Friday, April 25, 2008

TLA 2008 Conference Notes, Day One: Session on Library Value

Day One was Tuesday April 15, 2008. I will basically put in my notes taken at the time. Any extra comments or thoughts on my part I will put in parenthesis.

Title of session: "What's it worth? The Value of Library Services as an Advocacy Tool."

You can find the powerpoint for this presentation here, along with many of the other presentations. TLA was trying to be "green" this year, so they made a lot of the presentations available electronically so you could print them out as you saw fit.

To the presentation then:

(This was a presentation about how to use spreadsheets and what to put in them in order to calculate the value of your library. While they did not focus as much on the nuts and bolts, they gave enough of a sense for anyone who may want to replicate the process. Given my new job focus on outreach, which includes marketing and being the library evangelist, I thought this presentation would be relevant for me. I learned a thing or two).

  • To create the spreadsheets, use information that is readily available. This kind of information is often found in annual reports. What you are figuring out is ROI (return on investing).
  • Ask what value items you want to use. Some examples are circulation stats, reference transactions, databases, etc.
  • Tool: Maine State Library, Library Value Calculator.
  • The value of website hits. Base this on Google's rate for clicks (this is based on the advertising concept).
  • They noted that a $3 to $8 ROI was considered good (I take it that it was based on their situation). Remember that this is services returned to the community.
On Advocacy:
  • Constantly communicate value to users. Focus on service quality.
  • Show cost-effectiveness. Ask: what if you had to buy the services?
  • Library users take good technology for granted in the library. (I know this is the case here. The day before I had a student I had to teach at the reference desk who told me her story of how she lived in a rural area where nothing better than dial-up was available. She had to come to campus to use the faster connection, going to the point of staying out in the library parking lot after hours to get the wireless. You want to talk digital divide sometime? Anyhow, this is something we can certainly use to show our value and argue for better funding.)
  • Ask: what's in it for me? (well, we should encourage patrons to ask that). Ask: what needs does the library meet?
  • Find stories and anecdotes from users. Use personal accounts and testimonials. (The concept of telling the library story is one I have been pondering for a while since I got here. One place I was doodling with the idea is here.)
  • Ask: what difference does the library make? How does the library impact the community in a positive way? (Another idea or two I have been kicking around for a while. I have been reading things about it here and here for example.)
(As I am listening to the presentation, I am thinking how can I apply this to an academic setting. I do think there are applications for academia, things we can learn from. Some of the items I would want on my spreadsheet, if I ever got around to making one: reference transactions and any librarian consultations, value of the wireless, books and materials, technology and computers, study rooms, and a few others. I was also asking myself how to get stories from the patrons. Focus groups maybe? The recent usability testing we recently did provides, I think, a good model to use, but it does require a good amount of promotion work to get people to come talk to us. Still, worth thinking about it. By the way, as soon as I get the transcripts done, I will probably write about that usability test).

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