CEBTS - Consortium of European Baptist Theological Schools

Justifying the place of the Library in the institution

Judy Powles
Spurgeon's College Library
March 2007

"People find all they want on the internet these days. Why do they need a Library?"

"Libraries cost money - let's cut the library budget - we don't need so many books, journals and staff …"

Overview of Presentation

  • Why bother?
  • What is marketing?
  • Why is your library essential to your institution?
  • Can it make money?
  • Why is the internet not the answer?
  • Developing an action plan
  • Conclusion

Why bother?

  • All departments in your institution are asking for money for THEIR needs.
  • The governing body see the internet as a cheap alternative to a library.
  • They don't use it so they don't want it.
  • The library is an easy target for cuts - staff and books cost MONEY.
  • …If this isn't your situation TODAY, don't be complacent - it could happen TOMORROW.

Remember …

Many libraries fail because:

  • the Governing Body does not understand what the Library offers.
  • This means that the Library (this means YOU!) has failed to communicate to the Governing Body what it offers.

What is Marketing?

  • Not advertising!
  • Looking at your organisation
  • Seeing its needs
  • Designing services to suit your users
  • Communicating those services
  • Refining those services as your users' needs change

Why is your library essential?

  1. Validation/Accreditation requirements
  2. Marketing possibilities
  3. Income generation
  4. Publishing explosion
  5. Patterns of study
  6. We can't rely on borrowing from/using other libraries
  7. We can't rely on electronic resources - the internet is not the answer

Validation/Accreditation requirements

  • Essential to maintain good standards (book/journal stock + physical environment) to fulfil validation requirements.
  • A poor library facility may harm validation process.

Marketing possibilities

  • In a competitive recruitment market potential students may be put off by an unwelcoming library area.
  • An exciting, attractive library facility will ATTRACT APPLICATIONS - the library can be the shop-front for your institution
  • This means more MONEY for the institution! Income generation
  • An attractive library with generous study space and good security can be marketed to EXTERNAL users.
  • This will provide significant income
  • And …
  • Raise the profile of the institution in the wider world.

Publishing explosion

  • The amount of new material published each year in Biblical studies and Theology has RISEN.
  • Therefore MORE space, not less, is required.
  • Large scale stock weeding is not good practice because:-
  • Inter-library loan support is less reliable in the current era

Patterns of study

  • More students want to sit in a library area for quiet study.
  • They value a peaceful environment away from telephones and family distractions.
  • Books in heavy demand often need to be consulted in the Library.
  • A comfortable, welcoming environment encourages library use

Reliance on Inter-Library loans

  • Not good policy to assume a library can borrow from other libraries to supplement a poor book budget.
  • Most libraries are having to cut back for space/budgetary problems, even national libraries.
  • Inter-Library loans are EXPENSIVE

Reliance on Other Libraries

  • It is less easy for students to gain access to other institutions who themselves may have insufficient study spaces or staff to cope with visitor enquiries.
  • External access can be expensive.
  • Do our students pay for themselves to join other libraries or do we pay for them? - an added expense.

Reliance on Electronic Resources

  • There are undoubted benefits, especially in reference material and some key texts
  • But …
  • You must note the following …

Significant factors

  • Much theological/biblical research material is NOT available electronically
  • And NEVER will be.
  • Copyright is a major issue here.

Module delivery

  • If our organisations still favour the use of PRINTED material in module delivery, are our students likely to become increasingly dependent on electronic resources?

Problems with suppliers/publishers

  • Electronic resources can be withdrawn at any time by a supplier/publisher if not making a profit.
  • A publisher may go bankrupt
  • This would mean that electronic access to back issues is no longer available.
  • With a hard-copy subscription a library retains all back issues even if a publisher ceases to trade.

Costs of access to electronic resources

  • May escalate beyond one's budgetary resources.
  • Some publishers have already introduced huge increases in subscription rates to allow a "premium rate" for access to back issues.

Selection criteria - the library shelf versus Google!

  • Books added to library stock have gone through a selection/evaluation process.
  • Material on the internet has not.
  • For example, a Google search on "Genesis" gives 50 million+ hits. Even a search on "Genesis commentary" gives 1 million+ hits - and nothing on the first page can be recommended.
  • Searching along a shelf of Genesis commentaries is much more efficient and effective.

Internet = an overrated tool

  • People who already have good academic skills can use it wisely, but:-
  • Less able students do not have the skills to weigh up the academic reliability of internet sites and material.
  • Books/journals on a Library shelf …
  • have gone through an editorial process before publication, and then -
  • Have passed a selection process to be included in the Library

Handling a book

  • Students learn from handling a book ….
  • At a glance they can get an idea of its publication date - is it recent or not?
  • Using sources on the internet, they can easily quote from something which was published in the 19th century and which may be totally out of date.

Reading speed

Printing costs

  • Printing out material from the internet is wasteful and often more expensive than buying a book containing the same material.

The digital ice-age!

  • It is a recognised fact that there are significant problems with keeping the formatting of digital files up to date.
  • A recent article "The Digital Ice Age" in an American journal "Popular Mechanics" (December 2006) shows that the documents of our time are being recorded in digital format with no guarantee of future readability.
  • As technologies change, we may find our files frozen in forgotten formats


  • What would happen if electronic terrorism closed the internet or shut down the electricity supply for a significant period of time?
  • To assume this could not happen is burying one's head in the sand.

The printed book rules!

  • The vast majority of library users, if asked, prefer the PRINTED copy.
  • They do not like consulting texts on screen.
  • This is the case across the age range - and includes younger students.

Developing an action plan

  • Decide what the Governing Body needs to know about the Library, then …
  • Identify what the Library can contribute to the organisation's purpose/mission.
  • Communicate this CLEARLY
  • Use positive "Can-Do" statements
  • Don't MOAN and don't be negative!

Work out your Unique Selling Points (USPs)

  • Emphasise:-
  • The Library is great value for money
  • It has great recruitment potential - the "shop-front".
  • The Library contains high quality information - better than Google!
  • The Library's information can be trusted - selection criteria have been used.
  • It supports the institution's curriculum needs.

More USPs

  • Library staff save time for both academic staff and students, and help with study skills for students.
  • Library staff remove stress for both academic staff and students
  • Library staff help academic staff in their research - leading to publications which raise the profile of the institution.
  • The Library helps to preserve and distribute this research.
  • Library users can talk to library staff in person.
  • The friendly, personal touch of the information professional is all IMPORTANT.

Emphasise the risks if the Library is not maintained

  • An unattractive, poorly maintained library will mean that potential students will go elsewhere, thus losing income for the institution
  • External users will go elsewhere, thus losing income.
  • Validation may be lost
  • Students may not perform well - Standards will fall.
  • Potential students will go elsewhere

More risks …

  • Academic staff will not achieve their research objectives - Standards will fall.
  • Potential new academic staff will go elsewhere where there is good library support.
  • Research will be lost.
  • Standards will fall further.
  • More income will be lost …

The result of this could be …


Action plan - final step

  • PROVE that your Library is making a DIFFERENCE to the institution.
  • Use verbatim comments from library users - academic staff and students - showing how they value what the Library and the Library staff offer.
  • Use statistics showing usage, etc.


  • By emphasising your Unique Selling Points and …
  • Communicating effectively with your Governing Body, you can show that …
  • Your Library deserves a place at the heart of your institution - fully funded and maintained.

Conference for theological librarians 2007


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