ROI in special libraries


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Presentation given by Jessica Hastings of Waggener Edstrom Worldwide on demonstrating ROI in special libraries.

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  • ROI can be an extremely effective way of consistently demonstrating to key stakeholders and decision-makers that your library’s services and staff add real, tangible value to the parent organization and users. I have seen incremental benefits as a result of libraries and librarians being proactive in evaluating ROI.I obtained my MLIS from UW somewhat recently and work as an analyst on the Insight & Analytics team at Waggener Edstrom, a communications agency that specializes in high innovation clients. Most of my work involves designing and executing mid-term secondary research projects. I have a background as a Marketing and Strategy Analyst and I particularly enjoy finding ways to perform holistic business and initiative performance analyses that incorporate key performance indicators from a wide variety of sources and areas of operation. Worked closely with Finance department in my last job to put together ROI analyses for Marketing efforts. I have found it helpful to approach much of my work from that perspective and hope that I can show you that ROI is a tool and can be used to help you both optimize and explain the value of your services.
  • Ask the audience to try to provide their own definitions of ROI
  • In short, ROI is a tool to help with decision-making in either planning or evaluation of services. Most often, it is a measure of the dollar amount of an investment compared to the estimated value in dollars and cents of the outcomes, outputs, or uses of the results. The most effective ROI analyses are, however, best described as stories that weave together qualitative and quantitative assessments of the value of the library and its services.Doing more with less
  • Value, cost justifications, time-savingsHow do you add value? Best to focus on describing in terms of specific organizational context in which the library operates (mission, goals, strategies, vision). Value is subjective so consider your audience and the population being served. Having a stated value proposition that is grounded in your business and user context can be helpful in selecting metrics and assessing performance. Consider putting together a formal or informal Executive Advisory Board. As will be discussed later, there may also be colleagues in other departments who are knowledgeable about how your organization’s leadership thinks.
  • In planning, estimate of measurable outcomes expected to be achieved as a result of investment of resourcesIn evaluating performance, measurement of outcomes achieved as a result of investment of resources
  • One size does not fit all so specific metrics vary by library and are closely tied to library and company goals and strategiesTell a story (qualitative and quantitative, holistic assessment that you think will resonate with your audience). Mostly done through assumptions.Outputs: the result of a service or resource such as expanded journal collectionOutcomes: indirect results of the output or the use such as time savedUses: how the service or resources are used (new business opportunities,providing decision makers with information that impacted negotiations in the company’s favor, etc.)Ask the audience if they have any examples of some measured results that helped them demonstrate successNeed to be clear on the perspective from which ROI is being evaluated (the users, the company, the library, etc.)“Libraries will be stronger if they can demonstrate their value in terms which those that provide its funding understand. In the culture and time in which we live, “value” is understood most readily in monetary, economic terms.”And yet“There are also good reasons to be skeptical of measurements of library quality, performance, and relevance presented in purely economic terms.”Returns are tricky to show for many libraries but sometimes it can help to use what Jose-Marie Griffiths described as contingent valuation where you estimate the impact of removing the service such as costs borne by users, changes in productivity, and unanswered information needsSpecial libraries can estimate contribution to production and decision-making, time saved for employees by using library resources and expertise, increase in revenue, decrease in research and development expenses, productivity gains, and cost savings.Academic libraries can estimate value of contribution to revenue generating activities of faculty in terms of increase in productivity of researcher, retention of faculty, and even recruitment of studentsAs many services and resources are accessed online/electronically, web metrics, utilization data, email logs, etc. can be key to effectively measuring library outputs. Also helps show that you have adapted to and grasp the digital space.
  • Decision points are good parts of processes to target library services
  • Finance, Marketing, Operations, highly-valued and highly-funded departments/teamsCall out the SLA resources, particularly for some possible metrics and descriptions of library value
  • ROI in special libraries

    1. 1. ROI in special libraries<br />2011 ORSLA Breakfast – Jessica Hastings<br />
    2. 2. Introduction<br />Why ROI?<br />About me<br />Goals<br />Increase understanding of and comfort with ROI.<br />Promote awareness of how to use this tool to your advantage.<br />2<br />
    3. 3. What is ROI?<br />3<br />
    4. 4. 4<br />
    5. 5. ROI and Value<br />“Value, or return on investment (ROI), in many forms has long been a topic of interest among the library community. While value has been a recurring theme in recent trade literature and on conference agendas, much of what has been written and discussed has centered on the cost-justifications of collections or the relative time-savings of electronic literature in research processes.”<br />- Luther, J. (2008) Study looking at academic library ROI is underway.Library Connect 6(1).<br />5<br />
    6. 6. Library Contexts<br />Demonstrating the value of libraries<br />Evaluating existing services, collections, staffing levels, etc.<br />Making the case for additional resources or services<br />Recruiting support for a program or initiative<br />6<br />
    7. 7. Demonstrating ROI<br />Components of ROI analysis:<br />Measurable outcomes, outputs, or uses<br />Realistic expectations<br />Supported assumptions<br />Approaches*<br />Contingent valuation<br />Estimate contribution to revenue-generating activities<br />Survey users<br />7<br />* Lown, C. & Davis, H. (2009). Are You Worth It? What Return on Investment Can and Can’t Tell You About Your Library. In the Library with the Lead Pipe.<br />
    8. 8. ROI State of Mind<br />Increasingly regular and scrutinizing review of services*<br />Alignment with business goals and strategies<br />Clear sense of library’s mission and objectives<br />Focus on user needs and processes with services and marketing<br />Benchmarking followed by ongoing measurement & regular reporting<br />8<br />* Matthews, S. SLA 2009: ROI for Special Libraries. Vancouver Law Librarian Blog.<br />
    9. 9. ROI Resources<br />Departments in your organization<br />Vendors<br />Online resources<br />Lang, J.R. (2009) Much more on Library ROI. The Proverbial Lone Wolf Librarian’s Weblog. (<br />SLA<br />Measuring Our Value (<br />Value of the Information Center Bibliography (; login required) <br />Additional Value Resources ( <br />ALA’s ROI Bibliography (<br />ARL’s Organizational Performance Assessment for Libraries ( <br />Hadro, J. (2010) For both corporate and academic libraries, measuring value and ROI involves more than usage data and cost analysis. Library Journal. ( <br />9<br />
    10. 10. Jessica Hastings<br />Analyst, Insight & Analytics<br />Waggener Edstrom Worldwide<br /><br />Thank you!<br />