On reading – Libraries and Key Performance Indicators (2017) Appleton

One of the fun things I did last year was contribute a case study based on my work with the KfH Metrics Task and Finish Group to the book “Libraries and key performance indicators: a framework for practitioners” by Leo Appleton.

Cover of book

I was really pleased to have the opportunity to share our work in this way and to get my name in print!

Prompted by reading a review of the book (in the December issue of the HLG Newsletter) and by an upcoming workshop I am preparing for health librarians in the North I thought I would have a read myself.

It is a compact book at 150 or so pages including references.  I think brevity has a lot to recommend it in a practical text and this could be dipped into or read completely fairly quickly.  It covers a lot of ground in a short time including a useful review of past efforts at performance management in library services and the influence of current trends around user experience approaches.  There are a number of examples from different library sectors which is useful for widening the perspective.

There were areas where I would differ – for example around the amount of confidence that can be placed in the various statistical return series.  Changes are coming to the long standing NHS statistics return reflecting careful consideration of how useful a number of these measures are in practice – particularly given likely variation in collection.

The chapters on methods provide good overviews with references to follow up. The librarian tendency to count anything that moves has been exacerbated by the opportunities offered by digital resources to do this and the book is good on tempering this enthusiasm.  I would perhaps have liked more on how to manage a regular flow of qualitative data in such a way as to support KPIs.  A contribution to a bundle of performance indicators across a single KPI perhaps?

Terminology is a bit of a muddle and I found myself confused at times about what was being referred to.  A definition of a KPI is provided but merits clearer flagging.  While there were a lot of excellent warnings about potential pitfalls and dead ends I wonder if more could be done to highlight the positive ways forward?  The various case studies were useful in providing some idea of how people have been able to advance with this work.

It was a relief to read my case study in context and I think it makes a useful contribution to the book. The principles advanced in the NHS Metrics work are widely applicable and certainly supported by the wider research presented in the book.

Having declared my bias up front – I think this is a useful book and I hope people will read it!


Journal Clubbing – Subject vs functional

A new round of our team journal club.  This time some reading looking at different models for delivering liaison in academic libraries.

Subject vs. functional: Should subject librarians be replaced by functional specialists in academic libraries?

Catherine Hoodless, Stephen Pinfield

Journal of Librarianship and Information Science

First Published June 15, 2016
This was a good paper for prompting discussion in our group.  Locally we are operating in a functional model so it is helpful to have a picture of practice and motivation elsewhere.
The researchers carried out semi-structured interviews with 11 senior library managers in the UK.  Opinion was divided amongst them as to which was the right path to take. Unsurprisingly their view tended to reflect whether they had undertaken a shift to a functional model or not.
The drivers for change felt familiar and prompted discussion of how important consistency was.  Subject librarians are like clinical librarians in that they are an expensive resource in limited supply with the potential to create big variations in level of service provision according to degree of involvement.  Strategic targeting of this resource is always going to be required.  The significant growth in HE over recent years is a big pressure on what sort of service can be offered to all.
The article shows evidence of how the models tend to get fudged with a continuum of activity.  Setting boundaries is a challenge in an emerging model. Role holders are generally getting to grips with a revised role rather than coming in to it fresh which must also have an impact.
As ever I found myself wanting to read more research on the effectiveness and impact of the different models.

Journal clubbing – impact of physically embedded librarianship on academic departments

After something of a gap it was good to have a return of the Journal Club at work.  The article this time was

The Impact of Physically Embedded Librarianship on Academic Departments – Erin O’TooleRebecca BarhamJo Monahan 2016 Portal: Libraries and the Academy

This was interesting for the team as a way to consider how librarians might best approach closer working with faculties and in particular whether physical collocation is important.

The article examines the impact of a shift to three liaisons being based more with their faculty following changes to the delivery of enquiry services within the library.

There is a big emphasis on counting different routes to interactions.  The picture from these figures is unconvincing.  There are a number of variables that can be controlled for.  There is little consideration of any change in the type, quality or depth of the enquiries.  This would be more useful to know – a fall in enquiries could be a positive thing if more useful enquiries are replacing them.

Given the focus on quantitative data it was also disappointing to not have any examination of data around their use of Libguides.

Generally the study would have been more interesting by including qualitative elements. There is a brief mention of chats with faculty and it would be these interactions that are interesting.

So a helpful paper from prompting discussion but not one where you can draw much that is transferable.


Revalidation is the name of the game

As Depeche Mode didn’t say.

Another years CPD (2016) safely logged away and submitted to CILIP for the Revalidation Assessors.  Slightly worried that it is almost time to sort out the 2017 log.

Highlights? Talking Metrics at HLG2016 in Scarborough where I got to meet a number of colleagues previously known only from twitter and by their good work.  Hearing Sherry Turkle on Reclaiming Conversation with lots of food for thought on how we interact online and in person.  I also ended up getting involved with work around evaluation frameworks with Sharon Markless which was a real eye opener.

Definitely need to get the Revalidation done earlier next year as it really is a bit far away for some of it already. Given the lack of blogposts of late I will have some reflecting to do.

This years MJ Hibbett and the Validators tune is Lesson of the Smiths – enjoy!

Beyond authority – beyond late

Where is the time going?  Without the discipline of the CILIP Update backlog and with other competing priorities this blog has been something of a ghost town.

The academic year is also fast approaching it’s end and there are a number of tasks still to complete for the PDR.

One of those was to consider the book Beyond Authority: leadership in a changing world (2007) Julia Middleton.

I had picked this out as addressing a particular challenge for me in my leadership role in that I currently operate with no direct reports.  For my service to improve I need to affect change but this has to happen by working through partners, with limited funds and with people who I do not have particular authority over.

The book itself considers how leaders can operate beyond the traditional forms of authority granted by position or control of funds.  It considers how circles of authority relate to your place in your wider organisation and society in general.  When we move into the outer circles we need to lead beyond authority.  My role places me frequently in this position. Indeed I can feel like I am outside my circle much of the time while working to deliver a service for one sector from within another and as the employee of an external organisation with those I frequently work with most closely.

Key sources of power when operating in the outer circle are identified as communication / networks followed by personality and ideas.  It has certainly been my experience that good ideas will win people over but that you need to get a lot of people on board for them then to advance.

The book explores different roles for those leading beyond authority.  I am attempting to be a transformer in driving change and the book is useful in highlighting the potential to be used as a useful idiot or expert idiot.

The bulk of the book considers what is required to lead beyond authority.  I was generally encouraged by these. Elements around the right approach fitting my perception of my character.  People are key and it is important for me to build my networks but also to get outside my professional bubble.  The right methods section was where I have most work to do – this is about the long game but particularly about building strategic coalitions.  To do this a clear strategic message is vital.  Having been introduced to Strategy on a page as part of my NHS Leadership programme it seems a good place to start.

All in all a worthwhile read – I suspect that even those who feel they operate firmly within their own organisation and with the ability to direct a team to achieve their strategic goals would benefit from considering how they might reach out and work effectively beyond the library bubble.

On reading – an end to the Update updates?

I read quite a lot. I suspect this is not an unusual statement for people working in library and information roles.  Keeping up with the constant flood of things I want to read, happen to read and feel I should read is a challenge.  This blog has recorded the evidence of me working through one of my back logs and I have been tackling slightly smaller piles of a whole raft of other regular publications.  Generally things are starting to look okay with me reading about stuff that actually happened recently.  I haven’t really got back up on my blog reading – perhaps a next project.

Anyway – one conclusion from all the Update updates is that while I value some of the things I read I suspect that my ramblings are of less value (even to me).  Accordingly future Update updates will be perhaps be about a single item that particularly strikes the imagination.

I was pleased in the Dec 2016 / Jan 2017 issue to see a snippet about the publication of the Principles for Metrics report that was produced by a task and finish group I chaired for the Knowledge for Healthcare programme.  Work continues on creating ways to engage people and build their understanding of metrics (see previous posts on this). A new version of the quality metrics template is under development to help with this.

On a personal note I was glad to read an appreciation of Julian Lendon who died last year.  I never knew him but the Solihull Central Library he oversaw the planning and building of was a formative place for me.  This video preview for a talk there on Beatrice Cadbury gave me a chance for a little look around and is a nice example of how libraries make a difference.

Update November 2016 (and March 2015) and the end of the road

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It has been a long old struggle but this post covers the current issue of Update and the last of my backlog. The plan is not to let it get out of hand – there is no doubt that a current issue of Update is more interesting than one a year plus old.  While not always the most thrilling of publications I have continued to find the odd thing I have not heard about elsewhere and some really helpful brief articles on a wide variety of topics.

The October issue has a timely article on privacy and the Library user. My catch up reading meant I read another article by the same author (Paul Pedley) only the other day.  There is a handy list of potential paths to take to work with users around privacy issues.

I have already spoken to colleagues about the article by Wendy Morris on the Big Read at Kingston University. We are currently engaged on a mass reading project and there are valuable ideas here on how to build on the possibilities this offers.

South London colleague Sian Aynsley updates on the KfH Learning Zone. I heard a verbal update on this at #NHSHE2016 so this is more a reconfirmation of details of this helpful resource.

Finally in this issue I enjoyed reading about the experience of Sue Willis on the Libraries Taskforce. It is fascinating to have a glimpse at this task of influencing within government. The importance of adjusting communication styles to suit audience was an obvious take away.

And finally – May 2015!

I had already seen the Design Thinking for Libraries toolkit but this is well worth a look if you are interested in user experience and design thinking. There is a free book with all sorts of tips and ideas on how to learn more about users. I will probably read this again ahead of a project I am managing to use external consultants to help with this at work.

Finally there is an article explaining obligatory revalidation – sadly it didn’t make the case strongly enough to get it past the members!