Follett Report

Chapter 4 - The Management of Library and Information Services in the Institutions


Given the importance of information provision in higher education institutions, its effective management is essential. This chapter discusses the place of the library and of its staff in the work of the institutions whose activities they support, and how this needs to be reassessed. It also considers three areas where the Review Group considers that specific action will bring valuable benefits. These are: strategic planning, and the context in which this needs to take place; the development and use of performance indicators; and staff management. It makes recommendations aimed primarily at institutions themselves, but which are also in part directed at the funding bodies.

The Future of Information Provision

Libraries have always been amongst the most important providers of information in higher education. They have acted as storehouses of written or printed material, and it has been their job to collect it, preserve it, and make it accessible. These traditional media, and the role of libraries in making them available, will continue.
At the same time, with the emergence of the new media for storing, accessing, and transmitting information noted in chapter three, information provision in higher education has undergone many changes in the last 20 years. The present position is one of rapid development in the technology and management of information provision within institutions, and in the role of libraries in helping to make such provision.
The traditional view of the "library" as the sole repository and supplier of information needed to support teaching, learning and research is no longer adequate. Those working in higher education, as elsewhere, are increasingly faced with multiple sources of information, and many different ways of gaining access to them. The precise location of information will depend on many factors, including history, geography and resources, but given the variety of ways of storing information even the notion of "location" will in many cases need to change. Everywhere, the emphasis will shift away from the library as a place, away from the books and periodicals it holds, and towards the information to which it can provide access. Information management will be directed towards giving access to information rather than storing it, and it will be possible to provide access to it in many different ways.
In these circumstances, each institution's information provision will differ, depending on the nature of its activities, on its inherited provision, and on other factors. Some institutions will meet the needs of their users by providing access to information most of which is physically located elsewhere. This can be characterised as moving from a "holdings" to an "access" strategy, with access provided in many different ways. To the user, the place where data is held will be relatively unimportant. Other institutions will be major suppliers of information which is located within the institution, and their position will be very different. Most institutions will fall between these extremes, combining internal and external sources of information to meet the particular needs of their staff and students.
It is important that each institution should reassess its own position. A balance will need to be struck between meeting information needs from within the institution, and meeting them externally. The Review Group does not seek to prescribe a single approach to these issues which can be applied across all institutions. There is no single model of a future library or information service which can or should be imposed on individual institutions or libraries within them. However, at the heart of this chapter is the recommendation that each institution should fundamentally reassess the way it plans and provides for the information needs of those working within it, and the place of the library in meeting these needs. This will be central to the development of the information strategy discussed in the next section. The Review Group thus recommends should undertake a review of the position of its library in this context.

Strategic Planning

Taking account of the issues discussed above, all institutions should develop a clear strategy for meeting their information needs. This section discusses some of the issues which the Review Group believes should be considered in developing this strategy.
The UFC and the PCFC asked institutions to submit strategic plans in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and the new funding councils have recently invited institutions to present their current strategic plans, revised in the light of recent developments affecting higher education.
In seeking these plans from institutions the funding councils have recognised that their compilation, set in the context of each institution's broad objectives, is an important means of providing a clear direction and purpose to its work. In general, they have accepted that institutions will adopt their own approach, but they have identified particular areas in which they have a direct interest, and have asked that these be clearly identified within the institution's strategic plan. Areas of council interest which have been so identified include staffing, physical resources, financial planning, and quality assurance. No explicit attention has however been given by the funding councils to library and information services, nor to teaching and learning support in general. It is also clear from reviewing those strategic plans recently submitted by institutions that library and related information services are rarely given prominence in them, or treated distinctly. The planning of libraries is, on the contrary, usually disaggregated into fragmentary elements.
Against this background, the Review Group believes that both the funding bodies and institutions should pay much closer attention to strategic planning in relation to ries in higher education. The benefits are several, and in particular:
A clear statement of aims and the methods by which they are to be met will be available for both managers and users of the library.
This will help institutional management and teaching departments to ensure that the proportion of their recurrent budget which is assigned to the library will be sufficient to enable it to fulfil the roles required of it: in other words, the inputs required should be determined once the objectives and expected outputs of the library have been decided.
A further advantage is that such planning should foster closer and better relationships between those responsible for the planning and management of library and information services on the one hand, and those responsible for other aspects of institutional management on the other. In some institutions, such co-operation and integration is already well developed and highly effective, but in others the relationship between senior management as a whole, and the management of library and information services, is less effective.
The development of an integrated information strategy should take account of a wide range of factors, and will depend on the circumstances of each institution. Whatever the approach taken, the strategy should pay particular attention to defining the needs of various groups of library users, to the performance measures and indicators which the institution believes are appropriate, to quality assurance and assessment, and to the management of staff and physical resources.
A decision will also be needed on who should be responsible for the delivery of information services. In some institutions recent organisational changes have involved convergence" under a single managerial structure of library and other support services such as audio-visual and computing services. The aim has been to achieve organisational and managerial integration between library and other services as the best way of ensuring their functional integration and improved co-ordination in planning. Other institutions have concluded that similar operational compatibility can best be achieved without managerial or organisational convergence.
The Review Group considers that there are many advantages in organisational convergence, particularly in enabling an integrated information strategy to develop. While it must be for each individual institution to decide which approach it wishes to take it is important that these organisational issues are addressed, and that the place of the library and of other information providers is assessed within the context of an overall information management strategy.
Other areas to which attention should be given in planning an integrated information strategy include:
Resource allocation: is there a clear and effective mechanism for translating the library's objectives into the allocation of resources needed to meet them? How are decisions arrived at in cases where there is a funding shortfall? How are decisions taken as to levels of spending on books and periodicals as distinct from staff?
Liaison in course design and planning: has the library been involved in these processes from an early stage? Have the demands which courses and students are to make on the library been clearly defined? Have adequate resources been made available to meet them?
The role of the librarian: he or she is both a professional in his or her own right, and also the provider of a support service for those engaged in teaching and research. he librarian is responsible for managing one of the single most important services in the institution, and is well placed to provide a strategic view.
Acquisitions and disposals policy: are those involved in teaching and research being involved at an early stage in both general and subject-specific aspects of library acquisitions policies? Are lecturers liaising effectively with the library over reading lists, the management of short term collections, and other matters? Is there a clear policy for the management of disposals, and how is this organised?
These examples merely identify some of the areas on which an integrated information strategy should focus. Regardless of its management structure, each institution should seek to promote the co-ordinated planning of all its teaching and learning resources, bringing those responsible for library and information services into this work. This requires each institution to review its practice and procedures in this area. In addition, whatever the organisation of information services, the senior person responsible for these should take a leading role in the senior management of the institution. In some, it may be appropriate for the librarian to take this role but in others where organisational structures are different, this will not be the case.
Accordingly the Review Group recommends that:
The funding councils should request a component dealing specifically with library and related services within the overall strategic planning information which they periodically seek from institutions.
This component should be based on an institution's own information strategy. This should aim to foster integration with other aspects of the institution's work, and in particular the planning of its other resources. It should incorporate the conclusions of review recommended in paragraph 84, and cover the organisational and managerial issues discussed in this section.
The senior person responsible for these should take a leading role in the management of the institution.

Levels of Library Spending within the Institution

One of the main concerns expressed by librarians and publishers in recent years has been about the decline in average library spending per capita, and the decline in the proportion of recurrent income spent on library services.
The 1967 Parry report (sections 599-604. See also note in paragraph 35) looked at the level of library expenditure made by institutions, and on the basis of an illustrative model provided by SCONUL suggested that in order to provide "facilities...comparable to those which exist in other developed countries" annual library expenditure would need to represent "approximately six per cent of the total university expenditure" (this figure related to acquisitions and staff costs only, and does not appear to take account of space costs).
The Parry report noted that this figure represented a significant increase on the then average expenditure of approximately 3.8 per cent per annum. The report qualified its discussion of the six per cent model figure by stating: "The decision on the library budget must be made by each institution for itself in the light of its own circumstances, and central regulation would not be desirable or practical." Nonetheless, the figure was influential in the later 1960s and early 1970s, both in the then university sector (to which the report was addressed), and also in the emerging polytechnic and college sector.
The Review Group has considered whether the use of a similar model, and the production of a similar norm, would be helpful in present circumstances. Perhaps even more strongly than Parry, it has concluded that spending norms of this kind would not be useful or appropriate.
There are several reasons for this conclusion. In the first place, it would be necessary to define precisely to what provision and what categories of spending any such norm related. Given the current pace of change in information provision, and the different strategies adopted by different institutions in meeting their needs, it is not obvious that a simple norm would serve any useful purpose. It would be necessary at the very least to develop a number of different norms, to reflect the considerable diversity within the higher education system. At the time Parry wrote, this diversity was much less marked.
In addition, for the funding councils to set norms of this kind in respect of library services would undermine the principle that recurrent funding is provided as a block grant, and would undermine the flexibility of local management to respond to their own circumstances. The value of the block grant as a means of giving local institutional management the flexibility and independence they require to manage their institutions effectively should not be underestimated.
The Review Group is also disinclined to set standards which relate to input measures rather than outputs or performance. In determining the level of spending which needs to be made on library services (either recurrent or capital), institutions need to take into account a wide range of factors. The Review Group has felt it much more helpful to enumerate some of these, than to set prescriptive standards for input.
The Review Group recommends, therefore, that each institution should continue to be responsible for deciding the level of spending it makes on its library services.
Decisions on spending should be closely related to the library's overall aims and to its specific objectives as set out in the strategic planning statements discussed above. The Review Group recommends that each institution should, as a matter of high priority, review overall library spending and the balance between its different elements in the light of the library's strategic objectives, and bearing in mind in particular the following factors:
The performance of its library judged against an appropriate set of performance indicators (see paragraphs 108-116 below).
The organisational and managerial structure in which its library operates.
The requirements of the library's users, both students and teaching staff, and those undertaking research.
The medium and longer term needs of the library as reflected in the institution's strategic plans.
The current quality of library provision, as reflected either through quality assessments by the funding councils, or the institution's own quality assurance and audit processes.
Supply side factors, and in particular prices of books, periodicals and other media.
The library's equipment needs, both in terms of conventional equipment and needs arising from the use of information technology.

Institutional Resource Allocation Methods

The Review Group also considered whether it wished to make any specific recommendations on the methods which institutions should adopt in allocating and determining the level of their library budgets (as distinct from the levels themselves).
Responses gathered by the LISU survey confirm that there is considerable diversity in how these matters are dealt with in different institutions. In some cases, the level of library spending is largely determined centrally, with little role for academic departments. In other cases, departments themselves have responsibility for deciding what proportion of their own funding should be devoted to library provision, and such models may involve the principle of academic departments "buying" library services from the central library. There are many variations on these models, with, for instance, differential involvement by departments and faculties in decisions on how to allocate acquisitions and materials budgets between different subjects, and in some cases formulae (often based on student numbers) are adopted. It is not however clear that such devolved models necessarily result in increases in resources available for libraries, and they can create additional administrative work.
Diversity in this area is legitimate. What is important is that resource allocation methods and decision making on library spending should be both transparent and such as to foster clear accountability. The two principles usually go hand in hand. In cases where the reasons for decisions and the methods by which they were arrived at can be seen clearly, it is much more likely that they will be accepted as legitimate.

Performance Indicators

The Review Group has sought to emphasise the importance of effective library and information services in supporting teaching and research in higher education. It follows that there should be clear means of establishing how effective a library is in meeting its defined aims. In addition the effectiveness of library and information services provision should be an important aspect in the assessment of the quality of teaching.
Librarians have long had means of obtaining feedback from their users and have usually been closely attuned to the needs of both students and academic staff. The role of library committees, newsletters, and library annual reports has been valuable here. In addition, much effort has recently been devoted to establishing performance indicators (PIs) against which the activity of higher education institutions can be measured and judged, and which enable an institution to compare its own performance against its targets and against the performance of others. In the case of libraries, a considerable amount of background work has been undertaken by SCONUL and COPOL, and the Review Group has benefited from having had access to this work.
Only limited attention was paid to library PIs by the joint CVCP/UFC committee which published successive annual editions of management statistics and performance indicators. Similarly the library management statistics published in those volumes were of broad value in providing time series, but of very much less use for qualitative and comparative purposes. More recently, the new Joint Funding Councils' Performance Indicators Working Group has similarly been unable to give libraries explicit attention.
The Review Group has concluded that a coherent and generic set of performance indicators for libraries should be developed as soon as possible. It thus recommends that further development work should be undertaken immediately in consultation between the Joint Funding Councils' Performance Indicators Working Group and SCONUL and COPOL, o account the following discussion which proposes a framework to assist in this work.
In establishing sensible performance indicators, there is inevitably a tension between the desire to have a small number of simple indicators which can be employed in all libraries, and the need for these to be reliable, consistent and thorough. In practice, developing adequate performance indicators will require a range of different measures to be combined, not all of which will be appropriate in each case, and will also require the use of judgement, including that of users (both students and staff), funding bodies, and librarians. In this sense performance indicators are intended to prompt questions as much as provide answers. Given the heterogeneity of higher education institutions, it should also be emphasised that the extent to which individual indicators are applicable to different institutions will vary.
Inevitably, there has been a tendency to use as indicators, measures which rely on data which are easy to collect and manipulate. In addition, relatively little attention has been paid to qualitative measures, or to output measures, but indicators which fail to take such factors into account will be inadequate and misleading.
In drawing up a range of generic performance indicators, the following are amongst the most important factors which need to be taken into account:
Performance indicators should be related to the aims of the individual institutions, and within these, to those of the library. The development of performance indicators should therefore be seen in the context of the Review Group's recommendations concerning strategic planning and the integration of library and other management functions within individual institutions. In many cases, institutions will wish to choose indicators to fit the strategic aims and objectives which they have set for their institution and its library and information services.
A proposed framework for the development of generic performance indicators is included at annex C. This draws substantially on work already undertaken by SCONUL and COPOL. The Review Group endorses this general approach as an important starting point, and recommends that the Joint Performance Indicators Working Group should use this as a basis for further work.
It also recommends that each institution should draw on the results of this work in making use of performance indicators in its own internal management.

Staff Management in Libraries

Expenditure on salaries and wages has consistently accounted for over half the total library expenditure in UK higher education institutions. The figures for both the former UFC sector, and the former English PCFC sector, are very similar, and throughout the last ten years library spending on staff has regularly accounted for between 53 per cent and 58 per cent of total expenditure (see figure 11).
These average figures disguise considerable variations in the proportion of spending on staff between different institutions. There are many reasons for such variations, including for instance the proportion of effort devoted to in-house binding, conservation, cataloguing and other activities. Similarly, the balance of spending will in part depend more generally on the role and objectives of each individual library. For example, a library tending towards an access rather than a holdings strategy will be likely to spend more of its budget on staff. Nevertheless, given the large amounts of money involved, the Review Group recommends that each institution should review whether the balance between spending on staff and other elements is appropriate in its own circumstances.
Whatever the proportion of libraries' spending on staff, their effectiveness is central to the functions of a successful library. Senior librarians should be able to apply skills which are appropriate to other senior managers involved in financial, strategic, and staff management. They should be involved in planning information provision as a whole, and be able to liaise effectively with teaching staff over matters such as acquisitions, resource allocation, and the management of short loan collections. Above all, librarians should not allow their distinct professional identity to isolate them from other aspects of institutional management, for which they may need appropriate training.
The importance of the training and management of library staff has grown in recent years for several reasons. The ratio of students to professional library staff has ily increased in the last ten years (see figure 12). To some extent the growth in student numbers has been catered for by an increase in the number of junior library staff, but staff in libraries are now working in an environment which on average has almost 70 per cent more users than in 1986-87.
Changes in the organisation of teaching and learning have also led to changes in what is required of library staff. Subject librarians, enquiry desk staff, and others need to be able to play an active role in supporting students in their teaching and learning, including providing guidance in how to use the facilities provided by a library, through to subject-specific advice on project work and source materials.
There is evidence to suggest that changes in the requirements placed on library staff stem also from the changing nature of the student population, and the demands which certain types of students typically place on library staff. Many mature students now arrive in higher education with little recent experience of information and study skills, and (in the case of part time students) with little time available to acquire them. Partly as a result of these trends, the LISU survey suggested that there had been an increase of over 50 per cent in staff time since 1986-87 spent on training and teaching users in study/library skills.
Finally, failure to provide staff with adequate training and to deploy them effectively represents one of the single most important constraints on change and development in library and information provision, and can seriously undermine its effectiveness, especially when this depends on the implementation of new practices, or on information technology.
Because of the importance of these issues, the Review Group commissioned a study of staff management in academic libraries, with the aim of clarifying the issues and establishing areas where change and development were required. The resulting report, entitled "Supporting Expansion", produced by the John Fielden Consultancy, is being published separately from this report. The Consultants' report is aimed at institutional management, professional bodies, and the funding councils, and its findings and recommendations are discussed in the remainder of this section.
The work undertaken by the consultants confirmed that a range of developments were changing the demands placed on university librarians, requiring a broader range of skills from them. The principal area where the study expected further major change was "learner support" - the activities within a library/information service which support individual learners. This includes education and training for library users, training in information management, and other forms of support in the use and manipulation of information.
The report reveals that whilst some institutions have made considerable progress in improving their library and information staff development programmes, a very large number have not. Some areas of training have also been given inadequate attention - training for managers at all levels falls into this category.
In considering the various possibilities identified in the report entitled "Supporting Expansion" for promoting improved training and awareness for library staff, the Review Group has considered the most appropriate division of responsibility between institutions and their representative bodies on the one hand, and the funding councils on the other. In particular, a number of the recommendations in the consultant's report concerning job evaluation, grading systems, and staff development initiatives which were addressed to the funding councils cover areas where the councils do not have any competence or powers. Responsibility for implementing change and development in this area lies with individual institutions themselves, and with collective bodies such as SCONUL, COPOL and the HCLRG, together with the CVCP and SCOP, and in particular the CVCP's Staff Development and Training Unit.
The Review Group therefore recommends that the report prepared by the John Fielden Consultancy should be referred to the CVCP and SCOP, who should be asked to consider whether and if so how its specific recommendations might be implemented.

Library Purchasing

Universities and colleges are collectively the most important national purchasers of academic books and periodicals, spending almost 70 million a year on books and periodicals. Although when compared with the US market UK purchasing power is small, within this country higher education institutions have a potentially powerful role as buyers, and there is arguably significant scope for negotiated price discounts.
University purchasing consortia are already well developed and in many other areas have achieved substantial price discounts. Good examples are software licensing and purchase, and hardware purchases, where regional purchasing consortia and the CHEST organisation based at Bath University have negotiated very successful arrangements.
Many aspects of university purchasing policy and practice were recently reviewed by the CVCP, and these showed that universities were making valuable gains from collective and individual discount arrangements. A general guide to university purchasing was published in October 1993 (Purchasing in Higher Education - a Directory, ed JD Bell, CVCP, 1993), which aimed to provide institutions with information about discounts available from suppliers, and to inform potential suppliers about the university market. As regards library purchasing, the Southern Universities Purchasing Consortium has recently examined the procurement of library materials, and has looked in particular at library related software and systems technology.
In general however, significant discounts on books and periodicals have not been obtained. This is in part because of limitations imposed by the net book agreement, but even in the case of periodicals the discounts gained from major suppliers are minimal - of the order of one or two per cent.
The use of purchasing consortia has enabled some very modest savings to be made in the cost of purchasing periodicals. The Review Group recommends that the CVCP's Purchasing Unit should investigate the scope for further co-operative purchasing of library materials in appropriate circumstances, while recognising both the importance of taking account of the substantial service element in the supply of periodicals and the need to maintain the element of competition between suppliers. It is important, however, to make every effort to break the cycle whereby higher prices lead to cancellations and thus to even higher prices.

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