The One that Crawled Up My Butt and Died

As I’ve previously mentioned, I hesitate to write a nasty e-mail about anyone, particularly on a listserv, and I do not engage in flame wars. But, I swear there are some people who test my resolve.

This may not make much difference to many of you, but it really irritated me, so please forgive me as I rant for a minute.

[begin rant]

If you have been following my other blog, you are probably aware of the Bush Administration’s efforts to close Federal agency libraries, particularly the ongoing saga that is the EPA library system. (Short version: Bush submits budget calling for $2 million EPA budget reduction resulting in closure of their libraries, EPA starts closing libraries before Congress has approved said budget, Congress Critters write fornal letters telling EPA to cease and desist until they can review the situation and actually approve the budget, EPA continues closing libraries and sells furniture for pennies on the dollar).

Raise your hand if you are a librarian and you have NOT heard about this issue? If you are a library professional, you would not only have to be under a rock to have missed this one, you would have to be in a bunker 20 feet under the rock. But, okay, I suppose it is possible that someone might not have heard about this yet, especially if government information is not his/her area of interest.

I am on several listservs, one of which I’ve debated unsubscribing from because there is seldom anything discussed that is in my area of interest, and it seems very focused on academic libraries and lives mainly in the theoretical, not the practical.

A week and a half ago, someone posted a story to this listserv about the dire situation facing Federal agency libraries. The article focuses on the EPA libraries, but also mentions closures of NASA and Department of Energy libraries.

This week, someone posts this:

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Haven’t these “special” federal librarians heard of assessing their value through calculations such as cost-benefit ratios and return-on-investment calculations, then communicating this value to their senior administrators? My special libraries/information centers course at the University of *** is organized around value-calculation projects of this very nature.

I’ll be moderating the “Special Information Centers” discussion at the upcoming ALISE conference’s “Birds of a Feather” session, and would be happy to use this practical example as a starting point for further dialogue with other interested ALISE colleagues.

I can forgive many things about this post, but there is one thing that really pisses me off. It is the snarky sentence, complete with quotation marks, “Haven’t these “special” federal librarians heard of assessing their value through calculations such as cost-benefit ratios and return-on-investment calculations, then communicating this value to their senior administrators?”

If this person had said, “gee, thanks for letting us know about this, maybe the librarians could do something to demonstrate to the PTB that they are a valuable asset” I would have no problem. Okay, maybe s/he’d be living under a rock, as discussed above, but that just means we need to be getting this story out there more.

But the seemingly demeaning use of those quotes, and the “I’m a professor and I know better than thou, and I will demonstrate these “special” librarians ineptitude by making them a case study” attitude that comes across in the posting is just too much!

All of this is, of course, intensified by just how completely clueless this person actually is. In point of fact, these “special” federal librarians HAVE conducted just such a Return on Investment (ROI) study! The project lead was the Manager of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency National Library Network and is the current Chair of the SLA Government Information Division. This study (“Business Case for Information Services: EPA’s Regional Libraries and Centers,” EPA-260-R-04-001, January 2004) found:

Between answering reference questions and conducting database searches, EPA librarians are estimated to have saved over 214,566 hours of EPA staff time, resulting in a cost-savings to the Agency of slightly over $7.5 million. The benefit to cost ratio for provision of library reference services within EPA is conservatively estimated to be over 4.4:1. Adding in the value of Public Access, the ratio exceeds 6:1.

The EPA libraries are closing in spite of this analysis, a fact which I sent to this person in a politely-worded reply to the list. As I said in this reply, it does not appear that the efforts these librarians have, in fact, made to bring their value to the attention of “senior administrators” means much to the most senior administrator.

[end rant]

Okay. Now that I’ve finished, excuse me while I try to extricate this bug from my butt.