Various experiences during my career (mainly negative ones it has to be said) have led me to take stats on almost every aspect of the library service I currently run. One such statistic that is an abolsoute bind to keep, but which is nevertheless hugely significant, is a tally of enquiries received by myself and my team. As of this academic year, beginning September 2008, we have all diligently kept records of each enquiry and specified whether it was received in person, by email or by phone.
Personally I have not found these stats surprising, but it is entirely possible that other stakeholders within the business school might. This is because they clearly point to the fact that library staff at Judge field only 40% of enquiries in person and that the remainder are received via email or phone. Apart from anything else this data supports my efforts over the past 18 months to shift the emphasis from a rather blinkered focus on physical users of the library (our more obvious clientele, simply because they’re right in front of us) to a more balanced service that equally supports those users who do not regularly, or in some cases never, visit the physical library and choose to communicate with us remotely instead.
What is more, the ‘in person’ stats include 9% that are received within the School but outside the Library itself – in the Common Room, corridors or staff offices. I am passionate about bringing the library to its users and this stat reflects this activity.
What does this mean for the library service going forward? Well it doesn’t mean I’m after getting rid of the physical library (as some of my colleagues in the business school who regularly make jokey references to Farenheit 451 might suspect, because they know I’m essentially an e-librarian), especially as gate totals are actually on the rise, but rather increased recognition that usage is changing and that we cannot and should not be defined by our physical confines any longer.
The validity of this new wider definition of the library service will be neatly and practically demonstrated by our forthcoming support for Judge’s new Executive MBA programme, which we will primarily be supporting remotely, a fact that has led me to plan a summer training day for my team to ensure the provision of truly excellent and professional remote support to these new library users.
It will be fascinating to see this time next year how much further the ‘in person’ enquiries stat has fallen, as fall it will.