Deciphering Library Value from a Business Perspective

April 17, 2014

For the past couple of months I have been working on a great new project with HBR Consulting. HBR was awarded the opportunity to do a research study for the American Association of Law Libraries on the value of law libraries in today’s legal environment.

The project is important in my view because it aims to deliver actionable information for law libraries to adjust for their own organizations. A focus on facilitating communication  of value is a central component. Perhaps even more importantly, there is a concerted effort in the work to understand what the library’s institution values and how the library can and should support that framework.

As the announcement about the project explained:

“The objective of this project is to produce a comprehensive study of the return on investment and the consequent value proposition that law libraries provide,” said AALL President Steven P. Anderson.

This project builds upon some work I have done in the past.  Namely a discussion of valuation methodologies contained one of my books, Adding Value in Corporate Libraries and Information Services and an article published in SLA’s Information Outlook “Beyond Metrics”. (Membership Required)

It is exciting to be a part of the work with HBR and AALL.

If you are interested in learning more feel free to contact me. A survey will be conducted later in the project that will seek input from stakeholders and information professionals so stay tuned.

Constance Ard
April 17, 2014


How Thinking About Corporate Libraries and Basic Information Professional Skills Weathered the Long Winter

March 11, 2014

I don’t know about you but it has been an unexpectedly long and challenging winter. Luckily I have had several projects that have kept me focused and busy and I can greet the spring with a sense of accomplishment and promise.

In February I completed the manuscript for my latest book, Corporate Libraries: Basic Principles in a Changing Landscape. This was a great project for me because I worked with some top notch contributors, Ulla de Stricker, Heather Carine, Marydee Ojala, Jacqueline Bartek. In addition, James Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein offered some words of wisdom.

I also picked up on some work that Matarazzo did back in 1990. His Corporate Library Excellence had profiles of several well respected corporate libraries including Abbott Laboratories. Due to the recent hire of a colleague of mine at Abbott, I knew this corporate library was still an example of excellence. So I reached out to both Abbott Laboratories Library Services and the AbbVie Library.

The contributions by both Brenda Stenger and Wendy Hamilton added two very rich case studies that demonstrate the importance of basic information professional skills in providing excellent library services.

Writing the book offered me the opportunity to look at how information professionals were applying their skills in new arenas such as big data. Technology is the tool that must be mastered and handled with craftsmanship in the land of corporate and special libraries. Evaluating and offering my own thoughts about why skills related to the collection, organization, and access to information remains crucial in today’s highly technical environment was a great way to begin 2014.

As we move into the season of renewal, I’m taking on a new project that will take me deep into the realm of library service valuation. Stay tuned for more.

Constance Ard, March 11, 2014

Knowledge Management Practice in Organizations: The View from Inside

February 11, 2014

Today, I got a package in the mail that reminded me about  a great project I had the opportunity to be involved in. Ulla de Stricker is one of the gurus of knowledge management and information science.

KM Book The book can be purchase at: 

Ulla is a wise and energetic woman with an amazing amount of practical knowledge. She is first and foremost my mentor. She is also a great colleague. Back in August 2013 we were talking and she asked me to participate in the creation of a very practical work on Knowledge Management.

Collaborating with Ulla, Karen, Deborah, Gordon, Connie and Cynthia was a wonderful experience for me. Ulla describes in her post, New KM Book – Thanks to Collaboration.  You can see the list of chapters there.

Ulla provides a succinct explanation of the goal for the project:

Our goal was to construct a practical overview of “KM in the real world”.  Each of us has on-the-ground experience with KM in many forms, and it has been our pleasure to distill it for the benefit of our future readers.

If you are working with KM initiatives in your organization I highly recommend taking a look at this work. It covers cultural challenges, social media, the knowledge audit and so much more.

Perhaps one of the most useful components is related to leveraging consulting expertise. I was proud to collaborate with Ulla on that chapter and share some of the insights I have gained about why consultants can be a worthwhile investment to get the structure in place for a successful KM implementation.

Thanks to Ulla and all of the author’s for including me in this project. It is always a pleasure to share my own lessons learned.

Constance Ard, February 11, 2014

Will New Library Models Inspired by Emerging Technologies Persist?

January 13, 2014

As I continue to work on my new Corporate Libraries study I am running across some interesting items about emerging services and the new ways to keep libraries relevant.  Some of them are inspiring while others are a bit redundant and not exactly new.

A September 2012 article from Library Journal by David Weinberger, “Library as Platform” offers an idea that is being implemented in interesting ways by some forward thinking libraries.  I found my way to the Weinberger article through an article by Louisa Verma, “Using Mobile Technologies to Connect Face-to-Face.”

The article begins with a discussion of Facebook and the creativity that occurred when external developers were given the opportunity to build applications. Taking that thought forward to libraries as platforms, Weinberger encourages readers to think not about software platforms in the vein of Facebook but as a path to developing knowledge and community.

Weinberger states that an important reason to think about libraries as platforms:

It focuses our attention away from the provisioning of resources to the foment those resources engender. A library as platform would give rise to messy, rich networks of people and ideas, continuously sparked and maintained by the library’s resources. A library as platform is more how than where, more hyperlinks than container, more hubbub than hub.

The library as a platform has the potential to “increase its value by providing access to that which is built on it.”  The ability to provide access to everything possible is a lofty goal. When viewed from the corporate library lens, it is not necessarily a good one.  However, creating a path to social knowledge networks may indeed be a valuable service option for some libraries.

AS I read Verma’s article I was impressed by the expansion of the target audience for her mobile technology programs from clinical staff to all staff. This expansion created an environment of  collaboration for the program that grew organically.

I don’t know that library as a platform is going to catch the attention of the library world the way that Web 2.0 did.  However, the concepts Weinberger presents can certainly be used as food for thought when an information professional is struggling with an emerging technology and the need to provide supportive services. Thinking creatively and strategically to continue to provide corporate library service that delivers a value to the end user and that is recognized by the management is the ultimate goal for today’s environment. Service for service’s sake is definitely the bygone age so if library as platform delivers value that impacts the bottom line positively, so be it. Otherwise, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Constance Ard, January 13, 2013

Pew Report on Libraries Underscores Opportunities for Information Professionals to Lead the Charge in Asserting the Value of Librarians and Libraries

January 2, 2014

After a lazy day yesterday it is time to buckle down.  I’m working on a new study for the Ark Group on Corporate Libraries and I have lined up some great contributors.  In addition, I’m staying busy with a few ongoing projects. 

During the lazy browsing I did yesterday I came across this post from Beyond Search, “Libraries: A Good Thing.” Stephen Arnold is a long time contributor to the information industry, think in terms of ABI/Inform. So his advocacy for librarians is well known to his followers. This article demonstrates that advocacy.

Google was a grand innovation in the early days of Internet search.  Now, it often disappoints information seekers and the return to a focus on quality, vetted information sources seems to be growing.

A report from Pew Research underscores the value placed on public libraries. How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities is available online.  The findings are worth noting, especially in terms of impact.

95% of Americans ages 16 and older agree that the materials and resources available at public libraries play an important role in giving everyone a chance to succeed

95% say that public libraries are important because they promote literacy and a love of reading

94% say that having a public library improves the quality of life in a community;

81% say that public libraries provide many services people would have a hard time finding elsewhere.

In reading Arnold’s analysis of the report he points out that with 54% of Americans having used the library in the last 12 months there is some work to be done.

If accurate, this statement identifies a Pew sampling issue and underscores the need to reach the 46 percent of folks who don’t use the library more than once in a blue moon.

Libraries are slow to change.  Opportunities for innovating service delivery is constrained by budget concerns. As those budget constraints force less and less access to non-Google resources, the opportunity for entrepreneurs, individuals and small businesses to innovate will also be constrained.

Access to information, high quality, well researched information and the ability to use that information is critical for continuous economic development.  The news that more people are using the library leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Why? Economic recession that began in 2008. What they are using? Music and DVDs or access to hard to get commercial databases?

Arnold’s conclusion touches on a growing concern that professional librarians need to be aware of and willing to communicate up the chain to institutional leadership.

The Pew Report does little to lessen my concern that easily distorted free Internet information is creating a false sense of “research security.” Libraries are an asset. I want to see them become more important, offer more commercial database access, and communicate that there is more to research than letting Google’s personalized research provide information automatically.

When information professionals take an assertive role in letting leaders and users know that free comes at a high cost, the value of the library just might start to be reasserted beyond popular public library services. The opportunity to impact corporate, special, law and academic libraries in the long tradition of high quality information and higher quality information services is ready for library leaders to capitalize. 

Constance Ard, January 2, 2014

Digital Information: Gaps in Knowledge Understanding and Access

January 30, 2013

Stephen Arnold took a conversation he and a few of our colleagues had and wrote more about it in his Beyond Search blog. “Thoughts about Commercial Databases: 2013” is worth a review and I’ve added a few of my own thoughts here for your consideration.

The conclusion of our discussion is summed up nicely  by Arnold in that the digital future of information companies is gloomy and his post outlines a few familiar names in the world of libraries.

  • Ebsco Electronic Publishing (everything but the kitchen sink coverage)
  • Elsevier (scientific and technical with Fast Search in its background)
  • ProQuest (everything but the kitchen sink coverage plus Dialog)
  • Thomson Reuters (multiple disciplines, including financial real time info)
  • Wolters Kluwer (mostly legal and medical and a truckload of individual brands)

During our discussion the questions was posed, how can database companies grow? The short answer is their are no obvious growth patterns beyond acquiring other information publishers. A point that caused one in the group to say, eventually the beasts will begin eating themselves because of the hunger when there is no fresh meat. Amusing and yet frightening.

Arnold quotes “Why Acquisitions Fail: The Five Main Factory by Pearson Education” to explain the key factors in why acquisitions result in problems rather than soaring success.

The fact that library budgets continue to shrink, open access continues to grow and  large database companies fail to adjust business models for these realities causes deep concern for the researcher in me. As Arnold states:

The business model for these firms has been built on selling “must have” information to markets who need the information to do their job. The reason for the stress on this group of companies is that the traditional customers are strapped for cash or have lower cost alternatives.

Other concerns abound as well. As libraries continue to limit access to physical collections thanks to the value of library real estate, strain is placed on the serendipity of browsing researchers. Digital research presents its own challenges. It often leaves one feeling as though they have retrieved a a good match but is it really the best and is it complete? When you add in that many of today’s students, even those training to be librarians,  do not successfully distinguish between source and provider in the electronic age, the concerns for access, understanding and knowledge abound.

While Arnold concentrates on the outlook of commercial databases and even suggests that an acquisition by Google to monetize the content with ads could be a shift in the future of information publishing, there are other concerns to ponder.  Curated content has a future, but what that future holds in terms of commercial versus open access is yet to be thought out in light of what Arnold suggests as the trend for 2013 commercial databases.

Those who think that public search companies are keeping the archive of all digital information are in for a rude awakening. Librarians and information professionals need to get beyond teaching people how to search. As professionals, we have a duty to understand the business pressures of our information suppliers, free or fee, and what those pressures do to the availability of yesterday’s information in today’s reality of right now access.

Information professionals must think about and prepare for the inevitability of lost information. The Way Back Machine may be expanding their database but they are not archiving the complete history of companies that are no longer in business. Think about the number of start-ups that are no longer around, who were the corporate officers, what was their credit history? The gaps in corporate information mean that there will be gaps in ongoing competitive intelligence.

This is a simple issue on the surface with unfolding complexities that warrant thought and planning and action. Just as the burning of the Timbuktu library means of loss of valuable information, so too do the cost pressures and lack of access and exposure to digital data.

Innovation on the commercial side seems nearly impossible. Curation and access on the public search side is limited by the ability for providers to drive their profit in light of their own business models. Open access is being challenged to the point where advocates such as Aaron Swartz ends his own life. The Library of Congress is archiving Twitter when they may be better serving the longevity of knowledge and information by archiving the “free” information on the world wide web.

Of course, the practical part of me that understands that daily life grinds on no matter what understands that this is a good intellectual argument. In the long run will this have a significant impact on daily life? Probably not. It is something that when I think about the history of knowledge and culture, gets my mind whirling. Business will do what businesses do, libraries will do what libraries do and maybe just maybe the digital gaps won’t cause overwhelming repetition of mistakes.

Either way, it is fun to think and share and get input from intelligent colleagues.

Constance Ard, January 30, 2013


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 438 other followers