Shrinking Budgets: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
The Good: Building Collections in Difficult Economic Times
Joseph Esposito recently wrote a posting to the liblicense blog on Building Collections in Difficult Economic Times. In this posting he discusses testing on demand services. This hearkens to library school discussions about just in time vs. just in case collection development. When I was in school these discussions seems oh so theoretical, now they are frighteningly real. Why do I call this “The Good”? Well, partially because I was wanting to hold my title together and this was the closest thing to good that I could find. I have been advocating an on-demand model for several years, and have even been in casual discussions with some of our vendors about trying to develop a model that would work better for our consortium. A better model for us is definately skewed more towards demand rather than towards size or potential use. Very small hospitals (under 100 beds) tend to do ok in the current pricing model because most vendors look at them as throw aways, but mid size hospitals can really be hurt because their bedsize often makes them look bigger on paper than their resource use would ever play out. The liblicense discussion does an excellent job of outlining the challenges. I’m not an optimistic person by nature, but if we can emerge from these economic difficulties with some new models that might not be a bad thing (or I should say it might be a good thing).
The Bad: Disappearing Hospital Libraries
The Krafty Librarian beat me to the punch as I was going to revisit the impacts of shrinking budgets on the future of hospital libraries. For those of you following my blog, you will remember my posting about the Vital Pathways document(and if you don’t I did provide this handy link back). I have also been posting about evolving library roles such as embedded librarians and clinician/librarian collaborative projects. I totally agree with everything the Krafty Librarian wrote in her blog about the disappearing hospital librarian.
I particularly resonated with her statement about being, “amazed and saddened by the ones who provided wonderful services with limited budgets and resources yet all of a sudden found their job reduced or eliminated. But for each of those super librarians I unfortunately run into, I also run into librarians who seem to be stuck in a time warp and are running a 1980 library in 2009 and wondering why their budget is cut every year.”
The Ugly: Replacing Hospital Librarians with Electronic Resources
Hospital libraries had begun closing even before the beginning of the current economic down turn. One of our consortial member hospitals closed their library. The institution got rid of the print collection, took the physical space, and eliminated the library staff. They did, however, keep their electronic resources. Here is an interesting statistic, once this hospital closed its library (the physical library space and by eliminating the librarian position), the usage statistics of the digital library by hospital staff significantly declined. This was even after factoring in the librarian’s usage. If we believe (which I HOPE we all do) that hospital libraries are “pivotal to the success of all health care organizations,” then the fact that resource usage declines after the loss of the professional librarian seems to make it more critical to save not only access to resources but also to the professionals who shepherd and guide resource access.
I recently had a frightening conversation with a hospital administrator who asked me why they still needed a library since they had recently purchased a subscription to a Point of Care resource (a very expensive POC resource). This administrator informed me that this resource was the only one their clinicians were using anyway and when given a choice between having access to this POC product and keeping the library most of the clinic staff chose the POC product. This is a very “ugly” possibility that many of us intentionally ignore. Its as if we are afraid that if we raise the possibility that it will come true. Its the 300 pound elephant in the room. Until we can come to terms with these POC products and can figure out how to sell our services in light of the overwhelming popularity of these products, we are going to be having this conversation over and over and over again.
I’m going to continue gathering statistics to help understand the usage of these POC products. The hope for me is that if we can continue to keep these POC resources yoked with other library resources, then the usage of other library resources also increases (I just need to fully analyze the data to ensure that this conclusion really is supported by the facts). As librarians we have to keep advocating for keeping library resources linked with to and from these POC products.
As always these thoughts are mine and mine alone. Many statements are intentionally provocative designed to stimulate thought and discussion.