Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Finding out what to cut, how far to go and getting users to champion the library in a healthcare setting

This plenary session given by Anne Murphy discussed the systematic approach taken by the library in Adelaide and Meath Hospital in Ireland, when facing cuts of 25% in 2011 and 15% the following year to their library budget.

It addressed the key questions of when every journal is seen as essential what markers of true value can you assign, and how can you get your users to accept cuts within their department, or more precisely how to keep cuts fair and not lose the engagement of library patrons?

The first point discussed was how openness surrounding planned cuts was important to retain the library champions within the hospital. Working against this was communication channels that were not always as obvious as they should be. For example, use of the hospital email system is poor, so users had to be contacted by mail to ensure good coverage. It is no good trying to be open if you cannot reach the people you need to tell.

The second point was that the project was not just about balancing the books (or journals). The library saw the cuts as an opportunity to promote themselves with a use it or lose it message and to build credibility within the hospital's senior management.

How did they go about deciding what to cut? A three pronged approach combined to give a rounded picture of a resources value:
1. Cost per use
2. Responses from departments about value
3. The librarian's knowledge (e.g. is it a no-brainer keep or a small niche journal)

The library also tried to adhere to a few ground rules that attempted to retain the balance of the collection, such one journal cut in each department. All of this information and the ground rules were then used to assign each journal a category through a 3 stage process:
1. The no-brainers
2. The very expensive or low download journals
3. Department or specialty cut

After stage three the budget was totalled and they were still not at a 25% reduction, so a fourth was introduced:
4. Larger departments who have more than 1 journal

After one last "sanity check" evaluation, 73 journals were finalised as to be cancelled, one quarter of their total collection.

The library published a report on the process and marked all cut journals in red, retained ones in green, to make the whole process transparent and again re-enforce the idea that usage is important in retention decisions.

The comments from users on feedback forms demonstrated that expectations, throughout the project, were successfully managed and the library did not suffer any disengagement despite the large percentage cuts.

In 2012, a cut of 15% in budget was proposed. The library underwent the same process with usage analysis and mailing out questionnaires, except this time they asked users to nominate one title for cancellation.

The comments were overwhelmingly negative and it demonstrated that users felt that the cuts had gone too far. Overall the process was much more difficult and the library expects there to be a full report published to the hospital staff soon and for this to help galvanise users to support the library from further cuts.

The next step is a survey about content discovery and literature use, and there is a possibility of documents on demand in the future, depending on the outcome of this surveying process.

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