Today was a mixed day. A bit manager, a bit librarian, a bit public health and a fair bit of CPD work. Much like the rest of the week – I’m not going to list my activities of the day they are available via my twitter feed. The main 2 aspects of today were Chartership and service analysis. Being the responsible evidence-based library person I am, I review services and user needs on quite a regular basis, normally annually. Today I began the (almost) annual public health information needs assessment/analysis. This is a very important piece of work as the library, whilst providing services for many different user groups we are based within public health. They are a core, if not the core user group. This is the 3rd year I have done this. The aim is to understand not only the information needs (how, why, where) but also the view and usage of the library and its services – after all we are a service (people) based library service not resource. The objectives:

  1. Where do they get their professional knowledge from?
  2. How do they prefer to receive it?
  3. Do we meet their needs (and if not – why not?)
  4. Regularity of perceived use
  5. Library services they use
  6. Library services they would like to use/would be interested in
  7. Positive library impact
  8. Something they would change/improve from the service
  9. How they view the library (word association) – this is useful for marketing.

Because we offer so many different services and public health is such a varied department – answers will vary. There will be teams who use us purely for health promotion and those who we provide tacit knowledge to support their work. I wish I could say everyone in public health used us as an evidence base, but then I wish I could say everyone in public health is evidence based… Back on point, the purpose of this is to shape how we deliver services to our core user group. I firmly believe that service delivery should meet the requirements of the user, not the other way round. If we do not provide services to how our users want them, they will get them elsewhere. Or worse still, not use any. When I see services provided because ‘it’s always been done that way’ or changed because an idea has been seen elsewhere, it depresses me. The idea of the library blog came out of the 2010 information needs analysis – it enabled users to access the information they want. If we ever get a decent IT set-up, it will kick ass. Another way to cater and amend services is to record data on use. We have a monthly statistical collection that not only feeds into the NHS Annual Library Statistics collection, but also allows me to analsyse how our time is spent. These monthly statistics are done on the first of every month, purely to avoid confusion with the library assistants. This covers enquires, document supply, circulation, information consultancies etc. Combining this with the costing framework (in theory) allows me to quite accurately predict service usage and expected costs. This is very useful as I can extract and compare the cost (or implicit value in terms of time saved elsewhere) of the service. It is also useful when looking at impact and alignment. If you can say the library did X yet it only cost (or saved) Y, it seems so much purposeful. It is also vital to show how services meet organisational aims or even how you as an individual help the service meet said aims (alignment) Thankfully there are now resources such as MAP toolkit that are very helpful in demonstrating how do achieve these.

For any aspiring library folk, I cannot emphasise the importance of intangibles such as impact and value. Again I have gone off on tangent! Chartership also featured, but I shall be produced a smaller blog post on that later on. Or tomorrow. Or Saturday. Tomorrow I am #sololibrarian all day – which means more old school customer enquiries and less managerial stuff. It’s fun once in a while, and I love to chip in whenever I can


Reflecting upon this post, I feel that a lot of the topics I have touched upon really deserve much more to be written about them – for them to placed into context and opened up much more. I am not sure I am the person to do that (at this time). However, I was thinking that I should clarify what I mean by some of terms I have used in this post:

  • Value – this is not only how much users value the service, but also in terms of cost or cost saving. How much MORE would something cost if I wasn’t providing it? Can you prove it?
  • Impact – What positive difference does the service make? What positive difference do I make to the service?
  • Alignment – Process of showing how a library/information service meets higher organisational needs. These needs are almost as important as your user needs (in a perfect world they’d be the same!)
  • Information Needs Assessment – There are many definitions available, but i would say its a structured approach to obtaining the desired information needs (what do they want, how do they want it) of a particular user group.