Use a Checklist

As a great fan of checklists I highly recommend Atul Gawande’s book on the subject, The Checklist Manifesto.

In his book Gawande makes the case that a checklist is valuable even if you have done a specific task many times before and know exactly what you are doing. He illustrates this point by giving examples of how checklists are used in hospitals and airplanes.

Checklists are a very handy tool for libraries. They can be used:

  • to train people to do new tasks;
  • when staff are away and tasks need to be performed by someone else;
  • for processes that involves multiple staff members, so that everyone knows what has been done and nothing falls through the cracks; or
  • to carry out specific research tasks, e.g. researching a company or an individual. You can list all the resources that should be used on the checklist, and, once the task is done, forward a copy of this list onto the person who requested the research so they know exactly what resources were consulted.

Another value of a checklist is that designing it forces you to think about the process you are documenting. Are there parts of the process that are unnecessary or are there procedures that should be on the checklist that aren’t?

Susannah Tredwell (@hannasus)


  1. Great tip. I loved the book too, and just wrote about using checklists here in the context of helping lawyers to reduce risk of malpractice claims:

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