How Valuable Are You?
by Joshua Finnell, Reference Librarian/Assistant Professor of Library Science, Frazar Library McNeese State University
As Leslie Simmel pointed out in a recent a College & Research Libraries News article, "Regrettably, many academic libraries have been slow to recognize the value of their services to faculty and administrators as we go about the work of managing the business of an educational enterprise (88)". Assessing and marketing the value of our services is a common problem that many new academic librarians will have to face as they enter the profession. Succinctly stated, you must be able to demonstrate that your skill extends beyond pointing a patron to the nearest restroom. However, you may find yourself at an institution that does not have an annual performance review or any format in which you can detail your accomplishments and scholarship.
Extrapolating from my annual performance review, I want to offer a basic rubric as a guide for new academic librarians have had no evaluation in their current position and wish to record their value to their institution. The following review is consolidated into four distinct areas: librarianship, scholarly/professional activity, service, and collegiality.
In a general sense this section will describe any special projects or assignments you executed that enhanced your department or the library as a whole. Describe any presentations or workshops you designed for the library or library guides written for the collection. Also be sure to underscore cooperative efforts with the rest of the library administration, staff, faculty, students, and other university groups to facilitate use of the library. This may be in the form of library committee work or outreach as a subject liaison. Finally, you will want to illustrate any integration of new technology into library services. Your ability to learn and implement new software and equipment reflects your currency and adaptability in the field.
Include publications, grants, professional papers presented at conferences, or journal articles in this section. In addition, list your involvement in professional library organizations, from membership to committee work. Most importantly, emphasize participation in continuing library education designed to improve professional competence. Your MLIS provides you with a solid foundation upon which continuing professional education will improve and expand your core knowledge.
Highlight your involvement in university organizations outside of the library. Serving on campus-wide committees and working with student groups demonstrates your integration into the university community and also serves as excellent public relations for the library. Outside of the academic community, list community service work. Expanding beyond the academic bubble and connecting to the community is an excellent way to forge future relations and underscores your dedication to information needs on a broader scale.
While the majority of colleges and universities do not specify collegiality as a criterion for assessment, demonstrating your ability to work well with colleagues is a value to any institution. Using concrete examples from the aforementioned topics, formulate a brief statement indicating your efforts to maintain an atmosphere of collegiality in an academic community. Being civil seems like commonsense and not worth stating, but it demonstrates your cooperative disposition, which correlates to efficiency and effectiveness in completing tasks.
Whether you are required to or not, keeping a record of performance annually is an excellent resource to have on hand when proving your value to an institution. In addition, a review of your annual performance opens a platform for you to discuss resources needed to maintain or develop professional skills. While reviewing your past record of accomplishment, you are also anticipating future needs and assisting the director in budgeting for those resources. Overall, a record of performance will go a long way in demonstrating your value to the library, university, and the community.
Simmel, Leslie. "Building your Value Story and Business Case: Observations from a Marketing Faculty and (Former) Librarian Perspective." C&RL News February 2007: 88.