Over the years, I’ve read pretty much everything I could get my hands on written by Dr. James Matarazzo about corporate libraries . Dean Emeritus and Professor of Library and Information Science at Simmons, Dr. Matarazzo has long been considered the expert on the organization, management, and valuation of corporate libraries, as well as on the future of corporate librarianship.
Which is why I was so jazzed to be able to attend the “Corporate Library in Turbulent Times” presentation given by Toby Pearlstein (formerly with Bain & Co.) and Jim Matarazzo at the 2011 SLA conference. Based on a series of articles in Searcher magazine the two have written (see below), the presentation focused on how information professionals in corporate libraries can proactively identify warning signs that their library – or their jobs – are in jeopardy, and then take steps to act from a position of strength.
As all corporate librarians are aware, and Matarazzo and Pearlstein made clear, “turbulence is the new constant.” Corporate libraries are closing at a steady pace, and individuals unable to establish a clear value relationship between their services and their organization’s bottom line are unlikely to survive unscathed.
There are, however, steps you can take to position yourself for the probability of change. The first one is simply to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Matarazzo and Pearlstein suggested you ask yourself the following questions as a “predictive model” to indicate when your position might be in jeopardy:
• Are decisions made by top management without user (i.e., you) consultation?
• Are you experiencing a reduction in number of customers?
• Is the availability of outside resources compromising the perceived value of your services?
• Is there a lack of evaluation of services?
• Is there evidence of financial crisis in the parent organization?
As you consider these questions, you’ll want to be taking basic steps for either protecting your current position or laying the groundwork for future, alternative opportunities within the organization (read: embedded librarianship). Per Matarazzo and Pearlstein, that means assessing your situation as to 1) metrics and results, 2) strategic alignment with corporate priorities, and 3) optimal service models, among other criteria. The outcome should be a strategic planning process that “brings imagination into focus.”
For a more detailed description of this excellent presentation, check out Don Hawkins’ “Conference Circuit” overview.
Also, the following bibliography of articles by Matarazzo and Pearlstein will provide additional ideas for how to navigate the turbulent corporate librarianship universe:
• “Strategic planning must be a top-shelf tool in your survival toolkit,” Future Ready 365 blog, July 15, 2011.
• “Marrying Two Expert Tools Will Help You Sustain Your Corporate Library,”Library Journal, February 01, 2007.
• “Resuscitated! The EPA Libraries’ Near-Death Experience,” Searcher,May 2009.
• “Survival Lessons for Libraries – Corporate Libraries: A Soft Analysis and A Warning,” Searcher, June 2009.
• “Survival Lessons for Libraries – Alternate Sourcing: A Critical Component of Your Survival Toolkit,” Searcher, September 2009.
• “Scenario Planning as Preventative Medicine; The Case of the Unexpected Takeover,” Searcher, November/December 2009.