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On Friday, June 28, I attended the day long “preconference”, the Proquest User Group. Proquest was interested in identifying what challenges libraries face so they can build products and services that will help us succeed. They weren’t trying to sell products, and in fact tried hard not to suggest solutions. They were just there to ask questions and listen. It was really fascinating to listen to the others around the table at other (mostly academic) institutions and hear the challenges they face that were similar and different from our own.

First session I attended was on “Communicating Library Impact & ROI”. Impact and assessment is essential to demonstrating value. The value of the library was always measured by metrics like gate count, number of circulations, and number of books the library owns. With those measures libraries could demonstrate how important they were to the enterprise. Now that we are no longer warehousing books and simultaneously developing services that get the information to the user without ever needing to come into the library, how can we demonstrate our value? Aside from “branding” our online services so that people become aware that when they are clicking on a service it is actually brought to you because of decisions made at the library, there are no easy numbers that one can apply to demonstrate how impactful we are on campus. Some ideas discussed included:

  • demonstrate how quality of papers improved after interactions with librarians
  • capturing usage by students to see if they then graduate within 4-5 years might be a valuable statistic (but it would tread all over patron privacy).
  • did the size or breadth of the library’s collections impact the ability to get grants?

Existing metrics require that we take important new data and pound them into statistical categories that may or may not really work anymore. We could and should focus on student and faculty outcomes. Librarians in one institution were referred from the Writing Center as “Research Coaches” and that made the librarians seem more approachable, and their referrals shot up! New methods of demonstrating value to our users could include:

  • how students are affected by services
  • mining information in bibliographies and citation analysis to show that students are using material available through library collections
  • putting the actual cost of information on a receipt at checkout, or when accessed through a database. (If you’d purchased this book, it would have cost you $98. Or: If you weren’t a Wake Forest Student, this article would have cost you $35.)
  • Articles ILL’d and the cost for each article, (not that they’d have to pay, but just what was the SAVINGS to them for using their library)
  • A dashboard that identifies how many new journals/ebooks/how many more buildings could be required to house them if they were actual books. (I love this idea)
  • How many articles are added through the course management system
  • Research consultations and referrals from other departments on campus (ie writing center)
  • Library resources that were helpful for getting grants

We’d need to have methods to demonstrate the value of our e-resources, our physical resources, and our buildings. This was a very interesting conversation and generated many good ideas, as well as identifying how much is not captured in our statistical gathering.

The luncheon speaker during the Proquest User Group meeting was Roger C. Shonfield from Ithaka S&R who discussed the “Ithaka S&R Faculty Survey.” “Conducted every three years, these large-scale surveys of thousands of academics examine changes in faculty member research processes, teaching practices, publishing and scholarly dissemination, the role of the library, and the role of the learned society.”

The survey asked faculty such questions as: “When conducting your research, where do you typically start? A specific electronic research resource/computer database? A general purpose search engine on the internet or worldwide web? Your online library catalog? The library building?” and “When you try to locate a specific piece of secondary scholarly literature that you already know about but do not have in hand, how do you most often begin your process? Visit my college or university’s libraries website? Search on a specific database or search engine? Search on a general purpose search engine? Ask a colleague? Ask a librarian? Other?”

“How do you “keep up” with current scholarship in your field?” The top two: 71% attend conferences, 67% read material suggested by other scholars indicate that peer resources are very important to scholars.

Interestingly, 26% of respondents said they were very frustrated by having to use a variety of different tools and databases to find materials they need. While that may be a small number, that is fully one quarter of our most influential users who are potentially VERY FRUSTRATED by the tools we provide for them.

Another result the survey identified is that 50% of the faculty, when they can’t easily find a known item, give up! I asked Mr. Shonfield during the Q&A if it would be possible to use this survey to give to WFU’s faculty, and he said that there has been discussion about all ASERL institutions utilizing it. I’d love to see how our faculty are using us and what they find frustrating about our services.

In the afternoon I attended a session on Marketing your Library. Because Proquest can only be successful if libraries are, they are interested in helping us succeed. They highlighted many of the PDFs that are available through their website that were previously unknown to those of us around the table. They are customizable and highlight generally good practices for how and where to start research.

We also discussed how difficult it is to show how valuable libraries are to users now that we can’t dilute down our “value” to the number of volumes added, now that users can get their information from so many different places and information is everywhere. One idea that we discussed was making the library “dark” for a day, as Wikipedia did not long ago. Since good libraries are like electricity, you really value both when you don’t have them anymore. The Proquest people really liked that idea. The conversation returned, time and again to how we can demonstrate our value to our constituency. It was a sobering and exciting interaction.

I also attended the “LLAMA President’s Program: Standing on Marbles: Ensuring Steady Leadership in Unsteady Times.” The presentation was given by Karol M. Washlyshyn author of Behind the Executive Door: Unexpected Lessons for Managing Your Boss and Career and Standing on Marbles. She identified 3 factors that go into making a successful leader: education, experience and behavior. Leaders don’t need to get smarter to lead, and they get to leadership positions by virtue of their experience. Where leaders fail most often is that they don’t always get the behavior right. She identified three kinds of leaders: remarkable, perilous and toxic using 3 measures.
– Total Brain Leadership (left/right brains)
– Emotional intelligence (awareness of emotions) and the 4 dimensions SO SMART: (Self Observation, Self Management, Attunement to Others, Relationship Traction)
– Productive Narcissim– described as one who is confident about decisions but get it right because their focus is on the business, not their personal advancement.
Remarkable leaders are those that are able to engage on all levels with subordinates and pull, push, and prod them on an intellectual as well as an emotional level. They have a clarity of purpose, and are committed to the organization. She identified Mother Theresa as a Remarkable Leader, as well as John Keating, the teacher in Dead Poet’s Society. Perilous Leaders are those that may be great leaders, but incite fear and uncertainty in those they lead. Leadership is based on providing the “what” but they take no time to describe the “why.” Steve Jobs and Richard Nixon were categorized as Perilous Leaders. Toxic leaders are those that bully to get the job done. Steve Jobs (again) and Bobby Knight were in this category. If you are working for an organization that has a toxic leader, plan your escape. There is no way to win.
Some tips for being a Remarkable Leader:

  • Be mindful, especially when decisions have to be made. Be sure to consider facts and people.
  • Establish emotional resonance with others.
  • Nurture productive narcissism.
  • Develop reciprocity and, create an atmosphere that ensures reciprocity.

The last session I attended before leaving ALA was “The Myth and Reality of the Evolving Patron” which was attended my many in ZSR and has been mentioned in other posts. Here is the entire presentation. It was very engaging. We do love our Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project data! It provides fascinating insight into what is really going on in American households and their digital lives.