What do online-only discussions, Lego, e-resources, processes and reading lists have in common? On the face of it very little. Practically speaking these were the core elements of my last week, and it was curious how in the end they all informed each other.
Here's the Lego model which represents yours truly created (by myself and one other member of staff) as part of a lego workshop run by Andy Priestner for the EFL staff. Although this happened at the beginning of the week, it was a rather uncanny summary of the week to come. Incidentally EFL staff are still talking, a week on, about the workshop, and loving our little Lego presents from Andy!
Some of the key issues of the week:
1. Concerns over proposing e-only resources cannot be disregarded. Arguably concerns about reduced budgets mean we might need to go for what appears to be the cheaper option ie online, ( although please don't forget the 20%VAT!) but once we put the user into the equation, the whole thing gets turned on its head as we must realise that the cost to the library will likely be a loss of customers? Why? Becasue libraries are consistently failing to provide e-only at the speed that users expect. They will go to Google because Google satsifies their need for quick and easy access. They like print, but if it no longer exists for them in a library they will go to where they can get it quickly and cheaply ie Amazon, and if they want to use e-books they will use their Christmas present Kindles and download whatever they can get quickly and ideally for free from Amazon.
Students are file sharing, which we may know is illegal, but users do what they can to get hold of what they want quickly and effectively. The cost to the library also increases if e-only is put in its proper context where discovery tools and related strategies and procedures must be in place to maintain ease of access to online. I don't see how e-only can be cheaper.
2. Understanding our own skills and that of our colleagues is essential for the processes and procedures that we have in place to work. The best procedure on paper will not always work in practice if staff do not play ball. Communication is of paramount importance. I have started to work on the assumption that I have never done quite enough in this area. When I have become complacent (and/or too busy), things fall apart.
3. Always always always put the user into the equation and work out what they want. A reading list that an academic has sweated over is useless if no one uses it. A database recommended by an individual Phd student or academic cannot possibly be purchased on the basis of that one recommendation. The user population at large should be consulted. Changes in management structures, whether driven primarily by finance issues or not, must have the user's needs at the heart. Senior management may claim to know what user's needs are. I sometimes wonder what the basis is for this assertion? I would challenge them to go and talk to their users and find out what they think and what they are doing. I like to think that I put users first, but there have been too many times when I have failed to consult before acting. I am learning the lesson that when I remember to talk to them, then services that emerge are targeted, personalised and much appreciated.
4. Finally summary point for the whole week - building in time for creativity is absolutely mind-blowingly essential for our roles in library services.