Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Project Management for Libraries

Have you heard of project management?

It's a term I was vaguely familiar with, I had heard it used in reference to tech companies but didn't really understand what it meant until I started investigating recently. Increasingly I've seen talk of project management in the library world and have adopted the method for my own project.

Project management is the practice of planning, organizing, leading and controlling resources in order to complete a goal or 'project'. It is a discipline that can be studied and there are different certifications recognized by professional project management organizations, but the coursework isn't necessary to use the concepts for your next project.

What makes a project?

A project is a temporary endeavor that has a definite beginning and end, goals and objectives as well as specific constraints (time, budget, and scope). Examples in the library world could include a renovation, building a local history archive, moving to a new ILS, or creating a new website. The outcomes of the project will live on but the work to reach the final product ends.

Project Management Basics

Projects progress in 5 unique phases:
  1. Initiation: Ask why? What is the need for the project? What outcomes do we want to see? What will be the deliverables?
  2. Planning: Who are our stakeholders - organization staff, funders, project staff & people affected by the deliverables.
  3. Execution: Set aside some time to focus. Define your resources (staff, equipment, software and other tangible items needed). As project manager you will identify and define the tasks your project team will work on.
  4. Controlling/Monitoring: Add dates to the defined resources to make a 'control schedule'.
  5. Closing: Ensure project deliverables are within the parameters agreed to during initiation. Assess outcomes and evaluate the project.
I used these guidelines to develop documents that I could enter information to refer back to throughout my project. I answered the above questions and created a list of stakeholders. In addition I used a method in  Project Management by Peter Hobbs, in planning. Using sticky notes you create a visual road map of the project broken down into deliverables and tasks. Tasks can be assigned to team members and added/rearranged as necessary. This method has worked well for the team as it helped make the project tangible and transparent. Plus... we got to use colored sticky notes! My experience with project management so far has been great. It has allowed me to have laser focus on my project and to solidly know what I want to achieve. Using the method has helped eliminate creep (when other projects seep into each other and muddy the outcomes you want to achieve), but most importantly has helped me wrangle a large difficult project into manageable tasks.

My Project Management Plan

Further Reading

I highly recommend the book Project Management by Peter Hobbs, for learning the basics. It has a great balance of information for beginners and explains the concepts with plain language and visuals. Bonus - it's available in the system!

Sarah Houghton - Librarian in Black outlines her experience with project management at the San Jose Public Library when launching their website.

Annie Pho interviews Caro Pinto - Social Sciences and Emerging Technologies Librarian at Hampshire College about Librarians as project managers on the Hack Library School blog.

Ira Revels has written a great article on project management for librarians (and has an book out next spring) available through the ALA publication, American Libraries.

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