Service Excellence Library Project: Improving student and researcher access to teaching and learning resources


  • Clive R. Boddy Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide
  • Nicole Stones Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide
  • Richard Clark Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide
  • Simon Bodie Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide
  • Mark Williams Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide
  • John Williams Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide
  • Susan Stuart Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide


This paper describes a project aimed at making library book management processes more efficient in terms of time and staff resources. The ultimate aim was to improve access to a university library’s teaching and learning resources for students and academics alike while maintaining the high levels of library service already established. The paper describes how the Lean Six Sigma approach to process improvement was applied at the main library of a major Australian research university, a large library of over two million items.

Advocates of the Lean Six Sigma approach to process reengineering have wondered whether it is applicable to the complex educational sector or whether it would be feasible to implement the approach in the sector. The success of this first completed Lean Six Sigma project at a major Australian research university shows that Lean Six Sigma approaches to process improvement can work in a university setting, leading to lasting improvements in efficiency. This paper describes the research used to measure and analyse the pre-existing process used for library returns and demonstrates how a 52% reduction in the number of individual process steps involved was achieved. This means that library books and journals are now returned to shelves, on average, point eight (0.8) of a day earlier than they previously were. With a book cycle of about ten days, from initial lending to final return to shelves, this roughly equates to an eight percent improvement in the availability of these teaching and learning resources.

It is interesting to speculate that to achieve the same eight percent increase in availability of resources through an acquisitions program would involve buying 160,000 extra copies of books and journal issues. At an average book cost of $30 each this would be a substantial total. A conclusion of this project is that applying a business oriented philosophy involving Lean Six Sigma techniques to a university is a viable and effective strategy to improve the pace and quality of efficiency improvements in such settings. 

Author Biography

Susan Stuart, Service Excellence Team, University of Adelaide


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