Who Moved My Library?

Commentary on the changing world of libraries, from the viewpoint of a corporate library.

Monday, October 24, 2005

A little about special libraries, for those who were wondering.

I work in a special library. For those that think every library is special I’ll clarify: I work in a corporate library. The nice thing about special libraries is they don’t have to deal with the general public and the trials and tribulations of public librarianship (as evidenced in the Libraries for Dummies blog). However, special libraries do have special populations that come with their own special issues. What special issues, you ask?

User groups served by special libraries have quite focused information needs. This requires a need for unique subject knowledge. Special librarians need to stay abreast of developments in the library world as well as in the organization’s area of expertise.

Libraries are cost centers. They do not typically generate revenue. In a corporate culture, where everything comes down to maximizing shareholder’s value, libraries must continually provide evidence of a return on their investments. Libraries that don’t do this successfully are doomed to extinction.

Market, market, market. Special libraries, like most other libraries, struggle with marketing. Where this gets tricky for the special library is how to market your services and to whom. Do you market to the decision makers (which could possibly influence the library’s budget and operations)? Do you market to the user groups? Do you market to all user groups the same or sub-divide them and only market to certain subgroups? Alright so marketing a special library isn’t that different from a public library.

If you want more information about special libraries you can visit SLA. There’s a wealth of information there.

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