The Benefits of an Office Library

Posted   Productivity

Company libraries are the norm in law practices, but far from standard in other fields, yet it is a practical budget-conscious approach to shared knowledge and resource management.

Libraries can house technical books, editorial reference guides, material samples, or even archives of user guides. We are fans of office libraries and enthusiastic to share the benefits we’re enjoying of an office library here at Teamwork.com HQ.

There you are writing away or coding like there’s no tomorrow then you need to check something. The information isn’t online so you need that book you saw your colleague reading earlier in the week. You go to her office and she isn’t there and the book is gone.

In normal places, you may panic, but if you have a dedicated office library, you’d know the book is likely back on its shelf and you can borrow it and get that work done like a boss.

Isn’t it a great feeling to know exactly where something you need is located? Well, that’s not the only benefit to a workplace library, here are three others:

1. Saves money. Instead of buying the same book for every employee who might need to reference it, you can purchase one (or two if it’s the hottest book since sliced paper) for a shared library. This goes a long way for technical, medical, or legal books which cost a pretty penny in the first place.

2. Consistent information. You are assured that your team is using the same resource information and, therefore, not conflicting information to work on a collaborative project. This is especially important in the era of websites being used for reference guides without any checks and balances from more established and edited sources.

3. Building an asset and a standard. The creation of a corporate or departmental library, even if it’s just a bookcase in a corridor, is also the construction of an asset for all employees and the upholding of priorities. It tells one and all that accurate, informed, and educated employees are respected and supported. This, in turn, sets the tone for projects to carry that same standard of excellence.

The value of a library rests in the contents itself and having it suit your workplace needs and your company or departmental focus.

The first step is to decide if you wish to establish a company-wide library for all shared books or several departmental libraries. If your company focus is shared, and most employees work on similar projects and tasks, a big shared library may be the way to go. However, for departments with drastically different reference materials, departmental libraries are beneficial.

Here are Teamwork.com HQ, we have two libraries. One library in the center of the office houses all the developer books with programming gems (alongside the Nerf guns, by the way), while a smaller collection of writing and grammar guides is housed in the marketing department.

This works very well for us, but each company has different needs so consider what you need from your library before taking the leap. The task of creating a library may not be as daunting as expected. When you’re ready, follow these simple steps:

1. Create a central place for the books and devise a system for organizing them, like by programming language, grammar style, or genre. Sometimes a system can’t be fully realized until you are looking at the books and seeing trends in the topics. This is also when you should decide if you need a checking out system.

2. Ask staff to drop their company-owned books off at the bookcase. This allows them to bring in any from home that were borrowed. After a few days of a slow trickle of books being returned, walk around the office and collect all remaining library books that are not being actively used.

It is a good idea to notify all employees you are doing this 48 hours in advance and again a few hours before so they don’t think you’re just like the Hamburglar with books.

3. Organize the books, leaving a little extra space on each shelf so it’s not a struggled to remove or replace a title. It is also a good idea to have a basket or box on one shelf with printouts of necessary internal style guides and user manuals, like for the Nerf guns.

It’s your choice if you want a clipboard for people to sign out books, in a smaller company it isn’t essential.

Now that you’ve been convinced you need an office library and know how to make it happen, you may have an inexplicable desire to go shopping for dark wood paneling and a high-back leather chair so you can pretend your workplace library is right out of the board game Clue.

Not everyone will be on board with a shared book collection, and many books will still reside in individual offices, but often that is good for specialty books used only by certain team members. Over time, the main library will grow and become a true resource.

What book would be a must-have in your workplace library?

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2 Comments

C. S.

I once visited a design company’s library. It didn’t just have books, it had vintage clothing you can pull off the hangers and handle. The original worry was that if all the designers were looking at the same “reference material,” their designs would all look the same. But, they instead discovered that having the same starting point left the designers free to focus on making very distinctive pieces!

I think a corporate library is the same in a lot of ways – by sharing the knowledge framework, people have more time to focus on what they as individuals bring to collective. Over time, you can really advance the knowledge/experience/products of the whole organization.

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Steven Boehle

I love this idea. Many times we as a company need ideas for a client. Normally, we can go home read a book and ideas stay to flow the next day. Why not bring all that valuable knowledge into the work place.

I think it would also be a great idea to have parts of the day designated for reading. Instead of a staff meeting that nobody cares about, take that hour and learn something new.

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