling repeatedly to ask for it, and then when I have finally managed to get somebody competent to actually email it to me, there was no information about how I was actually meant to pay it. These demands are now being posted, in duplicate, date marked 10 to 11 days before their arrival. Where have they been sitting in the intervening time? I can only assume that these were, again, items that were meant to have been emailed to me, but have somehow instead ended up being posted. This means letters with demands to pay within 7 days or the account will be passed to a debt collection agency are arriving 3 to 4 days after your own deadline. Quite a work of genius, I think you can agree, to post demands with deadlines that arrive, not only days after that deadline, but in multiple copies! 

I have also never been sent the confirmation that I have repeatedly asked for via multiple methods – the confirmation that invoice number 2 was no longer active. 

So, let me, once again, make one last, probably futile attempt at getting your company to do a simple thing –

Send me confirmation that invoice number 2 is no longer active. 

I would also like a proper, full copy of invoice number 3. I realise this may seem like something outrageous to you, but to me, being able to keep full and accurate records of my expenditure is somewhat of an essential activity. 

I have attached a cheque for the invoiced amount, despite you having in no way at any point helped to enable me to pay it. I managed to find this payment information by going through the initial documentation. You know – the stuff I received back in August, when your staff apparently forgot how to read, and kicked this whole fiasco off by sending payment demands to my firm without putting my name on the form, despite it being clearly visible on the customs form, which was included with the payment demand. 

I assume that by my sending money to you, you will regard this matter as closed. I can assure you that I do not. I will be expecting a full explanation, in writing, to the address above, of why you have failed to deliver even the most basic of your business functions, and why I have been forced to waste so many hours of my time to repeatedly request that you send the correct invoice, to the correct person, with the correct name, and that you actually issue that invoice, rather than send demands for one which was never sent.

I want to know why I have been ignored by: A B (as she gave me her own details and promised to deal with the matter); your own management (as my letter of 30th October remains unanswered), and the administrator of the email account (as my email with attached letter sent at 9.24am on 14th November, as at 3pm on 16th November, is neither acknowledged nor replied to).

Communication with your company has been an exercise in extreme frustration, with nobody taking any responsibility for anything, or communicating with me about the simplest of things. Therefore, as stated above, I would like an explanation about what the failures were that caused this catastrophically wasteful time-sink.

So, that was sent off today. Shall we take bets on whether they ever, ever get in touch with me? Anyway, needless to say, even if they do get back to me with any sort of explanation, it’s really never going to be good enough to explain how they can get performing the most basic duties of their company so terribly, terribly wrong, is it?

And I would certainly never recommend using this company, if you can possibly avoid it!