What do British business librarians talk about?

One of the blogs I follow is Libreaction – the blog of Andy Priestner (@Priestlib on twitter), who is Head Librarian at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School. The first post of Andy’s I came across was about “the same old problem” of MBAs and library inductions (sounds very familiar!)

Andy has been reporting in his blog on the conference of the Business Librarians Association conference. The theme of the conference was ‘The Research Agenda’ – how we as librarians engage with researchers, how we meet their needs and how we can get more involved in research ourselves.

A lot of what has been reported is relevant to academic librarians as a whole, not just business librarians.

Some key ideas and themes have included:

  • information provision must be embedded, evangelical and evidence-based
  • in the future business librarians will move more towards promotion and dissemination of research and assistance with bibliometric impact
  • Libraries are truly and demonstrably important for research students, but that this value is still overlooked by stakeholders
  • Librarians don’t exploit published research enough – relying on experience and instincts
  • there are not enough librarians getting articles published in academic journals
  • Librarians are good at advocacy and measuring tangibles but less skilled at demonstrating value and impact to justify investment
  • we need to go to where researchers are and leave the library; engagement, outreach and empathy with researchers are all vital
  • staff at Newcastle University tweet new staff publications to demonstrate engagement with research community
  • impact is not just about marketing. We need to always be there in front of researchers. We should not be shy about library value
  • initiatives to engage with PhDs at one business  school (other than group inductions and the offer of research consultations – which weren’t utilised enough included:   a focus group, a PhD guide, a research seminar series (plagiarism, Refworks and getting published) and a poster campaign. Interesting to read that focus groups that offer payment and are facilitated by neutral (non-library) staff attract more participants. Engagement with research supervisors is key.  
  • focus groups offering food and vouchers attract more attendees
  • important to obtain feedback before and after implementing changes; that time investment in ‘extra’ work research projects pays off long-term.
  • Manchester business answers 24/7 which allows students to search for assistance on frequently asked questions and receive guidance on what resources and services to go to and how to use them. Apparently a BLA wide-project was mooted so that business librarians could offer the same resource without reinventing the wheel. A project team is already underway!
  • researchers are concerned that submitting research into digital repositories may impact on their chances for publication in academic journals – solution rebrand the repository as a “research tool” and better integrate it with internal information systems so researchers are engaged with it in terms of their workflow
  • repositories need champions at the highest level – Vice Chancellors need to be onside
  • technologically we are ready for repositories but culturally we aren’t (sounds like the perennial knowledge sharing dilemma)
  • repositories need to be Google Scholar compatible so hits soar
  • librarians need to build relationships with researchers based on openness and trust – and we need to get out of our libraries and go and talk to them in order to ensure their engagement
  • dissemination of research beyond journals and books is now required in order to prove research value and benefits –  Librarians should be involved in the process, ensuring researchers are briefed about where to publish their research in terms of journal rankings

Research: Do they know they know it? The perception of marketing by special librarians in New Zealand by Melissa Clarkson (2008)

I became aware of this MLIS project and asked Melissa if she would share her findings on this blog. I’m pleased to be able to reproduce the summary here (with her permission) and some thoughts she has shared with me via email, especially as there is so little literature on marketing and libraries in New Zealand.

Executive summary from Melissa’s research

This study investigates the gap between marketing theory and the perception of marketing by special librarians in New Zealand. The Marketing Mix or 4 P’s of marketing provides the framework for the research. A survey was distributed asking for all special librarians in New Zealand to respond. Four interviews were also undertaken to gather further data. The research found that there is a significant gap in the between marketing theory and the perception of special librarians in New Zealand. Most special librarians see marketing as promotion. Further investigation finds that a number of special librarians see the use of an intranet and the services they provide as promotion, indicating that there is some awareness of the marketing principles, but they are not aware that these are marketing principles. Findings show that attending a marketing course significantly improves knowledge and understanding of marketing principles.

Other thoughts from Melissa:

I chose this particular subject because I went on a marketing course and got very passionate about marketing. I realised that marketing is more than just promotion, and from my time in special libraries I realised it was something that special librarians did not appear to do well. My aim was to prove (or in a dream world disprove) the perception that special librarians don’t see marketing as anything more than promotion. A side goal was to make special librarians more aware of marketing and I feel like I have done this by actually doing the survey (and getting people thinking about what they know about marketing), and more recently doing presentations.

 One of the first questions I asked was “what is marketing” and 57 people stated promotion alone.  However, I did ask a number of questions, such as, “where are you placed on your intranet” and “what products do you provide” and even some around relationship marketing, and found that special librarians had an intranet presence, listed off a number of products they had, and admitted they often had coffees with ‘clients’ and formed relationships that way.  My conclusion is that special librarians aren’t aware that so much of what they do is marketing.  I also compared different demographics, so whether location, job position, qualification etc… made a difference.  The only thing that made a difference (aside from having attended a marketing course) were qualifications, with those who have international qualifications knowing more about the principles of marketing.

What is a concern is that a number of people perceive themselves as being ‘too busy’ to market. This is a concern because, without realising that the product they are offering is marketing, they often sell themselves short. What if they are offering the wrong service and spending all their time on something that isn’t meeting their clients needs? 

If you would like to read the research, like all other MLIS research papers, it is available through the VUW Library.