During our conversations with clients, prospective clients and information management professionals across the globe, we observe that the same six challenges to library success and sustainability keep surfacing, no matter the organization size, sector or geography. In this blog post series, we’ll explore these challenges one by one.
The first (and by far the most mentioned) challenge is the struggle to avoid the shrinking relevance and influence of your special library—which often competes for visibility and resources among continually growing sources of content within your organization.
What we hear
“I have limited access to my company’s full portfolio of knowledge assets, and no way to control or leverage it. People go elsewhere for information, and as a result, our library’s relevance and influence is shrinking.”
The library is low priority; its services and deliverables are not tied to organizational strategy; staff and content are underutilized, and it is ultimately supplanted by other departments or other initiatives.
Overcoming the Challenge
As your organization changes and grows over time, the content and services you provide need to keep pace. That’s the way to ensure staff throughout the organization continue to rely on the library, and see it as delivering essential value. If you resist change, your content and services are at risk of being underutilized, and eventually deprioritized.
Staying ahead of change requires asking three important questions:
- Who are my clients?
- Where are they finding their information?
- What makes my clients successful?
Two kinds of clients
Make sure you understand which users most rely on internal or externally sourced content to get their jobs done, and how they use that information. In addition, understand who else in your organization is called on to capture and deliver data and content. Which departments are they in? What roles do they play? Your internal clients aren’t just the information consumers—they may be information providers with whom you can collaborate rather than compete.
Do your research
Continually reach out to content consumers, and learn where they are currently finding their information—and most important, how the library can enrich that content and improve access to it. For example, can your users view relevant library-sourced content from within the SharePoint portal, or via their mobile device …or is the library represented only by a link on an intranet page? Are your users routinely going to third party information providers instead of to the library? Are they making assumptions about what content and services you offer?
Once you understand the needs, behaviors and priorities of your clients, as the information expert you’re in a great position to partner with other internal teams such as IT, Marketing, or Professional Development to provide a superior mechanism for effective knowledge capture and access. For example, with a KM or ILS application that offers direct connections to pre-existing content, no matter where it resides, you can aggregate and provide access to all your organization’s information assets through a single venue. You can offer tools like real time updating, personalization options and a structure that enables you to apply a highly relevant taxonomy and metadata. Your IT team will love you and you’ll share success.
Always remember, your library should be the hub for your organization’s information assets, and it can be, so long as you understand your clients—and make sure you combine high touch and high tech in support of their needs, behaviors and priorities.
We’ll address the other five top challenges to library sustainability in future blog posts, so please stay tuned. If you’d like to watch our recent webinar, “How to Overcome 6 Important Library Challenges,” we have posted it below—please check it out.
If you’ve faced and/or addressed this challenge, we’d love to to hear about your experiences. Please share via the comments box below.
Skills for special librarians who telework include setting boundaries to separate work life from home life; suggestions from a freelance consultant
Special librarians increasingly work in virtual settings; there are many free tools to create online resources to information and work virtually
Skills for special librarians include tuning out to avoid burnout; disconnecting from work, taking time every day to revitalize energy and enthusiasm
Skills for special librarians include using the Universal Design for Learning framework to develop meaningful training for users of special libraries