5 Whys: Problem Solving for Libraries 

Solving library problems using the 5 Whys technique.  It was a challenge to narrow down the following problems to a single root cause, but it was an interesting way to explore a problem.


Library Problem 1:  Items borrowed from the library are not returned to the drop off location

Why 1

Why is it difficult for people know where to return items to the library?

Because they forget where to return their items.

Why 2

Why don’t they know where to return items?

Because there is no sign for the book drop.

Why 3

Why isn’t there signage for the book drop?

Because one has not been made to use for the traditional book drop space (counter).

Why 4

Why hasn’t a sign been made?

Because there is not good place to put it.

Why 5

Why has there been no action taken to create a book drop sign or alternative place to leave items?

Because traditional behaviors have prevented problem solving to set up a proper book drop.

Comments:  This is a sad but true problem in our school library, which has been on my mind for some time.  We need to designate a space for the book drop, so our students and staff can be confident their borrowed items are returned to the library.  Since signage seems to offer an inadequate solution in the traditional space on a counter that gets a lot of usage, we need to rethink our traditions and assumptions to solve this problem.  This exercise has me thinking, and I have a few ideas we can explore.


Library Problem 2:  Patrons viewing sexually explicit material in the library may expose other patrons to lewd and inappropriate behavior in the library.  (I think this may be too big for this exercise, but I wanted to give it a go anyway.)

Why 1

Why are patrons viewing sexually explicit material in the library?

Because access to unfiltered wifi in the library allows library patrons to view anything on the internet.

Why 2

Why doesn’t the library filter it’s wifi to prevent access to sexually explicit content

Because the library upholds First Amendment rights for intellectual freedom and uncensored access for all.

Why 3

Why is access to sexually explicit content leading to lewd and inappropriate behavior?

Because rules and expectations for appropriate behavior in a public space are not being followed.

Why 4

Why don’t these patrons follow the rules?

Because they don’t care.

Why 5

Why don’t they care?

Because they don’t have self-control.

Comments:  Protecting First Amendment rights along with the safety of other’s is a challenge when it comes to access to pornography in the library and the behaviors it sometimes results in.  Yes, you know what I’m talking about.  This is where theory meets practice.  It makes me appreciate the San Francisco Public Library’s Open Access Policy FAQs.