15 Apr 2014

Business School Libraries in the 21st Century - Edited by Tim Wales (Review)

Guest Post by Marie O'Neill, Head of Library & Information Services, DBS Library


Delete ‘Business School’ from the title of this book and you have what is essentially an invaluable toolkit for 21 century librarianship. The book explores contemporaneous issues of relevance to any library such as the challenges of measuring library impact and return on investment; embracing new media and technology; the increasing role of the Library’s information resources in the career development of its user; the expansion of open access scholarship; adapting library design and more. The old perennials are also in there: outdated perceptions of librarianship; communication disconnects between the wider college environment and library personnel as well as the challenge of librarians getting their message across regarding their value.

Published in 2014, the book is edited by Tim Wales the Head Librarian of the London Business School. The book contains contributions from library world (let alone business library world) glitterati including Chris Clegg, Bodelian Business Librarian at Oxford University; Kathleen Long Library Director for the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Andy Priestner, Library Services Manager at Cambridge University’s Judge Business School in the UK. The book has an international feel however with contributions from Deb Wallace, Executive Director, Knowledge and Library Services at Harvard Business School, DR H. Anil Kumar, Librarian of the Indian Management Institute and Lai Fong Li, Head of Information, Research and Instructional Services (IRIS) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Although the book touches on issues of specific relevance to business information libraries what in fact emerges is the universality of the issues that contributors explore with library managers in all subject disciplines. What is to be commended about this book however is that its content has clearly grown from an international professional connectivity and dialogue amongst library professionals within this discipline that suggests that the future of business librarianship is in safe hands. If this model of communication and scholarly output was emulated by librarians in all subject disciplines what a force we would be! The book is an impressive showcase of how librarians in this discipline are keeping abreast of and in some case driving changes within the wider library profession.

The book uses a mixture of survey tools (with library users and library managers); research literature and anecdotes to share examples of best practice which creates within the book informed and practical guidelines for modern library practice. This book should sit on the desk of any modern library manager worth their salt and it should be well thumbed.

Particularly serious messages that I took from this book are that library impact metrics are essential in terms of securing the future of libraries. Similarly we should not as a profession be complacent about survey findings discussed in this book and elsewhere in which librarianship is seen as an irrelevancy in the Google age and in terms of changing models of information provision (vendor direct to library user). Sensible strategies advocating the alignment of the library’s strategic plan to the institutional and research strategy of organisations; of flexible library spaces and of embedding library services within research services and academic programmes are definite takeaways.

Despite the erudite nature of the book, its greatest advantage and charm lies in the anecdotal nature of some of the contributions from experienced and pragmatic library managers. Andy Priestner a fan of ‘pre-emptive action’ gets his message out about the value of what he and his team do at Cambridge University through short well-structured annual reports, brief informative emails and even ‘elevator pitches’ with key faculty staff. Such his enthusiasm for what he does, that he was told at one point by his manager to ‘tone it down’. Priestner advocates that we resolutely ignore this advice as ‘I just do not think that we as librarians can afford to do this.’ Wise words, from Priestner and perhaps the most compelling message of the book. I for one am in Priestner’s camp.

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