A pre-emptive strike

BSLcoverI’ve recently received word of the publication early next year of Ashgate’s Business School Libraries in the 21st Century, edited by Tim Wales.

Yours truly contributed a chapter on communication entitled ‘Business school libraries on the radar: not seen and not heard?’ which examines how library services within business schools should be communicating with their stakeholders, particularly senior management, to ensure their value and purpose is actively understood and supported.

Here is a short pre-publication excerpt from my chapter which urges librarians to take a ‘pre-emptive stirke’ when communicating service statistics:

‘…In recent years the global economic recession has prompted swingeing cuts at most higher education establishments and libraries have been very much in the firing line. Perhaps partly because we’re considered to be soft targets; ‘nice to have’ rather than essential, unlike other business school activities. But how much do each of us actually do to counter or seek to address such an assertion within our institutions? Are we ready to level strong contrary arguments and fight our corner when required? As with the time spent battling for recognition and understanding, are such attempts to prove our value equally fruitless?

In this chapter I will seek to argue that although we may think we currently communicate enough within our respective business schools and that our excellent services speak for themselves, we actually live in an age in which there is no room for this sort of complacency and we must make better use of the many and varied communication channels open to us.

At the heart of the problem is a dangerous tendency amongst academic librarians to sit back and wait to be asked for information about our services. A tendency to wait until statistics on loans, enquiries and database use or a weekly breakdown of typical staff activities are directly requested; a new and innovative service is noticed rather than promoting it extensively; someone else identifies that a project or approach we currently undertake is perhaps not the best use of staff time. Business schools are becoming more and more accountable. These days, the bean counters are now very much in charge – very few Deans or Directors do not have an accounting or operations management background – and they only want to know facts and figures, not how you, or others, feel about the service, or how you ‘think’ it is doing. At the very least I would advise that we need to be collecting the following key statistics: footfall to the physical library; visitors to the library’s electronic presence (whether it is a website, portal or blog); usage of databases; cost of database subscriptions relative to use and each other; loans and percentage use of printed collection; usage of ebooks – downloads and views; and the number of enquiries received and fulfilled by staff in person, by email, or instant chat. However, it is not enough just to collate this data and wait to be asked for it. It is far better to ensure that the people who need to know this stuff are informed, at least once a year, of these top level statistics, before they ask for them: a pre-emptive strike if you like…’

The back cover text – below – recognises the value of the book to all librarians in the academic sector and beyond. We are all grappling with the same problems and opportunities…



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