Losing the print directory?

Our job is about managing change. Change is about altering behaviors.

Here’s another example of how technology offers students and others new services but requires us to rethink how we work.

Consider the PSU printed directory. It’s the yellow pages for PSU. In order for the publication to be produced each fall, significant work is required from people in HR to get all the information current. Calls and calls to department contacts who are not always here during the summer. Lots of manual data entry, data that exists elsewhere in our information systems for employees and students. And as soon as the work is finished, it is sent to the printer. Every week after it arrives, the directory becomes more and more dated.

Here’s the rub. Many employees want and use the directory. It can sit by a desktop or bedside, it is quick to look up a name. You don’t have to be online.

Yet in the past few years, we have developed alternative methods to look up the same information via the web directories, PSU’s Google Search and the new automated voice directory system. If you dial (535) 3333, you can name any employee or student and get directly to their phone or voicemail. Go ahead, try it. It’s new this year and we’re still working out some bugs, but it’s coming along nicely.

With these new technologies, why should we continue to go through the paces of producing a printed directory? Students don’t use it, they operate online.

Managing change is about changing behaviors. We need to train ourselves to look up information in new ways. We expect that for some people, especially those that need information quickly at all hours, they may still want a printed form of directory info. We can provide that in an alternative format that people can print on their own. For the rest of us, lose the print and get online. That data is always current.

4 thoughts on “Losing the print directory?

  1. I do use the printed directory on more than a few occasions, though I do use the voice directory system (VDS) more and more. There have been times where I have been unable to find staff or student information online or with VDS for a variety of reasons. There are times when I'm in the dept. mailroom and need to find a quick address for campus mail. No PC or phone there, just the old, reliable directory. The first 21 pages are probably the most useful, it gives a concise rundown of the entire university structure, mail stop codes, audix instructions; there is currently no web site that contains this information in such a concise, easy to read format. Plus, server/power outages do occur (and those pesky my.plymouth time outs 😉 )

    How much does it cost to publish the directory, who pays for it? If we're looking to save paper/$$$, how about suspending publication of schedule of classes? At the very least, publish it on recycled paper. Even a two year old phone directory is more useful than a two year old schedule of classes. Worst case scenario: Create a PDF file, leave it to the individual to decide whether or not to print it out the entire document.

  2. Brendon,

    There is no cost to printing the directory. It is completely paid for by advertising. And the notion that eliminating it will save paper is commendable, but not central to the point.

    The cost is in production. HR spends an inordinate amount of time each year trying to pull together all the information in the department section (that you appreciate so much). In order to make that complete, they canvass departments in the summer (when many are away and at a time when departments are in a state of transition). They do the very best they can to make the print deadline. Then, they take a lot of grief when the information comes out incomplete.

    Yet you raise some key points. What you need is a good, complete listing of departments and people. If we could produce this in any format (online or in print), would that satisfy your needs?

    If we are to remove one tool, we are obligated to replace it with something of equal or greater value. In this case, just because the information is on the web, it is not located in any one area that makes it simple for someone like yourself. We'll take that as a challenge.

    Only then can we expect people to change their behaviors. Thanks for the comments, as always.

  3. June 13, 2006

    Dear Dwight,

    With some faculty playing "musical chairs" with offices, the printed directory is
    often obsolete at press time. Let's save a bundle of money and get rid of it.

    Charles Brown

  4. I agree with Brendan that the first few pages of the directory is what really shines. This is the only simple way to find and get into contact with the offices on campus. However, these pages could easily get replaced by a single concise web page with the same information. If this and the directory could be acquired in PDF or something that printed nicely, we would even satisfy those who feel more comfortable having it physically at hand.

    As for the schedule of classes, this used to be printed in a newspaper format that was low quality paper and seemed very cheap. As an undergrad each semester this was THE most important printed piece I received. I can remember spending all kinds of time browsing through that and highlighting potential courses to take and discussing my decisions while I was making them with fellow students. I think you'd find this printed publication is still very popular with students.

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