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Four tips to elevate your library despite budget cuts and strained resources
Consolidate, automate and analyze to do more with less
The role of the academic librarian has expanded greatly in recent years. You may be called on to be teachers, copyright managers, event planners and more. On top of this, the shift to serve remote users requires more of a focus on 24/7 online support and providing remote access to course materials.
Pressure to meet changing patron expectations and keep up with a dynamic technological environment has many libraries adopting technologies that help them do more with less. They’re consolidating, automating and using analytics for evidence-based decisions.
Here’s how you can elevate your library when you are forced to do more with less:
- Consolidate Content and Library Operations
Systems that are heavily siloed, with a patchwork of solutions, disjointed workflows and separate management operations are inefficient, frustrating, and costly. There’s a rapid shift to systems that consolidate the management of print, electronic and digitized material, as well as other library operations, eliminating artificial barriers, streamlining workflows and introducing greater coherence.
While your library may have consolidated some functions, review the operational systems and platforms your library uses to look for more opportunities, paying particular attention to your library management system. Does it enable your academic and financial systems to connect with each other or are staff members manually inputting data from one system to another? If they’re not connecting to each other, look for add-on options or APIs that could eliminate a barrier or two.
If add-ons and APIs are not working for you, it’s time to consider a new, unified library management system that can free your staff to focus on outreach and service.
- Save Time and Resources with Automation
Technology resources that automate time-consuming, routine tasks in a librarian’s workload enable fewer staff members to accomplish more in a shorter amount of time. Freeing librarians from mundane tasks enables them to focus on more strategic work and outreach, elevating the service of the library.
Where should you automate? Look for functions in your library with lots of manual steps that require no librarian expertise.
Short cut: Ask staff to identify their biggest time wasters.
Shorter cut: some library management systems provide benchmark analytics (more on that below) that identify the library’s least efficient workflows.
For example, interlibrary loan (ILL) and document delivery services (DSS) are important but are filled with steps that can be dead-ends (say, handling a request for a resource the library doesn’t hold) and others that are clerical. An automated resource sharing system like Rapido or RapidILL operates with limited or no librarian mediation. Bonus: the systems generally deliver faster turnaround times so time is saved, and students and faculty get better service.
As library management technology has advanced, so have the opportunities to off-load routine, clerical tasks to software… which means you don’t have to limit your automation dreams to resource sharing!
- Use Analytics to Make More-Informed Decisions
Librarians can proactively and automatically identify needs for smarter, faster decisions if they have the right analytics solutions. This can impact acquisitions, borrowing, lending and much more, making these activities more efficient and accurate.
Manual steps require manual calculations that can be time-consuming to generate. Conversely, technologies that include options for analytics enable libraries to perform evaluations with broad or in-depth perspectives. For example, use of print versus electronic course reserves can be evaluated by comparing loans to click-throughs – helpful data to identify whether the library needs to support both print and “e” versions. Library management systems that include dashboards, can provide ongoing data on everything from efficiency of workflows to fulfillment statistics and spending.
In addition to providing data that inform decisions, analytics are powerful storytellers for showcasing the work of the library. A report with hard data that shows use or shifting patterns of use by students and faculty provides stakeholders with insight that can lead to understanding.
- Adopt SaaS products for simpler management
Not all technology solutions are created equal. Make your decision about what to adopt carefully. Ask peer libraries about their experiences for any product you are considering. Most providers include case studies on their websites – read them if they include the library’s name and real people from the library. If you want to limit tying up staff with tedious technical updates and upgrades, consider only cloud-based SaaS (software as a solution) products, which offload maintenance from the library to the provider.
- Consolidate Content and Library Operations
Libraries are facing challenging times. Putting technology to work can free you and your colleagues to work more efficiently, respond faster and stay focused on helping your faculty, researchers and students – an essential for creating a thriving, dynamic environment.
Want to learn more about how to elevate your library? Visit us here. For ideas on managing collections in dynamic environments, read our blog Citation analysis: how to calibrate your library collection in uncertain times - Clarivate.