Proving value and return on investment: electronic resources can help information professionals tell a story about the contribution their library is making to the organization's goals.

Author:Scotti, George J.
Position:THE IMPACT OF E-RESOURCES - Special Libraries Association - Survey

Last year, the Special Libraries Association (SLA) unveiled the results of its Alignment Study, a two-year project designed to establish and communicate the core identity and value of the information profession and information professionals. The study provides librarians with clear and compelling language to communicate the vital role they play within organizations and promote greater recognition of information professionals in the marketplace and among employers.

Identifying and communicating value is a challenge for many professions, one that is becoming more complex for librarians as sweeping technological changes continue to reshape the information industry. Within Springer and many other vendors of information products, this challenge is spawning fresh attempts to help information professionals better understand how to measure the return on investment (ROI) of their library and information center and position it within the overall mission of the organization.

Telling the ROI Story

At first glance, proving the value and ROI of a library might seem to be a simple exercise--just count the number of times people use the library or how often they access books and journals. Metrics like these are popular with information professionals, but by themselves they say little about how a library contributes to the mission of the overall organization.

Springer has a Corporate and Government Library Advisory Board composed of 30 information professionals who provide objective thinking and perspectives on core business, industry and technology issues and on concerns specific to the science, technological and medical (STM) professions. The members of the board frequently discuss ROI, and a recurring theme of their conversations is that they struggle with how to measure ROI and how to tell their executives about it. They asked us to partner with them on a study, which we developed in collaboration with Outsell.

The study, "Establishing Value and ROI: Investing in STM E-Journals and E-Books," focuses on how the introduction and proliferation of electronic content is actually making it harder, not easier, to identify appropriate metrics for measuring value. With electronic resources, there seems to be an expectation among users that statistics are readily available, so there's a perception that it should be easy to prove ROI (or at least some aspect of it). What librarians are finding, however, is that multiple providers, multiple formats, and multiple...

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