NASIG 2013: The Value of Serials in Academic & Special Libraries

CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 2013-06-10
“Xwi7xwa Library Interior 4” by UBC Library

Speaker: Megan Oakleaf

She had written a report for ACRL on the value of academic libraries, so this will be a take off on that as it relates to serials in libraries.

There has been a shift in the literature from talking about the stuff/products/collection to the service we provide to help our users do things with the stuff.

What is value in the context of serials? Some people equate the value of the serials collection to the level of satisfaction of the users. This is not a compelling metric in times of economic uncertainty. Another measure of value might be service quality, but the data from LibQual doesn’t get at it very well. What about input/output? We’re pretty good at counting volumes/titles, but this also not compelling.

Usage just tells us that a lot of people downloaded a lot of things, and not much more than that — certainly not what they did with it, if anything. Information as a commodity (i.e. users would have to spend $$ to get the content we provide) or ROI still doesn’t get at the real value of the information to the users, and getting to that number doesn’t really tell you how much users would spend if they had to.

Right now, impact is the trendy measure of value. It’s about how much good the users do with the serials collection that your institution values, rather than how good of a collection you have.

The context for value matters. It might be the institutional or organizational mission, goals, strategic priorities, or focus areas.

Higher education values student recruitment/enrollment, student learning outcomes, retention/completion, and career success. Where do serials contribute? Academic success, yes, but the volume count given by tour guides doesn’t impress. Journal articles in required reading and papers, and one way to measure the value would be the dollar amount of the reading/reserve lists. Alumni access is becoming more popular as graduates recognize the value of library resources after they complete their degree.

Higher education is also concerned with faculty recruitment, tenure, promotion, teaching, and grants/patents. ILL and delivery service is important — Oakleaf says she won’t go anywhere else without finding out about that first. Make sure the faculty hiring process includes some time at the library. With tenure and promotion, serials librarians can play a role in helping junior faculty determine where to submit articles and how to find citations. We need to articulate the connection between faculty output and library resources.

Higher education is concerned with institutional prestige and local & global workforce development. Libraries are the main draw for local economic forces, and providing access to walk-in users can show value.

Serials collections can save time and have an impact on the bottom line. In the medical environment, serials collections can save lives and provide patients with valuable information to help them maintain and improve their own health.

What are the focus areas of your institution? Where do serials intersect? How do you communicate that value to the people for whom it matters?

We need better data about use. We need to know more than what we have now. We need to correlate usage to GPA, but we can’t do that until we know more about who is using the content. And, no, we can’t prove causation.

We need use data that doesn’t exist. We need to know at what use should be there based on needs/requirements, but isn’t.

What does your communication about the value of serials look like? What concept of value is it based on? Even better, can you show that this will increase the things that your institution values?