Libraries are for Use

Demonstrating the value of librarianship

Notes from Cowtown: NASIG 2014 – Sunday

Of course, the final day of most library conferences is usually short, and it was soooooooo tempting to skip it; after all, my hockey team had a make-up game scheduled for 1:30, and I didn’t think I’d make it back in time.  But I “did the right thing” and went to Fort Worth.  It was worth it…

Vision Speaker, Reaching New Horizons: Gathering the Resources Librarians Need to Make Hard Decisions, Jennica Rogers

The Vision Speaker for Sunday was Jennica Rogers, from the SUNY at Potsdam library.  Jennica, of course, has been in the spotlight since her public rejection of the American Chemical Society (ACS) journal package, and their subsequent attempts to “woo” her back (can’t you read sarcasm when you see it?).  Her topic, of course, was “making hard decisions”, which of course, is what we are doing right now.  Of particular interest was her note that her library was working on creating new formulas for the distribution of book funds.  This is something we’ve considered doing, or rather, revising, but that’s another story.

Key to her presentation were three key aspects for making those hard decisions: a Framework, the Resources, and Tactics.  The framework would be environmental and personal and professional.  The environmental framework are the librarianship and academic communities.  Jennica noted the disparities highlighted in the latest Ithaka+ report between library directors and faculty regarding the role of libraries in education.  This led naturally to the personal & professional framework – that is, to “know thyself confidently“.

The resources needed include your political and personal capital, to “claim and demonstrated your expertise and authority”; the data gathered, which helps build your expertise; and “making friends”, to know who can help, support, guide and advise you.

The tactics she discussed included starting now – “there is no such thing as too early,” and finding common ground with your skeptics.  To do this, you need to find out what matters to them.  Finally, something that we librarians do well but not enough of, communicate effectively.  This involves knowing who to talk to, choosing and understanding the medium, and tuning the message to the audience.

Of particular interest was her comments about fear, notably releasing the fear.  Actually, these are all common-sense statements, but we need to be reminded of them:

  • Fear makes you defensive.
  • Fear does not make strong partnerships.
  • Fear does not allow us to make smart decisions.
  • Fear makes “safe” decisions.

Finally, regarding the move away from ACS, Jennica noted that she took cost, usage data, and alternative scenarios of resources to the faculty three years in a row before she could get the faculty on-board with the decision.

It was clear the Ms. Rogers’ purpose was to put some starch in our spines, to give us the ideas and tools to “make those hard decisions”.  Not with impunity or reckless disregard of our students and faculty, but with professional confidence and evidence.

Concurrent Session 1: Taming the Information Frontier, Carol Seiler & Jane Skoric 

I’ve known Carol Seiler (EBSCO Trainer) since she was a medical librarian in the Dallas area.  As I was interested in how EBSCO could help us with gathering data to make the “hard decisions”, I attended this session.  Jane Skoric described her efforts to review the subscriptions for her medium, private liberal arts college, which had not been reviewed for many years.  Most journals were print or print-plus and the journals were not aligned with current student needs and curricula.  The librarians were “spurred” (there were lots of Western-themed puns at this conference) by new library administration and new mission, vision & strategic plan to “transform collections”.  They initially focused on the “low-hanging fruit”, but they now review serials on an on-going process.  She farmed out titles to the subject librarians, suggesting that they consider switching to online only or eliminating duplicate titles.  The key incentive to the project was the ability to use the money saved for other purchases.  Now, our library essentially conducted this process several years ago, but with one key difference: none of the money saved could be used.  It was stricken from our budget.  I strongly urge librarians to consider doing this sort of review when you can keep the money and not wait until you’re faced with budget cuts.

Closing Remarks

Well, this concludes my notes about this conference.  This was my first NASIG conference, and I was fairly impressed.  Actually, when I first saw the CFP, I had considered the organization to be bigger than it is.  I had been aware of NASIG from my days as a clerk at the Carrollton Public Library back in the late 1980’s (about when it started).  And when I learned that the presentations were about 1 hour sessions, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have enough content to fill.  Now, the first presentation did run a little short, but we still had plenty to discuss.  Most of the other sessions that I attended were very interesting and I will be taking the ideas from every session back to my job.  I’m glad I went and I’m glad I could share our experiences.



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