December 14, 2017

SPONSORED CONTENT

A Data-Driven Approach to Electronic Resources Collections

Karen PhillipsBy, Karen Phillips
SVP Global Learning Resources
SAGE Publishing

In a new series that celebrates innovators in academic libraries across the U.S., I have the great privilege of diving deeper into the work of a segment of the 2017 Movers & Shakers announced by Library Journal in the spring. I’m kicking off the series by sharing some electronic resource collection insight from Lindsay Cronk, who was recently made Head of Collection Strategies at the University of Rochester in Rochester in New York. Read some of her shared wisdom below.

 

You’ve implemented some successful, outside-the-box approaches to building your electronic resources library. Can you tell us more about this?

Lindsay Cronk

CURRENT POSITION

Head of Collection Strategies, University of Rochester, NY

DEGREE

MLIS, Valdosta State University, GA, 2012

FOLLOW

@linds_bot (Twitter); LindsayTheLibrarian.com; litablog.org

Photo by Patrick Heagney

I think that academic libraries are at a critical collections moment—with online subscription content dominating our budgets, the way we approach acquisitions and collection development needs to be rethought. We are lucky in that we have more data than ever before such as usage stats, cost data, coverage data, and bibliographic data collected from disparate sources like ILS and usage reports. I collect, process, interpret, and combine the data where possible to improve our decision making and demonstrate the value of our collections. I would say my essential strategy boils down to content assessment—can we figure out what is valuable and special and parse it from the clutter of big packages and aggregators? In some ways it’s old school, but I think of it as a kind of format-agnostic weeding.

How did you get your library colleagues and other admin on board with these strategies?

I am an enthusiastic person, and enthusiasm and data will make a lot of headway in any situation. At the University of Rochester, I am particularly lucky to be supported by talented and eager colleagues and administration who continually wow me with their kindness and ability. It’s an amazing team—and we’re hiring.

How do you then get the word out about these resources to those at the University of Rochester once they are acquired?

Comprehensive communications planning is critical in resource adoption. I would say that insuring that collection development is driven by faculty and researchers is a critical first piece—when they know about the resource before you acquire it, you’re ahead of the process. It’s stopping to ask the questions, “Who is this for? How will they use it?” and in the process you help ensure more mindful acquisitions. From there, multi-channel communications, including digital signage and targeted emails in subject areas can definitely help.

Your approach to communicating the value of the library is also unique and sometimes includes data visualization techniques. How did you learn these techniques and what tips would you give to a librarian looking to enter the world of data viz?

Data viz is an incredible means of examining information that can be used in so many different areas of the library. I learned by collaborating with a very talented data librarian at the University of Houston (TX). Collections is a natural area for data visualization because there is just such a volume of data that is churned daily in the course of facilitating access to resources (both print and online). From the bibliographic data, to the cost data, to the usage data—collection data in particular is a big pool and it’s a forgiving place to get started. I have shared some of my favorite techniques and approaches on my blog. To be honest, the most important part is ask questions and consider what data might answer. There are incredible MOOCs that cover many basic areas, and getting involved in the data viz community on social media is helpful. I am also available for training and consulting!

You’ve also given some recent presentations on new ways of approaching relationships with vendors in order to benefit the user experience (UX). What advice can you share with others on this topic?

I want to acknowledge my privilege here—when you are facing budget cuts, vendor interactions can be adversarial, even predatory. I try to apply UX design to my work because I think that it’s a philosophy as much as a process, and vendor relationships benefit from applying UX principles. Think of accessibility, trust, familiarity—core principles of the approach—they improve any relationship. UX interrogation of our vendors can also help us to identify who our willing partners are, offering opportunities for us to reward good vendors with loyalty. With less willing partners, we may find evidence to help make a case to faculty and administration that they should not receive our financial support. It provides evidence that can help drive values-informed collection development and insure the sustainability of collection practices. UX can be an incredible tool for enhancing our experience of interactions with our vendors which also improves the experience for our researchers.

All of these efforts are great examples of thinking outside-the-box to reach your library’s goals. How do you find the time and energy to implement these kinds of strategies instead of just moving along the status quo?

I think that if we aren’t interrogating our processes in libraries we put ourselves in a dangerous position—a defensive position. We have a central shared goal of providing information to those who need it, and that goal is inherently valuable. Acknowledging that, how we share access to information is what we need to continually examine for efficiency and service opportunities. At the University of Rochester our motto is “Meliora” which means “ever better”—it brings to mind the Japanese principle of Kaizen, continuous improvement. If you open your mind to the fact that librarians can always improve how we service our user needs, you wind up demonstrating the library’s value to users directly.

To connect with Lindsay, follow her on Twitter or check out her website.


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