Project-Management Tools for Libraries: A Planning and Implementation Model Using Microsoft Project 2000

Article excerpt

This paper discusses how Microsoft Project 2000 was utilized at the University of Central Florida Libraries to manage an e-reference implementation project. As libraries today adopt more information technologies, efficiently managing projects can be challenging. The authors' experience in the implementation of QuestionPoint e-reference software in October 2003 is described. Their conclusion illustrates that project-management tools, such as Microsoft Project 2000, offer practical workflow-management techniques for libraries. This article represents the first attempt to discuss the use of Microsoft Project 2000 to manage a library project.

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The University of Central Florida (UCF) is a Research II metropolitan university with an enrollment of approximately forty-two thousand students. The university's main campus is located in Orlando, Florida, with twenty-one regional campuses located throughout the central Florida area. Providing equitable research assistance to distributed-learning students at all UCF campuses is one of the top priorities of the university and one of the greatest challenges that the libraries face.

To meet the increasing demand for research assistance from distributed-learning students, the main library expanded its existing e-reference service in January 2002 by adding an online chat component. During the period of January 2002 through January 2003, the number of online chats steadily increased, and by July 2003 a decision was made to evaluate new software applications that offered enhanced features. QuestionPoint was ultimately selected because it met the overall criteria, which included integrated features for chat and e-mail, statistical tracking, and access for multiple operators. QuestionPoint also offered the advantages of participation in national and regional consortia services with other academic libraries.

Why a Project-Management Tool?

To efficiently manage the implementation of QuestionPoint and enhance communication during the project, it was decided to use Microsoft Project 2000 (MSP 2000), a project-management software tool. There are several project-management software programs on the market, and the decision to use MSP 2000 was mainly based on convenience: members of the implementation team had previously used MSP 2000 and the UCF library owned a copy.

Project-management or workflow-management software programs are widely used in the computer industry and information-technology sectors. As libraries today adopt additional technologies to meet the demands for information access, project-management tools offer practical methods for efficiently managing projects. Generally, these tools enable project managers to define a project's scope and manage requirements for resources, time, and costs throughout a project's lifecycle. Schachter points out in a recent article in Information Outlook that librarians are frequently called upon to take on the role of project managers--"We don't often call ourselves project managers, but the fact that we do so much project management as part of our regular positions is increasingly being acknowledged and promoted as a core skill set of librarianship." (1)

The implementation of QuestionPoint e-reference at the UCF library was a relatively small project compared to typical technology projects. However, the objectives that typify the key functions of project management were applicable. They include the ability to assess the overall requirements for the project, track tasks, allocate resources, and share information with such stakeholders as the library administration, reference department head, and Ask-A-Librarian staff. The evaluation phase prior to the selection of QuestionPoint lasted for more than five months and involved several staff members. Tasks were assigned largely with an ad-hoc approach and communication relied primarily on e-mail messages since meetings were difficult to arrange. …

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