Directors-Introduction

Last week as I‘ve blogged here I was at the JISC Information Environment Takeaway event, talking money-saving tips for libraries.  I was presenting the results of a survey I ran the last month to source these ideas from the cloud.  I’d love to present the dataset for further scrutiny, but as I didn’t ask the folks responding’s explicit permission I think that would be a little bit on the dodgy side (professional IPR hat on there!).

While you can see the slides here and above, I thought it would be useful to blog in a bit more detail over the next few days about the findings.  Think of it in some respects as the director’s commentary as I’ll expand on what I said in the talk, so even if you were one of the hundreds (well half-dozen or so) people who came to the session there should be something more for you.  In this first post I’m going to look at the background and sample of the survey work.

Background (slides 1-2)

My remit was, as my JISC contact put it, to “be the wild card element in the session, to disrupt and shake things up a bit” – perfect, my favourite kind of role!  The ask was to pull together from my various contacts and the cloud ideas and thoughts on resource savings.  Now when I hear resource, I always split it into time and money, and that was at least my initial approach.  In terms of getting comments while i tried on Facebook and twitter to engage the audience a little  I quickly realised that the easiest way to get a lot more data was to spam email lists six ways from Sunday with a survey.  So I sat down and worked out my survey elements to ask the following questions:

  1. Academic sector
  2. Time frame of anticipated cuts
  3. Most efficient resource cutting experienced
  4. Most efficient time-saving experienced
  5. The one change (given a free hand) that would be a) As effective as possible b) Least disruptive to staff/service etc
  6. Perceived comparative levels benefits/disruption from traditional cost-cutting approaches
  7. Additional comments.

I asked this last question at the end as I really wanted ideas not obstacles from people, and while I did wonder about not including it for a while in the end I concluded I really had to – if only to throw any earlier suggestions or experiences into context.  And my role was to be the tabula rasa for the comments of the community – allowing them to speak directly unto leaders, innovators and change agents in our industry, without the fear of being told that their idea was stoopid.

From all walks of library life they came...Respondents (Slide 3)

As I’d cast my net broad and wide there was, perhaps not surprisingly a majority of respondents from the higher education sector, followed by FE and public libraries.  A grand total of 64 respondents (most but not all going thought the questionnaire, and some whom came directly to me with ideas).  In all I think there were around 300-400 suggestions and comments from this group – so a suitably meaty dataset to try and get something interesting out.

What I won’t claim for a moment is that this is a balanced population sampling, these are people who self-selected to respond and whom had ready access to email lists or social media to see my call to be involved.  What I do know from side conversations from people who did identify themselves (the survey was anonymous) is that there are responses in there from the humblest/hardworking library assistant right up to heads of library services; which was satisfying!

What's the time Mr Wolf? Saving's time!Time Frame (Slide 4)

I think this slide says a lot – if you aren’t in the middle of cuts already, chances are you’re going to need to look to your laurels before the year was out.  I was interested to spot that 3 people in my sample didn’t expect their libraries to be subject to any kind of efficiency drive in the next five years! Either they’re working at the best libraries in the country (any jobs going?) or a case of ostrich-head-syndrome?

That aside, the fact that everyone else thinks it is time to save, means that we’re all got to start thinking about how.  But hopefully smarter than just cutting the important stuff; which is where the ideas start coming in!

Next up I’m going to take a closer look at slides 5-8: experiences with saving time and resources.  Stay tuned!

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