Griffiths theatre 1 what are you worth (2011 12-01)


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What are you worth in cost conscious times?My presentation at Online Information 2011 discusses the value of library and information professionals, their services and skills, and asks what value remains in collections.

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Griffiths theatre 1 what are you worth (2011 12-01)

  1. 1. Demonstrating the value of information services and information professionals Peter Griffiths Independent Information SpecialistOnline Information 2011 – Theatre 1, 1 December 2011
  2. 2.  On a global scale In every type of information service and library The financial pressures we are facing come largely from inexorable economic, social, and demographic trends over which […] librarians have no control. And they will undoubtedly get worse in the decade ahead. - Richard de Gennaro But should the focus be on cost or value?
  3. 3. ◦ ‘When funding diminishes, public scrutiny sharpens toward such nonrevenue producing sectors as police, fire, sewers, roads, schools and libraries. Police or sewers? Roads or libraries? One overarching trend is that scarce funds for supporting all the public goods will make for an acrimonious process of resource allocation.’ – The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan : pattern recognition. This is not just an issue for public libraries It’s a key issue for information services in both the public and private sectors
  4. 4.  In the current economic climate, information services of all types are under increasing pressure to measure their value. (Marshall, 1993) In times of economic distress, the roles and activities of institutions are scrutinized with particular fervor. The library is no exception. (Bookstein, 1981) In a new era of austerity in […] libraries, more realistic concepts of collection building will have to be adopted and new patterns of service will have to be devised (de Gennaro, 1975)  And so on …
  5. 5.  The organisations that fund us are under pressure to show value for money… … and ask us to show VfM in their terms, not ours Libraries and information services see their value in things you can’t put a price on directly … ◦ enhancing social cohesion and community identity ◦ increasing equity and access in society … as well as in more calculable benefits Attempts to calculate financial value have been flawed ◦ Critics find it easy to challenge claims – libraries find it difficult to prove them ◦ Where is our evidence?
  6. 6.  In the library collection? ◦ Increasingly the collection is electronic, the place is small ◦ The collection doesn’t exist in a physical sense but is mainly assembled on demand to resolve a query ◦ Others have near-identical collections, and users have access to alternative collections via the Internet ◦ Where and what is the value of the stock anyway?  Physical value of print on paper between covers (antiquarian curios or books by the metre?)  In the juxtaposition of related items curated by subject experts?  Accountants – half the books are worth £1 each, the others aren’t (but we don’t know which half)
  7. 7.  In the LIS personnel? ◦ A team that brings its expertise to the service ◦ Expert knowledge  But this is being outsourced – supplier selection  Wikipedia makes everyone an “expert” ◦ Peer-level colleagues of the users In what the LIS professionals are able to undertake? ◦ A range of opportunities that need LIS / KM / IM skills … ◦ … but not necessarily any kind of LIS collection?
  8. 8. The problem of “squidgy” measuresand “crunchy” funding pressures ◦ “New research has further strengthened the case for the public library as a highly valued community asset which makes a substantial impact on the lives of both individuals and communities.” (Green and McKrell, 1997) (Yes, but what does it cost and how much is it worth?)
  9. 9.  In the library and information service? ◦ Calculating the value of support to other activity e.g. learning ◦ Calculating the value of contribution to political / social objectives  Direct, e.g. in support of government objectives like learning  Semi-direct e.g. by giving citizens access to e-government services (they could go to a cybercafe or an Advice Bureau or a friend)  Indirect e.g. indirectly reducing crime by running homework clubs, or through prison libraries ◦ Problem of defining the service, scoping the alternatives, and allocating authentic costs (and valuing benefits)
  10. 10.  In the user’s use and appreciation of the service? ◦ How do users estimate value? ◦ How do they express it? Current measures reflect user activity, not the service provider (Hammond, 2002) ◦ Loans, enquiries, library visits are initiated by service users ◦ Many base costs of the service remain however few or many times the service is used ◦ Therefore service funders cut the entire service in order to save
  11. 11.  “The absolute nightmare for the library service is that they close it down and don’t actually save any money. That seems to be what is happening - slowly but surely the service is being torn apart - first books, then opening hours, then buildings - and at the end of it all the cost is exactly the same as it was before.”  Tim Coates, November 2011 (quoted in The Bookseller)
  12. 12.  Many current systems measure activity not benefit ◦ CIPFA public library statistics – everything that moves ◦ BUT – what benefit was gained from the activity? ◦ BUT – are the available resources any use to satisfy user needs? Some attempts to quantify value  described in following slides
  13. 13.  So how have others tried to prove the value of library and information services? ◦ Benefit calculators (Massachusetts Library Association)  Provide value for tax dollar based on your use of services  Based on assumptions that are open to challenge  eBooks have changed the equation – so, say the doubters, has Google  n.b. - your funding body will challenge any advocacy that doesn’t support their view of what the service is worth  More work is needed, and some common base data  how much does borrowing a book actually save?  how much might borrowing the wrong book cost?  was this the cheapest way of obtaining the information  would something else have done equally as well (esp. fiction)?
  14. 14.  Some more methods of proving service value ◦ Contingent valuation (CV) – what would people be willing to pay to keep the service, or willing to accept to lose it?  Allows a value to be calculated for a public good  Notable work by Aabø (though open to challenge)  British Library used CV to derive its value to the UK taxpayer  Doesn’t prove your service is the best way to deliver requirements ◦ Secondary economic impact – what indirect benefits accrue?  e.g. Service staff pay taxes and make purchases in the locality  e.g. People using the service also visit nearby businesses  e.g. Good information services may attract new businesses to the area  BUT indirect benefits often don’t benefit the people who directly fund you
  15. 15.  Aabø reports CV values of 4:1 Do the same values apply outside Norway? Jo Nesbø’s latest novel – NOK 399 = £47 or $73
  16. 16.  Comparing the inputs to the LIS with the value of the output Not as simple as it might sound… How much does an LIS activity cost? ◦ What’s the cost of a book?  Local bookstore, chain bookstore, library supplier, Amazon  What about an academic title that costs £100?  Is there a standard cost – or is the best available only an average? And how do you value the output? ◦ Use of surveys – can be very subjective
  17. 17. Costs used to populate the ROI calculatorUS university library• The figures aren’t ROI, they’re guesstimates of retail costs• The costs are subjective – our headsets are better so worth double what you pay on an airline• The originating library’s costs aren’t counted for ILL – but nor are they relevant to the argument
  18. 18. Place Publ. date Return ( x :1)Humboldt Universität zu Berlin 2010 0.17 / 13.93 University of Illinois (UIUC) 2010 0.27 – 15.54 South Korea (special libraries) 2008 1.85 University of Illinois (UIUC) 2008 4.38 Florida (Public libraries) 2008 8.32 Pennsylvania (Griffiths & King) 2006 5.5Southwest Ohio (Public libraries) 2005 3.81 Florida (public libraries) 2004 6.54 British Library 2004 4.4 Observations : (1), different things were counted in each case, in different ways (2), every study relied on some guesswork (3), when studies are repeated or analysed, inconsistencies appear
  19. 19.  “To date, public and special libraries are those most seriously challenged to demonstrate value in terms understood by financial managers. User communities are usually deeply appreciative of library services: we see this from the usage statistics for Australian public libraries mentioned at the beginning of this paper and from the various studies of individual government and corporate libraries. A large body of literature discusses the social benefit of libraries, but the economic benefit has been more difficult to quantify. “However, what is most needed is the systematic collection of data which can be compared nationally”. ◦ McCallum and Quinn (2004) - my emphasis
  20. 20. Libraries bolster the economic prosperity of theircommunities, they contribute to the economic well-being of the businesses that surround them, theyimprove the market worth of their communities,they support their local economies, they benefitlocal businesses, and they offer Canadians highlyskilled and often highly technical jobs in anautomated environment.Leslie Fitch and Jody Warner. Dividends : the benefit of publiclibraries in Canada. Book and Periodical Council, 1997.
  21. 21.  You need to prove real savings and added value  In business, saving 15 minutes a day of every employee’s time isn’t a real saving – they’ll just use it to drink coffee or go home early  You need to find “dark room” savings – i.e. you can turn off the lights in an empty room when they are implemented ◦ It’s difficult to convince your critics (and the financial hawks) with values that don’t start with £ $ € ¥
  22. 22.  “We’re not talking about entitlements anymore. We’re talking about value. […] Government is investing in the service. What is the intended outcome? How do we measure it? How do we determine that our shareholders—the taxpayers— are getting a return on their investment?”  Ken Haycock, Emeritus Professor, Library Science School, University of British Columbia  ‘Who cares about libraries? ‘ Macleans, 29 August 2011
  23. 23.  Demonstrate contribution to corporate objectives ◦ UK Government librarians’ Guideline sets out the value of information professionals to the business ◦ show that LIS objectives support the business ◦ You have to work with your organization – if it uses a Balanced Scorecard approach, that’s the tool you use ◦ More than that – a business tool can help you to show benefits Work within the business ◦ expose the Google fallacy ◦ highlight existing embedded roles, ◦ take on new work where IM skills can contribute positively
  24. 24.  We need more and better evidence ◦ US, Norwegian and other studies may not hold good for other countries and markets (we will have to prove they are valid) ◦ Method still being refined (e.g. Chung - “warm glow”) ◦ Check for updates! (Florida 2004, 2008) ◦ Find out why different studies have different findings  e.g. lack of consistent data for costs of book purchase, etc Keep searching for new examples and findings ◦ The method is still developing But be sure that the case fits your situation There still isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution
  25. 25.  Look at what you do from the business’s point of view Communicate your value at every opportunity: use business language and business methods (e.g. BSC) Demonstrate smarter ways that you and the LIS work –  collaborative procurement, shared services,  not saying an automatic “yes” to every new request Collect plaudits from people the bean-counters trust  find internal champions and key users Network, research, look for unchallengeable evidence
  26. 26.  Aabø, Svanhild (2005). ‘Are public libraries worth their price?’ New Library World, 106, (1218/1219), 487-495 Bookstein, Abraham (1981). ‘An economic model of library service’. Library Quarterly, 51, (October), 410-428. Chung, Hye-Kyung (2010). ‘Assessing the warm glow effect in contingent valuation for public libraries.’ Journal of Library and Information Science, 42, 236-244 De Gennaro, Richard (1975). ‘Austerity, Technology, and Resource Sharing: Research Libraries Face the Future.’ Library Journal, 100, 10, 15 May, 917-923 De Gennaro, Richard (1980). Matching commitments to needs and resources: reflections on managing the academic library in hard times. University of Tennessee Library Lecture 32
  27. 27.  Green, A. and McKrell, L. (1997). ‘Libraries make a difference : case proven.’ Library Association record, 99 (12), December, 663-664 Grzeschik, K (2010). ‘Return on investment (ROI) in German libraries.’ The bottom line, 23 (4), 141-201 Hammond, C.J. (2002). ‘Efficiency in the provision of public services: A data envelopment analysis of UK public library systems’. Applied Economics, 34 (5), 649-657. Imholz, S. and Arns, J.W. (2007). Worth their weight: an assessment of the evolving field of library valuation, Americans for Libraries Council, available at: Jaeger, Paul and others (2011). ‘Describing and measuring the value of public libraries : the growth of the Internet and the evolution of library value.’ First Monday , 16 (11), 7 November. Web resource, /3074
  28. 28.  Marshall, Joanne (1993). The impact of information services on decision making : some lessons from the financial & healthcare sectors. London, British Library R&DD. (Information policy briefings, 1). Matthews, Joseph R. (2002). The bottom line : determining and communicating the value of the special library. Westport, CT : Libraries Unlimited. McCallum , I, Quinn, S. (2004) ‘Valuing libraries’. Australian Library Journal, 53, (1), 55-69 tml Sidorko, P.E. (2010). ‘Demonstrating RoI in the library : the Holy Grail search continues.’ Library management, 31 (8/9), 645-653
  29. 29. Peter GriffithsIndependent Information (0) 7527 177552 © Peter Griffiths 2011