The project so far and plans for the future

The project started with preliminary plans in February 2013. See background information. Library data and statistics were gathered, shared and compared spring 2013 – spring 2014. There were several online meetings between spring 2013 – autumn 2014. The blog started in October 2014, aiming to report the site visits during and after them. The three site visits took place in October (Trondheim), November (Brussels) and December (Kuopio) 2014.

During each visit week we had many talks with library staff members and with library users, and also had a chance to talk with the library director of each university library.

In Trondheim we discussed with Lisbeth Tangen about these topics

  • campus development implies library development
  • NTNU is focusing on innovative learning technologies and library has be part of that
  • in measuring the impact of the library the connections between quantitative and qualitative indicators must be set
  • libraries have to pay attention not to become hidden services: students are now the only visible users in the library; currently the library space is mainly a working place for students
  • digital resources are very expensive and need to be constantly marketed
  • new activities to develop, especially for research aspects: publication funding, open access, bibliometrics, etc.
  • ==> new competencies are needed in the library: we need more university librarians and staff with good ICT competences, plus “something new” that remains to be discovered or invented. It is time to design future library roles and to market them.

In Louvain-la-Neuve we had lunch with Charles-Henri Nyns and talked about among others

  • library statistics and economics
  • comparing statistical data of universities is not easy due to divergent funding and financing models, even among French speaking university libraries in Belgium; but it is important to seek out at least some comparable indicators nationally and internationally
  • library advocacy — how to convince the decision-makers and justify not only the existence but the enhancement of library services

In Kuopio we discussed with Jarmo Saarti who originally proposed this benchmarking project. We talked about

  • how to proceed with the project
  • statistics and other data useful as background information
  • next steps could include formulating questions for the measurement of the impact of the library collections on users, and how well the money on the digital resources is spent; but this kind of follow-up project would require ICT persons and statisticians — maybe with funding from Horizon2020?
  • how and where we could and should report the experiences and findings of the benchmarking; one possibility could be a presentation at LIBER conference 2016
  • implementing ideas and best practices from each others’ libraries
  • learning also from working cultures, different points of view and lifestyles

Our next steps include a face-to-face meeting in Brussels in February (in connection with another meeting), writing more blog posts during spring 2015, sharing our benchmarking experiences and the project-so-far with colleagues in June in EAHIL 2015 workshop, planning a conference paper for year 2016, and writing a journal article.

The meaning of library — and life?

The title of this post refers to our interviews with the library staff members in all of the three libraries. We started with questions like “what is your job, what do you work with” and ended up talking about the meaning of the library, sometimes even life. Interviews turned into discussions and interchange of opinions.

We interviewed three persons at the NTNU library; a research librarian who has worked for more than 20 years,  a librarian who has worked for more than five years and a new staff member, also a research librarian. At UCL we interviewed three librarians; one who has worked in the library for more than 20 years, another one who has worked for seven years in her first job there, and a third one who has worked for about 20 years. In UEF we interviewed two staff members, a librarian/information specialist who has worked in KUH medical library for three and a half years, and an information services advisor who has worked there for 13 years.

The starting point for the interviews were about roles and value:

  • What is your role in this library?
  • Why do you work here?
  • What is the meaning/purpose of your work here?
  • What value does the library (and your role in it) add to the university?
  • What would mean if the library did not exist/provide the services?
  • In your opinion, is the library doing the right things/providing the right services?
Kollasj - interview

Discussions with staff members at NTNU, UCL and UEF


What did we learn?

The method turned out be very useful. Staff members were willing to share, and what started as interviews soon turned into collegial discussions. We found ourselves taking part in processes where people reflect their own work. It seemed possible for many of them to talk about the meaning of their work and the value of library with outsiders. Even if their supervisor was also present, it was not official and there were no organizational objectives. It seemed they were able and willing to speak freely.

There were no “right answers” but opinions and views. It was a chance for free expression and reflection. We ended up finding the value together — in connection to each person’s tasks in their library.

To conclude these fruitful discussions: If libraries did not exist, they would have to be invented.