how to prove your library's worth

Practical ways to prove the value of your library & information service

March 12, 2021
Clare Brown

I want to offer practical solutions to library and information managers. In Vable’s new and updated white paper, I cover (amongst other things) the librarian’s role in sorting fact from fiction, how to communicate with end-users, the importance of creating and using a Value Proposition, why you should write case studies, and the value in taking a quantitative approach. 

How do I prove my library's worth?

First published in 2017, “How to prove your library’s value” has been one of our most popular resources because people need to do exactly that, and value remains a key concern. For instance, “demonstrating value”, “value from resources”, “service value”, and “quantifying value” were all mentioned in Jinfo’s recent “State of the Industry 2021” webinar.

Both Jinfo’s “State of the Industry” and ILTA’s “Future of Libraries” webinars inspired me. They offered both an insight into the present, as well as a glance into the future. Although COVID-19 has turned the world upside down, I am reassured to find out that we continue to face the same issues as before the pandemic.

How has COVID-19 changed the information world?

Changing perceptions in the face of COVID-19

The earlier edition of this report suggested that “perception” was the cause of many library and information service challenges, resulting in budget cuts, staffing issues, lack of resources, etc. But it is noteworthy that COVID-19 has had a surprisingly positive impact on the perception of the services that libraries provide.

The "Future of Libraries" webinar highlighted the essential nature of information provision, and reiterated the fact that library staff are considered “critical workers”. Current UK government guidelines state that “libraries can remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services”.

Perhaps there still is a perception problem of the library and information services sector but the rapid pivot to a new working environment has astonished customers, clients and other end-users. Library workers have categorically proven that the library is not simply a location for books, and people have discovered what librarians do.

People have realised library and information services play an integral part, not only in rebuilding and healing communities, but also reinvigorating and restarting the economy.

Why information people are amazing in a crisis

Words to demonstrate the value of the library and information service

These words have recurred again and again in recent conversations, webinars, and articles. Let’s seize the opportunity to for the library and information service to be the “place of first resort”:

Reinvention Opportunity
Innovation Creativity
Evolution Excellence
Rediscovery Talented
Optimism Continuity
Entrepreneurial Trust-worthy

 

What about the perception of commercial and legal libraries?

Here are just three perception obstacles to overcome in the commercial and legal sector. However as many information services have shown, communication is key to demonstrating the value of their service to their organisations. 

You are a cost centre

Firms and companies have to generate revenue to succeed. Therefore any department which costs the organisation money is subject to careful scrutiny: if library and information centres are not visibly and actively demonstrating value, they are often the first to face cuts because revenue generating matters take priority, e.g business development, client relationship management etc.

You can be outsourced

There is also the outsourcing conundrum. More and more companies are facing pressure from clients and investors to bring new, more efficient, ways of working into their daily practices in a bid to cut costs and drive performance. Should outsourcing be a threat or an opportunity? Can a library and information service be replaced by an external service?

You are an expensive Google

There is always discussion about the various benefits of ‘fee v free’ services. End-users often think that they can just Google something. Of course, they are right - many useful services out there remain free and authoritative, especially when it’s regarding a subject area or jurisdiction with which they’re familiar. But are they getting the full value from their expensive databases if they are only checking on Google?

Finding the information they want is harder than ever before, and a Google search will return hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of results - many of which are likely to be irrelevant, inaccurate or outdated. We are being swept away under an information avalanche but as information professionals we instinctively start finding order in the chaos so that we are at an advantage. 

Download the white paper now and learn how you can prove your library's worth

This is just the start of the discussion. Download the full white paper and let me know the ways that you have demonstrated value to your organisation - share your stories and your victories!