Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Identifying and Communicating the Contributions of Library and Information Services in Hospitals and Academic Health Sciences Centers

Academic journal article Journal of the Medical Library Association

Identifying and Communicating the Contributions of Library and Information Services in Hospitals and Academic Health Sciences Centers

Article excerpt

Objective: This article introduces a systematic approach to identifying and communicating the value of library and information services (LIS) from the perspective of their contributions to achieving organizational goals.

Methods: The contributions of library and information services (CLIS) approach for identifying and communicating the value of LIS draws on findings from a multimethod study of hospitals and academic health sciences centers.

Results: The CLIS approach is based on the concept that an individual unit's value to an organization can be demonstrated by identifying and measuring its contributions to organizational goals. The CLIS approach involves seven steps: (1) selecting appropriate organizational goals that are meaningful in a specific setting; (2) linking LIS contributions to organizational goals; (3) obtaining data from users on the correspondence between LIS contributions and LIS services; (4) selecting measures for LIS services; (5) collecting and analyzing data for the selected measures; (6) planning and sustaining communication with administrators about LIS contributions; and (7) evaluating findings and revising selected goals, contributions, and services as necessary.

Conclusions: The taxonomy of LIS contributions and the CLIS approach emerged from research conducted in hospitals and academic health sciences centers and reflect the mission and goals common in these organizations. However, both the taxonomy and the CLIS approach may be adapted for communicating the value of LIS in other settings.

INTRODUCTION

Many difficulties face library and information services (LIS) directors as they attempt to measure and report the value of their units' operations to the larger organization. Determining the value of a unit's operations is traditionally approached quantitatively through the use of techniques such as cost-benefit analysis and return on investment calculations [I]. However, the intangible nature of LIS makes a quantitative evaluation challenging because of the absence of isolated, identifiable products or outcomes. Furthermore, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to disaggregate the causes of specific benefits or cost savings. For example, in clinical settings, the results of LIS services may be combined with other sources of information such as results of diagnostic tests, making it impractical to measure the precise nature of LIS impact. The study conducted by Klein and her colleagues is a rare example of how LIS usage data may be associated with contributions to organizational goals [2]. Although their findings did not establish causal relationships or isolate LIS from other inputs, the researchers found a significant correlation between the timing of mediated search requests for patient cases and length of hospital stays.

Given the difficulties inherent in measuring the value of their services, LIS staff often rely on quantitative data that reflect the unit's usage as well as qualitative and anecdotal evidence that focuses on the perceptions of individual users. Common quantitative measures of use include the number of database searches and counts of reference and circulation transactions. Such data may be gathered at the unit level or as part of a library or information center's participation in collaborative, cross-institutional efforts, such as the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries' Annual Statistics report or the Medical Library Association's Hospital Benchmarking Initiative [3, 4]. Data reflecting individual users' perspectives include reports of satisfaction and service quality or estimates of time spent looking for information and "value in use" [5, 6]. These data may be gathered using instruments developed in-house or with standardized instruments such as those used in LibQUAL+ and other cross-institutional studies [7]. A number of studies have systematically documented the impact of LIS use for individual clinicians [8-1O]. …

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