Using Trello to manage DMU Library’s Under Review process for online resources renewals

In August 2016, I wrote a blog post outlining the initial stages of work in trying to establish an “Under Review” framework for online resources purchases and renewals at DMU Library. The aims of the Under Review process are to a) deliver a more data-driven approach to the selection, retention or potential cancellation of electronic resources that DMU Library purchases on an annual basis and b) to improve communication and collaboration between DMU Library teams involved in analysing the value of library online subscriptions.

The infographic I created below outlines the basic components of the Under Review workflow:

Infographic highlighting the different stages of the Under Review workflow.

The Under Review process is centred around the creation of usage and cost triggers that highlight if an online library resource is being poorly used or has increased in cost beyond expected budget allocations. If any of these usage or cost markers are activated, the resource is alerted as being “Under Review”, meaning that further evaluation of the low usage or high annual cost is required to ensure that the resource is delivering maximum value to students and staff.

Under Review Group

In early 2017, an Under Review group was assembled at DMU Library. The group is comprised of staff representing different library teams that are involved in the selection, acquisition and implementation of library resources – this includes subject librarians, Bibliographic Services staff, Content Delivery colleagues and library senior management. The starting remit of the group was to create some usage and cost markers that would underpin the Under Review process. The group would meet on a monthly basis to evaluate resources that happened to hit any of these triggers.

Content Delivery prepare regular resource usage and cost analysis for library subject teams and this analysis can be referred to the Under Review group to discuss if any usage or cost triggers are hit. The current usage and cost triggers agreed by the Under Review group are:

  • Resource cost per use (CPU) of more than £15
  • Annual resource cost increase of more than 5%
  • Annual resource usage decrease of 25% or more

Using Trello in Under Review meetings

To assist the Under Review workflow, the group decided to use a free online service called Trello from the outset of the process. Content Delivery staff had utilised Trello in a number of other library projects, so the group hoped that Trello would help with the management of Under Review meetings and any actions derived from them. Trello visualises projects and tasks in an easy-to-use, intuitive and flexible way and the working group were keen to take advantage of these benefits to help encourage collaboration between staff involved in the Under Review process.

An Under Review Group Trello Board was created and the board would be populated as, and when, meetings and dialogue took place. The Lists feature on Trello would allow the agenda for each monthly meeting to be set up (and added to) in advance of the group getting together. Trello Cards could then be used with the Lists functionality to document discussion and decision-making with regards e-resources selection in a granular way:

An example of the type of Trello Board used in the Under Review process.

For an individual member of the group to interact with the board, they had to first register with Trello to create a free profile. Once library staff had registered with the service they could then view the board and utilise Trello features. The Under Review triggers were added to the board, using a list, and were assigned different coloured labels. This would allow the group to add the usage and cost triggers to individual resource cards in a simple but visually interesting way. The group also decided to take advantage of several other free Trello features to help organise the work.

An example of some of the Trello features that are used to organise work within the group.

Some of these Trello features include:

  • The usage and cost analysis for any particular online resource (most commonly an Excel spreadsheet) can be added to the relevant Trello Card and viewed/shared by the group. Trello allows you to share files and links on each separate card created.
  • Discussion from group members can be recorded in the card itself by using the Add Comment feature. This reduces the need to send copious emails between group members and stores feedback in one place.
  • A Trello Checklist of actions related to the resource can be created and tasks can be “ticked” when completed (the checklist even shows the % progress if tasks remain outstanding). These actions can also be assigned to individual members of the group as long the assignee is registered with the Trello site.
  • A deadline for discussion or related actions to be completed can also be added by using the Trello Due Date feature. A calendar pop up displays from where a date or time can be selected.

These features are basic (as part of the free registration with Trello) but they are quick to set up and effective in helping to support the administration of the Under Review work. Other features known as Trello Power-Ups are available to explore and use on the site. Power-Ups are applications on Trello that enhance a Board by linking to other online services (e.g. the Google Drive Power-Up).

DMU Library’s Under Review process has now been live for approximately a year and has provided the department with an increased evidence-based focus when evaluating library online resources. There is more effective collaboration between library teams and the Under Review meetings act as a forum to raise questions about the perceived value and relevance of library e-resources. The group may suggest added resource promotion to tackle poor usage or investigate the development of better access pathways for resources that will improve discoverability of the resource and hopefully increase subsequent usage. I am sure that there will be tweaks to the Under Review process as the library group moves forward but the underlying principles of the workflow will ensure better informed decisions are made by the library when it comes to selecting resources, services and systems to support students and staff.

About Mitchell Dunkley

I work in the Content Delivery Team at De Montfort University Library. I manage DMU Library's e-resources portfolio and I am involved in library systems admin, collating resource usage statistics and troubleshooting. All comments are my own.
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