Military Libraries come in all shapes and sizes. We’re academic libraries, supporting Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral degrees. We’re public libraries, complete with children’s story hours and retiree’s financial resources. We’re also other types of special libraries: medical; history; science, technology & engineering; intelligence; and headquarters support. The Military Libraries Division brings together members from all U.S. military services, Canadian Combined Armed Forces, international military services, contractors, vendors, academic institutions and anyone with an interest in military librarianship. Check us out at http://military.sla.org/. – Gloria Miller is a Librarian at the Headquarters, U.S. Army Materiel Command, Redstone Arsenal (Huntsville), Alabama. She is currently the Chair-Elect of the Military Libraries Division.
by Lee Ann Benkert, Rocky Mountain Chapter, Military Libraries and Solo Librarians Divisions
It’s November 2010. I have just become the solo librarian at a professional/continuing education center for the military. It’s my first job as a professional librarian and also my first job working for the military. I have one part-time staff member, a whole host of daily duties, and (thankfully) a lot of creative freedom. I see a million different projects we might tackle in order to move the library into the future, and, as a zealous young librarian, I want to tackle them all.
I decide instead to take a more sensible route stemming from my background in marketing—figure out who our customers are, identify their information needs, and draft our priority list accordingly. According to experts, analyzing customer needs helps reduce your urge to “do it all” by focusing your efforts and limited resources on high priority areas.1 This is especially pertinent in a military environment, where shrinking budgets and high turnover in executive leadership dictate the need for data-driven decision making.
Flash-forward to today: Our information needs assessment has been wildly successful. We have learned a great deal about our customers, including their usage habits, information-seeking preferences, on- and offline research behaviors, and perceptions about the library and librarians’ roles. Our small but mighty team acted on this data to develop a clear vision of how our library can support as well as delight our customers—through innovative, creative solutions to their most pressing needs. In addition, we used the data to help us map out and prioritize the routes we will take to meet this vision.
For example, the needs assessment unearthed an unmet need among faculty for access to relevant, credible news articles. Putting our heads together with the programming and graphic design departments, we re-vamped our library’s e-newsletter into a desktop research tool, bringing topical news briefings to our instructors’ fingertips in a more useful format. This creative shift of existing resources produced a more relevant product, increased customer-satisfaction levels, and demonstrated how responsive the library is to customer needs.
Over the course of one year, our library’s scope has narrowed; we are no longer interested in doing it all but in doing all we do extremely well. Since our customers’ needs have provided us with clear guidance, our focus moving forward will remain on them.
Lee Ann R. Benkert is the resource center manager at the U.S. National Security Space Institute and is a member of the Rocky Mountain chapter of SLA. She views librarians as an army of information ninjas, stealthily advancing the world’s perceptions of info pros, one silent footstep at a time. You can follow her on Twitter @lbenkert.
Grover, R.J., Greer, R.C., & Agada, J. (2010). Assessing information needs: Managing transformative library services. Denver, CO: Libraries Unlimited.