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INM341 Lucia Cavorsi Information Strategy

Development of an Information Strategy for an academic library


Introduction and Aims All organisations need to consider how they are going to collect and manage information. In a library, the issues associated with information and the best use of information is even more critical as the ability to disseminate information is absolutely fundamental to the underlying success of the organisation. Within a university, the library facilities are often viewed as being centrally important to the overall success of the university itself. Without suitable facilities to search information and to obtain data, students will not be able to achieve their full potential. Having a strong information strategy in place makes it much more likely that students will be able to use the University to their best advantage and to achieve their best possible results. Universities are also judged on their research facilities and therefore having a strong information strategy in place will ultimately allow the university to attract more students and more funding. With this in mind this essay will identifying background information relating to an imaginary University and its library and suggest the basics of the information strategy, double underpinned by specific initiatives and implementation plan. Consideration will also be given to security issues and ethical issues both during the implementation of the strategy and on an ongoing basis. Background The library itself consists of four physical locations with each location having its own subject specialities. The library has a central management team which deals with the information strategy and applying it across all topic area. Each individual library also has its own management team that deal with the day-to-day requirements within that particular topic. Whilst issues such as budget are dealt with centrally, relatively large degree of autonomy is given to reach individual library and subject area students the best way possible. For examples the law library is located within the law department and individuals working within that library are able to make decisions in terms of which books are purchased as well as managing the day-to-day information that is made available to students. In total there are approximately 60 members of staff, all of whom are responsible for implementing any information strategy. Librarys services are offered to over 10,000 students from undergraduate through to Ph.D., although access is given to local schools as well as exmembers of the University and certain other groups that may have been granted special access to the University. For example, the medical library is accessed by the local hospital and this is seen as an important part of co-operating with the community and gaining the support of others in the area. Given the broad range of subjects that are dealt with as well as the broad geographical location, information technology is central to the library with students being able to gain access to information, such as whether a particular book is available and to reserve it online without having to actually visit the library itself. As well as providing books and journals, the library also manages a range of online resources, including paid subscriptions to certain

INM341 Lucia Cavorsi Information Strategy

databases. The library also houses several computer systems that students can use in order to process their own work if they do not have their own computer (Nicholas, 2000). This report will therefore aim to take into out the fact that there are several different aspects to the work of the library and an information strategy needs to be centrally managed, but with sufficient flexibility to deal with differences that exist within the different subject headings and also to include other facilities that are made available to students (Yoe, 2005). Basics of the Strategy Broadly speaking, the information strategy aims to be an inclusive set of principles that will be used by the library at central management level as well as at regional level in order to manage all aspects of information processing, including the way in which information is acquired and the way it is stored to make it available to the public. Information is becoming much more complex with access to information being much more readily available, particularly given the increasing use of the Internet. Without access to information and without the ability to organise and manage information a university library will be very ineffective (Wilson, 2006). Funding is a critical aspect of the information strategy as there is both funding coming from the central library as well as funding from each individual department. The availability of funding within the information strategy is likely to have a direct bearing on the type of information strategy that is going to be used and it may well be the case that the different departments will have a larger budget so that they can purchase more items. Therefore the aim of this central information strategy is not to prescribe exactly how each individual department should make a decision and what they should be purchasing but rather to look at the general ethos of the strategy and to set out guidelines that can then be applied to the specific department and subject area. The goal of the strategy that will be established here is to ensure that the user needs are met in the most suitable and way. There is little point in having a large amount of information available if it does not meet users needs, so undertaking a needs assessment will be the underlying basics of this strategy. To a certain extent this user need has been already recognised within the University as the libraries themselves and been selected to reflect different subject areas and are located close to the relevant faculties. The actual concept of an information need is in itself relatively fluid and this indicates that any information strategy needs to be continuously evolving in order to deal with changing needs. For example, several years ago it would have been the case that many students did not have their own computers and therefore a facility that would allow students to use communal computers would have been crucially important. Nowadays most of students has its own computers and indeed having a notable amount of communal computers diminishes. Changes in the student demographic will also have a bearing on the information strategy. Different courses will become popular at different times and the types of information available will need to change to reflect this. For

INM341 Lucia Cavorsi Information Strategy

example, if the number of students studying a particular subject increases dramatically in any given year is another direct bearing on information needs. Similarly, postgraduate students are more likely to be involved in detailed research and their information needs will be different to undergraduate students who may be relying on a few small texts (Davis et. al. 1989). Therefore the initial stage of this information strategy will involve looking at the types of subjects that need to be covered, the number of students in each department as well as specific deadlines that may be relevant as they may be a requirement for a particular type of information at a specific point in time. Having adaptability and flexibility will be critical as changes can happen on a regular basis, although on the whole decisions relating to specific areas the information strategy can be made at the beginning of the academic year as it is at this point that the central management team will be aware of the number of students studying particular topics and the types of timeframes that may be relevant. It is likely for example that students will make more use of information immediately prior to dissertation deadlines or around exam times. Recognition is also given to the fact that information provided by any library should be turned into knowledge. This is something that needs to be done by the department or the students themselves, although facilitating this process is something that the library can take into consideration as one of its own objectives. The questions in relation to information needs will be answered , not only by looking at the statistics of the various different courses but also through looking at any trends and patterns that emerge as well as asking students themselves as to whether the library is suitably facilitating their study. By using surveys and one-to-one interviews it is possible to identify any information that may have emerged so that changes can be made. Strategy and Plans The information strategy that will be employed by the library has several underlying objectives that will be met by specific plans detailed in this section. The overall objective is to create a library system, which is efficient and suitably facilitates study for all students at whatever level (Manton et. al. 2004). There is also an objective to ensure that the best possible use is made of technology and that information can be not only stored and accessed but can be converted into knowledge by the students themselves. In doing this the ultimate aim is to enhance the reputation of the University by having successful research degrees. A further objective will be to ensure a suitable interaction between departments and the library as the library itself should not operate as a stand-alone entity but rather as a support system breach of the departments to offer the best possible student facility. The plans to develop the information strategy will fall into several different categories each of which will be looked at in turn. Access to resources and information is one of the first and fundamental areas of the information strategy. Enhancing access to the resources and ensuring that all students are able to access information that they require at any time of day

INM341 Lucia Cavorsi Information Strategy

or night and are able to fully utilise information available is critically important, as there is little point having a large amount of information available is if it cannot be accessed. Using information technology will enable students to access the database at any point from a remote location and this will inform them as to available books within the library as well as giving them access to online databases and resources. Students can then book any part of the information that they wish to obtain at any point so that when they do access the library they know that the information they require is available. Being aware of the information is also an important aspect of this as it may be the case that a student wants to undertake research and doesn't know exactly what the library has to offer. With this in mind the Department will work with the library as part of the information strategy and will identify information available from the library catalogue. The student is most likely to be interested in certain particular topics. As part of the lecture handouts students will be directed to the relevant library section as this is immediate access to the information that they are likely to find useful. Although it is impractical to allow access to the information 24 hours a day, seven days a week from a physical point of view, the library itself will have extended opening hours, where students can use the facilities and can access the information for reference only. The desk which will allow students to take books out or to return books or discuss matters with a member of staff will be open for specific hours every day although these will be extended during the most popular times example in the run-up to exams. A careful balance needs to be achieved between allowing students the freedom to take books out and use them in the comfort of their own home and ensuring that the books are available to all students. If all books can be removed at any time this may have a detrimental impact on the ability of other students to gain access to these books. Bearing this in mind the information strategy here will involve the identification of each item and each resource with those that are most likely to be popular (for example core and exams texts) so that they can be placed on a short term loan or even on reference only. A facility will also be made available to students to locate books that they wish to borrow and to book them even if they are currently with another student. This ensures that the resources are cycled around the individual students and the more popular resources are made available on a short-term basis to the largest possible number of students (O Case, 2006). Deciding on the information that will be provided by the library and where the budget will be spent is an issue that should be largely left to the individual faculty as they will be in the best place to direct expenditure. However, the information strategy itself will lay out the objectives of budget allocation. It has been shown that utilising online resources is one of the easiest ways of ensuring that the greatest number of students can have access to information at any time (day or night) and therefore departments will be encouraged to look towards using online databases wherever possible. A particular area that needs attention within the University library is that of supporting students in turning the information available to them into knowledge and utilising the information in the best way possible. The library has traditionally operated as a separate

INM341 Lucia Cavorsi Information Strategy

entity to the academic faculty, yet it needs to change as the information strategy needs to be inclusive and need to work alongside the faculty objectives. With this in mind, the library will be required to undertake consultation function by encouraging lecturers to utilise library as a location to undertake seminar and to offer additional assistance to students. Furthermore, it is also planned that library staff members will manage drop-in clinics to assist students in research technique as simply having the information available is just an initial step and students need to be aware of how they can convert this information into academic success. In order to implement the various different strategies the central management team will establish the overall targets that are relevant for each individual faculty, and associated library. A key individual will be identified in each library to ensure that the agenda be pursued and to identify any weaknesses or changes that need to take place in order to make the particular library more efficient. Usage levels will be monitored on a regular basis including identifying whether students are using the online resources or are still opting to come into the library to physically access the books. Each individual resource can be monitored and therefore funding decisions can be made to ensure that the best possible return can be achieved for the funding investment. Students will be asked to participate in surveys and focus groups on a regular basis to identify any greater needs that may be emerging and to ensure that the way in which the information is provided can be improved (Penzhorn, 2002). Each library will also be tasked with holding clinics and tutorials to bridge the crucial gap between information and knowledge. Security and Ethics When gathering information and presenting it to students there are going to be security and ethical issues which need to be tackled as part of the information management strategy. Security is crucial on several different levels. Firstly data is maintained in relation to individual students who are enrolled on specific course and are able to access the library systems. In order to gain access to the resources, students will be required to register so that they can be traced in the event that books or resources are not returned or if the library wishes to contact particular students. This data needs to be maintained securely and although it is ideal to ensure that the data is available across the various different faculties this information needs to be password protected and should not be supplied to third parties. Security also needs to be considered where students are able to access the communal computers there is potentially the case that the student is using the computer for illegal or immoral purposes and therefore a form of security needs to be built into the system to ensure that the student can be identified and appropriately dealt with (Cornelius 2010). Budget is also limited and therefore it must be possible to track any resources so that they can be returned and money does not have to be wasted by having to replace resources that have simply been kept by student. By identifying the student that has the resources and

INM341 Lucia Cavorsi Information Strategy

denying them their degree certificate until the resources have been returned the security of the resources will be maintained. Finally, care will be taken to ensure that students understand the way in which they use the information with particular reference to plagiarism and ethical issues associated with research. Tutorials will be provided within the library to ensure that students can use the information available in an appropriately ethical manner.

Conclusions The information management strategy that is to be implemented within the University library system will be managed centrally but will focus on underlying objectives such as placing an increased emphasis on information technology so that more information can be provided to a wider range of people within the budget. It will however be up to the individual library and faculty to apply the objectives to meet with their specific situation. Paying particular attention to information needs will be a crucial first step and identifying the needs of the various different users and then to feed this back into the management team to ensure that the information strategy can be adapted to fulfil these needs and to assist the university in becoming an adaptable and world-class research centre.

INM341 Lucia Cavorsi Information Strategy

References Cornelius, I. (2010). Information policies and strategies, London: Facet, 2010 Davis, F. D., Bagozzi, R. P., & Warshaw, P. R. (1989). User acceptance of computer technology: A comparison of two theoretical models. Management Science, 35(8), 982-1004 Manton, E., Turner, C. T., & English, D. (2004). Testing the level of student knowledge. Education, 124 (4), 682-687. Nicholas, D. (2000). Assessing information needs: tools, techniques and concepts for the information age (2nd ed.), London: Aslib O Case, D. (2006). Looking for information: a survey of research on information seeking, needs, and behaviour (2nd edition), New York: Academic Press. Penzhorn, C. (2002). The use of participatory research as an alternative approach for information needs research, Aslib Proceedings, 54(4), 240-250. Wilson, T. (2006). Revisiting user studies and information needs, Journal of Documentation, 62(6), 680-684. Yoe, G. (2005). Understanding users and use: a market segmentation approach, Journal of the Society of Archivists, 26(1), 25-53.