The Special Libraries Association has a competency list for special libraries. One of the competencies is Information and Data Retrieval and Analysis.
Included within that competency is the ability to “Interview and consult with community members to identify and clarify information and knowledge needs.” The reference interview is one way to meet this competency. Another way to meet the competency is to conduct a needs analysis.
According to Training Industry, a needs analysis “is a formal, systematic process of identifying and evaluating training that should be done, or specific needs of an individual or group of employees, customers, suppliers, etc. Needs are often referred to as “gaps,” or the difference between what is currently done and what should be performed. Also referred to as Gap Analysis, or Needs Assessment.”
A needs analysis is useful because it allows you to step back, focus on an organizational goal, and then see the big picture related to that goal. A needs analysis will help you prioritize training and resources. It will also help you determine how best to allocate resources.
You may want to conduct a needs analysis when implementing a new training program, deciding on a new software package or database, and when you are reorganizing your library personnel.
In order to conduct a needs analysis, you need to:
- Determine objectives: At this stage consider what objectives/goals your organization has. To determine the objectives, you may need to consult with others outside the library, consult with library staff, or both.
- Develop a plan for gathering data on the objectives: Your plan for gathering data needs to be focused on the objectives. You should identify who can help you determine what information is available and how it can best be collected. For example, you will need to consider both qualitative and quantitative sources.
- Identify what is currently being done to meet the objectives: Once data is collected, you should analyze it and identify what is already being done.
- Identify where gaps exist in meeting the objectives: Once data is collected, you should analyze it and identify where the objectives are not being met.
Once you have determined where gaps exist, the next step is to address the need. Determine what training needs to be developed. Select the database that helps fill the gap. Reorganize personnel to meet the needs of the organization.
To get an idea of how you might want to organize a needs analysis, templates are available online. Here are some suggested sites:
Lauren Hays, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Technology at the University of Central Missouri, and a frequent presenter on topics related to libraries and librarianship. Her expertise includes information literacy, educational technology, and library and information science education. Please read Lauren’s other posts relevant to special librarians. And take a look at Lucidea’s powerful integrated library systems, SydneyEnterprise, and GeniePlus used daily by innovative special librarians in libraries of all types, sizes and budgets.
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