How qualitative interviews saved my job (in brief)

Jun 07 2013 Published by under libraries

Marketing in special libraries is a Sisyphean task - particularly when your physical location and print collection are gone.  In these tight times, we've already done a bunch of collections budget cuts and management was asked to look into outsourcing us entirely or cutting either 20% or 50% of our labor costs. A cross-lab committee was formed to study the outsourcing and they did a survey which had like 20% of the lab's staff reply. The survey wasn't worded as we would have done - definite issues there - but the main result was that the vast majority of the respondents had never heard of us, didn't know what we do, and didn't know our department (IT) provided any such services. So things were not looking good for team library.

Then we did a series of interviews with anyone who checked the box that they'd like to speak to us and with people who had used our services in the past. These results were overwhelmingly positive. They said it would take them three times as long to find the information and the information found wouldn't be as comprehensive. There would be opportunity cost. They didn't have any problem opening their budgets for us to do work for them as it frees up technical staff to use the information instead of just looking for it. This provided evidence for what we already know: items we license are used heavily, finding aids are used from time to time, librarian research services are used fairly rarely, but when they are they are very much appreciated.

So this turned things around. Are we out of the woods? No, not really. Not ever. But for now, we're ok.

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