Relevance and value – ALLA NSW

Below is a post I contributed to ALLA NSW (http://allansw.wordpress.com/2013/08/13/relevance-and-value).

Relevance and value: who is going to believe you?
By Alex Cato

On Thursday 8 August 2013, Robert McEntyre of Robert McEntyre & Associates Pty Ltd delivered a presentation to the ALLA NSW on ensuring the relevance and value of your library. Asking the question ‘who is going to believe you?’ Robert discussed the current economic and business environment in which law library’s operating as well as the key stakeholders within the library sphere and the importance of stakeholder engagement.

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Robert’s presentation slidesRelevance and Value – Presentation and a related paperClark Kent and Lois Lane in 2010 – Information Professionals working in the ‘technology fashion house’ are available on the blog.

Whats going on out there

In March 2013, Robert undertook a survey of the library and information science sectors seeking professionals perception of the industry over the next 5 years. With 152 respondents from Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia and Europe the survey asked three questions:

1) What are the known or assumed major influences on both the success and sustainability of your library or information service.

2) What services and facilities will be new, different and/or innovative that will benefit the users of your Library or information service?

3) What will be new, different and/or innovative in the management and operational practices of your Library or Information Service?

The in-depth results of this survey are outlined in Robert’s presentation slides. With respect to each question there are a few key trends:

  • Major influencers: The economic environment and technological change have resulted in a massive change in operating model for libraries effecting both their service offering and the manner in which their service offering is delivered. This is particularly disruptive for those libraries that have not evolved with technological opportunities and economic influences.
  • Services and facilities: With a user driven virtual operating model library services and facilities are increasingly virtual (if not 100% virtual). This is creating a necessity for staff to possess high levels of technological literacy.
  • Management and operational practices: Whilst there were some alarmist responses to this question (“I will be out of a job”) the majority of respondents possessed a more realistic perspective focusing upon reassessing and reevaluating their operational model to best meet their clients needs and integration with the organisations core business.

Where to from here?

The responses to the survey serve to reiterate the challenges faced by library and information professionals are facing everyday – we are operating in uncharted territory.

So what do we do? Now is a key time to revisit who you are serving (your stakeholders), their needs and how ‘you’ as a library are addressing those needs (what is your relevance and value for those stakeholders). Robert proposes an additional question needs to be asked: ‘how are you engaging your stakeholders?’.

The Stakeholder model – A model to meet the challenges of our environment

Taking a holistic perspective of your stakeholders, the stakeholder model encourages examination of how the library’s service offering is relevant and subsequently valuable to stakeholders. The creation of such a service model is facilitated through stakeholder engagement.