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SLA 2005: Justifying the Library's Existence

Some banks do better than others. And I'm willing to bet that they do better because they let customers know what the bank can do for them. The not-so-successful ones probably just wait for customers to find out what the bank has to offer. But customers don't come, profits don't materialize, investors bail out, and the bank eventually closes. Libraries, I believe, are the same.

"Making a Business Case for the Information Center: Key Strategies for Business and Financial Libraries" was a continuing education (CE) course and, as such, it should have cost me US$250. But since I was entitled to attend one CE course as part of the award that I received, I got in for free. It was a four-hour course where I was able to participate in discussions that centered on what can be done to convince decision-makers that what information professionals do is important. What I found most encouraging was that participants were focused on being proactive and customer-oriented. For more information, see the slides (pdf) shown by Lesley Robinson, the speaker, and "Writing a business case to improve organisational impact" (pdf; Legal Information Management, March 2005).

"Top 10 Tips" sounded like a good session to attend. What I didn't know was that all the tips had to do with news libraries. But it was good, in a way, because I've always been interested in newspaper operations and some of the tips could, in fact, be applied to just about any library. For example, one tip involved the compilation of a "kudos file," where all compliments and notes of appreciation were filed, which would then be emailed to the community at regular intervals just to show that the library was serving its purpose. The compilation also became a means to identify those who were either not using the library or were not being served properly. While listening, it also occurred to me that the compilation would be a good candidate for a blog. For a list of all the tips, see "SLA Notes: Ten Top Tricks for News Libraries."

Libraries may not be profit centers, but there is a need to show that they add value to a community or an institution. No one is obliged to recognize the importance of the library. The librarian must, therefore, proactively seek to convince others of the need for the library.


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