This is the fourth and final part in a series of posts looking into some survey work in a bit more detail that I did for JISC on library cost and efficiency savings. As mentioned previously I’m presenting the results of a survey and many (if not all) of the opinions expressed are those of the community whom responded, rather than my own. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this series can be found online, as indeed can the slides themselves.
Comments (Slides 1-13)
There were a variety of comments made on top of the questions asked. Some pointed out areas for additional research or aspects I hadn’t considered – which was fine as the idea of this survey was to gather ideas rather than to test hypothesises. In the slides I picked out some of the choice themes that seemed evident in the comments and many of the earlier answers. The idea of preparing to embrace or at least accept change was evident in many comments, especially the idea of considering what must be done and what is only desirable for a library service. Operating in an era of reduced funding this is almost an essential aspect of any savings regime – looking at what can be trimmed without damaging the service.
On the other hand many comments noted that cuts in 2011 are not a new thing, and having experienced many years of reductions that there was little left to cut back other then the removal of a library service altogether; which would likely have a deleterious effect on the patron community. While some advocated the doing more with less, others pragmatically commented that in essence you were more likely to do less with less.
Working more like a commercial organisation appeals to some commentators, looking for where revenue could be generated not just saved as an option. Reselling withdrawn stock and ploughing the return, was one such suggestion while others pointed to seeking external funding to support innovative projects or activities. Others noted that through collaborations with other bodies and organisations that they have been able secure better deals on subscriptions and access fees.
There were also a few helpful suggestions on innovations that had been trailed and failed – charging all visitors a nominal fee (became a bureaucratic nightmare to oversee) or making use of volunteer staff (whom when decide not to attend can be neither encouraged or penalised).
I think what I took away from doing this exercise is that there are a lot of ways in which efficiencies can be made to library services, but that there will always be a price to pay in terms of reduction of service quality or breadth. For those services fighting to stay afloat there is a necessity to tackled these challenges, but I would hope that as many of the commentators noted that they will look long and hard at the impacts on their patrons, organisation and staff before swinging the axe too freely.
And as always I remain interested in any further tales of efficiency (good, bad or indifferent) that anyone would care to share!