Posted on February 5, 2013.
Our next guest blogger post comes to us from A.J. Million, the Chair-Elect of SLA’s Transportation Division. A.J. says…
At the 101st Annual SLA Conference in New Orleans, I remember making fun of the previous year’s alignment project. That it was a step better than 2009’s name change vote was beside the point. Leadership was trying to convince SLA’s membership to make changes, and aside from never being told why these efforts were undertaken, their façade of techno-jargon turned me off.
Having spent the past year and a half working with colleagues to develop a Toolkit so transportation librarians can better show their value, I’ve seen the error of my ways. SLA, I’m sorry! The Association for Strategic Knowledge Professionals (ASK Pro) may have been a bad name, but your alignment project was a very good idea!
In “Proving Your Library’s Value: A Toolkit for Transportation Librarians” (.pdf), my colleagues and I developed a practical resource to move beyond a reliance on calculators and studies of public and academic libraries. With a focus on transportation libraries, we sought to help practitioners “value package” library services by tying them to their parent organization’s goals, mission, and vision. We built a free tool to help libraries align their work with decision-maker needs.
Nevermind that our focus was on transportation. One of our most interesting findings was that many of the fundamentals of proving value are universal; they apply to all libraries. And, how is this the case, you might ask?
To be succinct, it’s difficult – if not impossible – to prove a return-on-investment (ROI) without explaining how you support your agency. Say your library generates goodwill among the public by hosting, say, Girl Scout meetings? If you work for a private firm, they might not care. They’re probably not getting a cut of those cookies after all!
Hundreds of examples exist, but my point is that if a library’s goals differ from that of its parent, the library runs the risk of being seen as superfluous. Aligning to stakeholder values ensures that management cares about what your library offers. Only after doing this can a library reliably prove its worth.
On March 25th, the Transportation Division (D-TRAN) will be hosting a free webinar to discuss our Toolkit and how it can apply to most, if not all, libraries. Times are still tough and budgets are short. Members of the Solo Division are encouraged to attend, and far more relevant content will be covered. So sign up, dial in, and join us from 12:00 pm to 1:15 pm Central Time (1:00 to 2:15 Eastern / 11:00 to 12:15 Mountain / 10:00 to 11:15 Pacific). We’ll cut through the jargon and hopefully give you a leg up next time that the budget cuts fall.
A.J. Million is the Chair-Elect of the SLA Transportation Division. He’s a Doctoral Student at the University of Missouri and big believer in short biographical sketches. You can find out more at: www.amillion.us.