CEBTS - Consortium of European Baptist Theological Schools


Justifying the place of the Library in the institution

Author:
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) http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4201645.html 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

Terrorism?

  • 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 …

  • THE INSTITUTION CLOSES!

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.

Conclusion

  • 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


CEBTS

Contact e-mail: info@cebts.eu

More contacts »