by Laura Dushkes, Pacific Northwest Chapter, Solo Librarians Division
In your graduate work, you learned how to catalog and conduct a reference interview; you learned about databases and collection development. And, you brought with you all the experience from your previous work life. Now you have a job. Of course you’ll do a good and conscientious one, but that’s not enough. You must continuously prove your value.
But they hired me! They must know my value! They have a library, so they must know the value! Or, They hired me to start an information center, so they must know the value of that!
True, but you’re working for a business. Whether for-profit or not-for-profit, your company has a mission other than getting books and information in the hands of citizens. Your library’s mission is the mission of the organization. If you don’t show that your work adds to this mission, you might be seen as expendable. You can go a long way to preventing that. It’s a three-step process:
- Track itTake a “snap shot” of your library. Pick data that make sense for your setting. Such data might include:How many books/journals does your library hold?
How many people use your services (pick a period of time)?
How many questions did you respond to? (pick a period of time)?
How many hours is the library staffed?
How many square feet does the library use?
- Better itLook at this information and see where you can improveCan you move from check out cards to electronic check out?
Can you create a presence on the intranet to show your new holdings?
Can you start a blog with items of interest to a work group?
Can you attend staff meetings and introduce yourself and your services?
Can you weed to create needed space?
Can you work with another department that needs help with research or organizing their work?
Can you digitize copyright-held materials to make widely available?
- Communicate itNow you have a “before” and an “after.” Everything you did to improve your library – processes, materials, relationships – can be demonstrated in numbers or statements. Don’t just say what you did. State the benefit.I created an intranet pageso that our satellite offices can get the same new information as our main office.
The catalog was paper; I created a digital catalog, making it accessible to everyone.
Last year 40 books were checked out. This year the library circulated 350, increasing the use of already-purchased materials.
I helped marketing do the research for a proposal that won a $1 million account.
Bring this to the attention of your boss or board in the way they like to get information (even if it means a PowerPoint!). They will quickly see you as more than “overhead.” They will see you as a vitally important part of the organization.
Laura Dushkes is the solo librarian for NBBJ, the 3rd largest architectural firm in the U.S. and 10th largest in the world, with six offices in the US, as well as offices in the UK and China. She also teaches Special Librarianship at the University of Washington’s iSchool. She has an MA in History as well as her MLIS from the University of Washington.