Developing Business Cases for New Services: Report Offers Recommendations for Research Libraries

For immediate release

Contact: Kathlin Smith

Washington, DC-Oct. 18, 2012-Libraries developing digital scholarship services should adopt structured, disciplined approaches to planning for their success, according to a new report, Fit for Purpose:  Developing Business Cases for New Services in Research Libraries. Sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Digital Library Federation (DLF) program, Fit for Purpose presents a set of recommendations that libraries can adopt when developing any new service. The report attends closely to entrepreneurial activities such as library-based publishing and data stewardship because of the uncertainty and complexity of those services.

“Today’s networked environment has changed scholarship and challenges our perceptions of what is a ‘library’ service,” said DLF Director Rachel Frick. “This report can help libraries identify, start, and scale successful new services that are within their capacity and best fit their communities’ needs. The DLF program supports this research effort, as ‘digital libraries’ are not a single service silo, but a mode of service that cuts across all aspects of today’s research libraries.”

Fit for Purpose provides a decision-making toolbox created from elements of social entrepreneurship and project management that are consistent with research library environments and values. It addresses organizational readiness and risk tolerance, business case development, piloting new services, and monitoring sustainability through the business planning lifecycle. The team is also conducting several case studies to explore how libraries have conducted business planning to support their new ventures. These will be published at a future date, followed by a concluding report that reassesses the initial recommendations.

Fit for Purpose is published by MediaCommons Press using the CommentPress platform. Readers are encouraged to engage in a dialogue with the authors and their colleagues about the recommendations and their related experiences. The report can be read at http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/mcpress/businesscases/.

The report was developed by a team that includes Mike Furlough (Penn State), Ted Fons, (OCLC), Elizabeth Kirk (Dartmouth), Michele Reid (North Dakota State), and Carol Hunter (University of North Carolina). Noted consultant Judy Luther serves as an advisor to the project.

“Rigor and risk are not antithetical,” notes Kirk. “We wanted to provide a structure that would help librarians and administrators more easily step through the elements of robust planning. The process can be tailored to the scale and scope of activity the library is discussing.” While the principles outlined in the report could be applied to many different types of library services, the research and case studies focus on publishing and data curation programs because libraries often frame these activities as “experiments” that they hope will lead to sustainable programs. “Experimentation is exhilarating and necessary. But we don’t provide good service if we haven’t thought through how we will move from experiments on ongoing support for the researchers we work with,” said Furlough.

The Council on Library and Information Resources is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. It aims to promote forward-looking collaborative solutions that transcend disciplinary, institutional, professional, and geographic boundaries in support of the public good. The Digital Library Federation (DLF) is a consortium of libraries and related agencies that are pioneering the use of electronic-information technologies to extend their collections and services. DLF is a program of CLIR.