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?

musicians & librarians

It’s been a while since I wrote here, I know. I’ve been off traveling the country, and I’ve barely had time to breathe, much less write something here. Nevertheless, I shall try to summarize.

A few weekends ago, I attended the National Women’s Music Festival for the first time. It was amazing! The music was top notch, and very intimate, since this festival is not as highly attended at some others. I was able to see some performers that I already knew and loved (Wishing Chair, Jamie Anderson, Ember Swift, etc.), as well as others that I came to love after seeing them perform at the festival (Kim Archer, CommonbonD, Jennie DeVoe, etc.). Not only was the music a wonderful collection of soul food, but the festigoers were a diverse group of women who somehow managed to blend together well. It was difficult for me to transition back into the “real world” after those few days of being surrounded by the energy of women together.

I had four days of relative normalcy, and then the conference marathon began. First, I drove down to Atlanta with several of my colleagues to attend the ALA 2002 Annual Conference. This was my first ALA meeting, and I was excited to be able to go. The high light of the conference, for me, was when the Indigo Girls performed at a fundraiser for the ALA Scholarships, and I was in the second row! When I finish the roll of film in my camera & get it developed, I might have some pictures to share. It was kind of bizarre to be in a place with more than 10,000 librarians, but I got used to it. The conference itself was disappointing, since there wasn’t much about serials or cataloging (my job in real life).

The next conference occurred right after ALA, with only a day between for me to travel. Unlike ALA, this one was directly relevant to my job. The North American Serials Interest Group (NASIG) 17th Annual Conference agenda included numerous items related to serials cataloging, as well as other serials issues, and it was also great fun! If you are ever in Williamsburg (VA), I recommend a visit to the Green Leafe Cafe. Although I may have had more beer while I was in Williamsburg for the conference than I had at any one time in my entire life, I did learn a good bit about serials cataloging issues. I also realized how little I know about serials cataloging, despite having been on the job for nearly eight months! Well, it certainly has given me quite a few goals to reach.