Information Overload - Practitioner

Insights from practitioners in Information Management

Issue 116: Budget Cuts - Why are libraries always the first to go?


I recently heard a rather scary story. An organisation (let’s call them the.org) needed to make some “efficiencies” to their budget. That’s a euphemism of course for doing the same with less. The powers that be at the.org looked through the financials and eventually discovered a black hole. Money was sucked in, but little or nothing seemed to come out. Perfect they said, let’s plug the black hole and we can make those cuts, sorry “efficiencies” we need.

OK, so we all know what black hole I’m referring to here. But the reason why turns out to be a little depressing.

The reason management couldn’t see anything of value coming out from the service, lay directly with the person running the service.

People within the.org who knew the service was there asked for things which were duly provided. However, and yes here comes the scary part:

Had the person been willing to speak to senior management about where the.org was headed over the medium to long term, pro-active service provision could have been provided!

Unfortunately this kind of story is pretty typical. 

To thrive in any organisation our services need to be deemed essential. So, how do we ensure that happens?

By being visible. By talking to people about the problems they are facing and then offering a range of solutions. Which if you think about this strategically for just a moment – that is exactly what the parent organisation has done. They have identified a problem in the marketplace and then found a number of solutions to solve them. Why do people buy a drill? They don’t want the drill, they want what the drill can provide for them – namely a hole, or more likely – lots of holes in various sizes through various materials. Which is why people don’t just buy a drill, they buy the bits that go into them as well. Which is called added value, and “would you like a lesson on how to use the drill properly madam?” And it would be a really good idea if we linked our services to the overall strategy of the business. And how do we do that? By talking to the people who know what that is, which will raise your profile, and the profile of the service we are trying to promote.

In looking at our services in the same way as the ubiquitous drill.

  • Who are our customers?
  • What are the problems facing our customers? 
  • What solutions can we provide? 
  • Where can we provide value added services?

If we can answer those questions, we may prevent a repeat of those scary stories.