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Part Two—Overcoming 6 Challenges to Special Library Sustainability

Posted by Lucidea on 2/24/2017

challenges-hs-1.jpgThis is the second post in our series about the six major challenges to library success. We observe that the same challenges to sustainability keep surfacing during our conversations with information management professionals—no matter the organization size, sector or geography. Please read on for our thoughts on the second most prevalent opportunity for special library growth.

The second challenge (not far behind the first in terms of difficulty) is that of demonstrating to senior leaders and other stakeholders the incredible value delivered by knowledge management.

What we hear

“I am unable to demonstrate the value of KM to my organization. People don’t understand what knowledge management is; our strategic and bottom line contributions to organizational success are being overlooked.”


The library is labeled as just an operational cost center; it’s not associated with cost savings or revenue generation, and as a result it is underfunded.

Overcoming the Challenge

We all know that libraries can fall into the trap of being seen as just information repositories, and knowledge management is often perceived as nothing more than simply managing a database. If this is your situation, please know that you are not alone!

It isn’t often that libraries have access to tools which enable them to capture statistics that demonstrate a direct impact on revenue generation and profitability. You need to seek them out. These tools include:

  • Software that captures metrics on library services and resources used to support top level objectives and achievements, e.g., the company’s largest deal of the year—and delivers those metrics and more, in real time, through a one-stop-shopping dashboard.
  • Solutions that let you effectively measure departmental efforts to support cost reduction, like elimination of duplicate or unused resources, or enterprise access to digital content rather than print.
  • Applications that capture usage statistics related to specific content, specific practice areas, and time spent on research requests. Showing trends in these areas helps you make evidence-based decisions about resources.

Combine the output from these tools with external survey information and benchmark to other special libraries. Look at where you stand in terms of metrics such as content costs per attorney (if you manage a law firm library), or the ratio of library staff to investment analysts (if you’re with a financial services company), or numbers of research requests handled per librarian. When you do this, you can generate reports that demonstrate operational effectiveness—or use the data to make the appropriate course corrections.

The bottom line

How do you demonstrate the value of our library and influence the perception of knowledge management? To avoid being an underfunded department labeled simply as “overhead,” you must continually capture metrics on any and all of your key performance usage indicators. You need an application that can express what it captures though an easily configurable dashboard. Finally, your application must allow you to generate custom management reports that enable decision makers to clearly see the connections the library creates between organizational performance and knowledge assets.

We’ll address the remaining four top challenges to library sustainability in future blog posts, so please stay tuned. If you’d like to watch our recent webinar, “How to Overcome 6 Important Library Challenges,” we have posted it below—please check it out.

If you’ve faced and/or addressed this challenge, we’d love to to hear about your experiences. Please share via the comments box below.


Topics: Library Management, Knowledge Management, Solo Librarianship, SydneyEnterprise, Integrated Library Systems