Friday, July 03, 2009

SLA 2009: ROI for Special Libraries

In addition to embedded librarianship, another high-profile theme at SLA 2009 was return on investment.

There seemed to be more focus than usual this year on ROI; this is not surprising considering the economy. Post-session Q&A almost always yielded at least one question about ROI: how to measure it, how to report on it, how to prove it, etc. Obviously, it's a topic that's on everyone's minds.

But what was different this year was a more straightforward, ruthless attitude towards it. I heard several speakers mention that they review their services regularly - not yearly, but every 90 days. If the service is not being used or aligned with the organization's goals, it's cut. No hemming and hawing - just cut it and move on. Attendees were also encouraged to be mindful of the discrepancy between what's important to us and what's important to the end user - there's often a big difference between the two.

During one session on critical thinking, the speakers emphasized how important it is not to get caught in the sunk cost fallacy. In other words, if a service or activity isn't worth pursuing, don't let the fact that you've invested a lot of time and effort and money into it prevent you from axing it. Just write it off as a sunk cost and get on it with. This sort of blunt, no-nonsense strategy was prevalent.

I don't expect that ROI will become any less important in coming years, and it'll be interesting to hear the innovative ways that info pros track and convey this important measure.

Up next: The Alignment Project and a New Name for SLA



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