“We should be so lucky!”: The Kind of Problems You Wish You Had

Here at the University of Colorado-Boulder, we recently completed a partial renovation of our main library.  We added a technology-equipped learning commons (open 24/5!), a coffee shop (serving high-quality caffeine from local business The Laughing Goat), several new instructional spaces, a more welcoming reference area, and much more (read all about it here).

We anticipated that the new spaces would be popular with students, but the response has been even better than we expected.  The library is busier than anyone has ever seen it (especially for this early in the term), and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

But in the midst of our excitement, there is concern.  If the library is full of students and faculty now, what will it look like during midterms and finals?  Will we be able to handle the increased traffic?  Will quality of service suffer?  And how do we spin all of this to our advantage (convincing administration that we need more space, funds, staff, and resources)?  It’s really the kind of problem you wish for, which has caught us a bit off guard.

Is your organization facing a similar challenge?  Maybe you’ve recently introduced a new collection or service, and are overwhelmed by the response you’ve received.  I’m interested in hearing other stories about what to do when things go well, rather than just when they flop.

Comment away!


  1. I’m sure nothing delights some CFOs more than to serve a greater # of patrons with minimal human capital. However, quality of service (QoS) issues abound.

    Obviously there needs to be a balance between greater efficiencies (i.e. working smarter) and having enough staff to deliver world-class service. The best thing one can do is to track usage patterns and create outcomes-based reports. That way one can demonstrate the need for staff (even after creative scheduling) and the return on investment (ROI) that your services provide.

  2. As you say, a good problem to have, especially at a time when others are struggling to prove to their administrations that their services are indeed deeply needed and essential to the mission of their institutions.

    I fully agree with Bryan’s suggestions concerning your dilemma. In addition to these, perhaps some further documentation (visual, statistical, anecdotal) from staff and patrons would provide an added element of “evidence.” There’s nothing like that image – video or still – to show your staff in action, especially in relation to the old environment. And having testimonials from appreciative faculty and patrons who are also concerned about the future of their library can’t hurt the cause. Or perhaps a survey of patron needs or expectations now or in the future might point out areas of weakness that might not be self-evident to staff, which could then be used to detail needs to administration.

    Our museum library has recently introduced a series of workshops that are devoted to research in the library for docents. These have been overwhelmingly oversubscribed. We’re having to distribute the “teaching” load to not only reference staff, but to catalogers and paraprofessionals as a way to cope. Thus far this has proven successful for our patrons as well as our staff who have enjoyed the opportunity to stretch their skills and comfort zones. We’re adding additional sessions to meet demand and trying not to overburden any single person or department.

  3. Thanks for the feedback, folks! We are indeed making stats a priority–making sure we’re counting things, that the data reflects what’s actually happening, etc. It’s been an excellent opportunity to revisit what and how we count.

    We’ve also taken to walking “important people” (like the Dean of the Libraries) through the newly renovated spaces to see just how busy we are.

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