Small steps make giant leaps: An incremental approach to technical services workflow automation

Presentation at the Amigos online conference Work Smarter, Not Harder: Innovating Technical Services Workflows


James Madison University Libraries’ workflow for distributing its Special Collections finding aids to various discovery platforms historically involved a significant amount of manual data entry and hand-encoding. Through a series of small steps, we have been gradually improving this process by automating select tasks. I will share different iterations of our workflow, the automated solutions we’ve put into place, and the tools and technologies used, including XSLTs, APIs, and Spaceport, a custom Python app. As evidenced through the efficiencies, staff excitement, and other benefits we’ve observed, automation has transformed a previously tedious process while also facilitating the completion of other related projects. Our experience suggests a number of advantages to taking an incremental approach to technical services workflow automation projects.