Libraries and information centres are key partners in the R&D information discovery process. They help researchers find accurate and authoritative information, improve collaboration via interdisciplinary content and support the work of teams across their organisations. But how can librarians and info pros prove the effectiveness and ROI of content investment?
Information centres and libraries are faced with a constant push to reduce expenses and staff, despite the fact that most information professionals are already struggling to keep up with available resources and client demand. Yet libraries and information centres play a critical role in R&D – one that is perhaps underestimated in the age of Google. In this blog, we take a look at why libraries and information centres are still vital to the success of R&D, what good content investment looks like, and vitally, how to prove ROI (a subject explored in depth in our whitepaper, The True Cost of Information: Measuring the ROI of the Information Center).
In any corporate setting, authoritative content and seamless access to reputable information resources are core elements of the information discovery process. In today’s world, it would be easy to think that everything is findable by a simple online, subscription-free search. Ease of information findability makes everyone believe the content they need is just a click away.
Reliance on public search engines or open-source databases, in absence of subscribed STEM databases, may seem acceptable at the start of a search. But for reliable, thorough, long-term information research, using accurate, trustworthy, high-quality resources is vital to ensuring the subsequent quality of the research and innovation output.
This is why, even in online-only information discovery processes, the library’s role remains critical. Not only do libraries and information centres provide access to the most reliable content, but the knowledge and know-how of librarians and info pros, who support researchers in connecting the dots between related content and accessing new ideas.
Optimal information discovery in an interdisciplinary organisation needs to encompass a wide variety of content. It’s not enough to focus merely on journals, for example, or only on market information. Varied content across journals, ebooks, reference works, standards, databases, competitive intelligence, market information, and vetted open access content should form the basis of any information discovery strategy.
However, obtaining funding for subscriptions is not an easy task, whether a corporation has a library, information centre, or another designated function filling the information role. A good place to start a case for funding is by carrying out an information assessment. This should address what type of information and what resources are most missed by researchers in the organisation in question and could include document delivery statistics if there is an established information request process.
The assessment work should help inform where investment is needed and carrying out information resource trials is the logical next step. But once subscriptions and investments have been made, how do you prove that they’re worth it?
The goal of any library department or information centre within a corporation is to support organizational effectiveness, align with business strategies, and create the optimal content offering to support the product pipeline and leadership direction. Providing proof to budget holders of how content investment supports their business goals is crucial. Taking a consultative approach to measuring ROI is the best way to ensure that budget holders feel their goals are being met by the content. Holding regular roundtable discussions, as discussed by Jerry Schaufeld, Affiliate Professor of Practice at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s Business School in this blog, can help to ensure everyone is in agreement about what success looks like.
We explore a variety of ways to show ROI in The True Cost of Information: Measuring the ROI of the Information Center. From a content perspective, the standard ROI usually shows how the value of subscriptions compares against the cost of document delivery requests. However, an even more impactful ROI could – for example – show how the use of library resources saved time in gathering documentation for a regulatory or patent submission, prevented investment in a new product line that is already being explored elsewhere, or created production process efficiency.
Even once agreed ROI measurements are in place, there is much to do to ensure content investment is ongoing and the library or information centre role isn’t taken for granted. Librarians and information managers need to communicate the value of their work regularly, expand awareness of resources, provide training, and embed content and services in team workflows. Optimising access to information and making content more easily findable also enhances the value of the content, makes collaboration easier and the information discovery process more efficient.
In addition, recommending content platforms as a means of discovery rather than simply for locating individual publications enhances the interconnection of the resources and ways of working. All of this should put and keep a library or information centre firmly at the centre of an R&D-driven organisation, ensuring that its worth is not in question.
You can read the full interview with Jerry Schaufeld about his most recent book, Commercializing Growth: Connecting Valuation with Management and Governance Methodologies.