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Library administrators need to know how their collections are used, for a variety of reasons. Of course, to make sure that resources are available, and those that are available are utilized. Secondarily, stakeholders need this information to allocate budgets related to library activities, purchases and other investments. Both library and administrators use assessment plans to help sort all of this out. And, the best way to do that is to determine the VOI, or value on investment.
What does VOI mean?
For most library assessment plans and programs, the ROI, or return on investment, becomes the main factor to consider. ROI is basically referring to resources compared to usage trends and patterns.
VOI is a more holistic view of usage trends and resources, though. With a VOI, the library administrator looks at direct and indirect values related to the collection. For example, a VOI analysis will look at how many articles are cited by institution faculty members, how often faculty publish and in which journals, as well as how many of the library’s articles are listed in course reading requirements.
What is the Difference Between ROI and VOI?
The main difference between the two strategies is that the ROI, a more traditional focus, looks at present use. The VOI, on the other hand, looks at longer-term outcomes, like how information is being funneled within the research cycle, and how it affects scholarly tasks and activities.
No doubt, calculating a VOI is much more involved than an ROI, which is another key difference, and one of the reasons some institutions elect not to conduct a VOI. But, looking at the collection’s value on investment is worth the effort, even if it does, at times, seem a little daunting of a task.
But fear not. If you break the VOI into a few steps, you can systematically determine your VOI, and give valuable information to your leadership team and other stakeholders.
How to Build Your VOI Assessment Strategy
- First, determine what it is that your institution is trying to achieve through the collection. From there, draft a plan on how your library’s local collection supports short and long-term goals of your institution.
- Local-based assessment is key here. Who are your users? Look at their demographics, and learn as much as you can about them to sort out the best assessment methodology.
- Your local users are now going to be sketched out. Take the information you learned through the demographics of your users, as well as examining other community and local organizations that are connected to your institution. For example, a non-profit group, central research offices and administration offices. Who are stakeholders connected to your adult education or distance learning programs? How much of your student body is undergraduate versus graduate? How many RAs (research assistants) and TAs (teacher assistants) do you have? How many faculty members? Do they have access to your collection offline? What is your institution known for? The arts? Education? Medicine? Each of these bits of information will help you make better decisions about how to assess your collection’s usage.
- Now let’s move to more qualitative information. By this, we don’t mean anecdotal, but a deliberate collection of opinions and conversations that you have had with your users. For instance, survey information, interviews, maybe even focus groups. Highlight quotes that point to the need for your collection. For instance, research assistants as well as TAs who are using your collection to support learning as well as research.
- Remember, the VOI is a holistic, or a complete view of your collection. So, you’ll want to show all of the resources that are in sync with your collection development work. This will include staff time, budgets, collection facilities, and any consortial partners.
- As we’ve mentioned, the ROI (return on investment) has some limitations, like why collections might be utilized, or how a collection is linked to publications, student retention, citations, etc. Your VOI (value on investment) fills this void. Focus most of your assessment energy on determining your VOI, and how it connects to value within and outside of the institution, in the short and long-term.
- What kind of institution are you working for. If it’s a research university, your value and impact is typically based on how often faculty members get published and cited. On the other hand, if you are at a teaching university, often the VOI is more focused on student retention, how many textbooks are published by the members of the faculty, or the amount and number of scholarships that are awarded. This goes back to understanding your users, and will help you identify where your collection may be falling short.
- Now take a look at the Institutional Repository, which is where information about scholarly activities are stored and even managed at your institution. These can include conference presentations, white papers, and other proceedings. Take note also on the topics and/or research presented or discussed, including dissertations and theses, to get an idea on what future studies might entail.
- VOI is not a one-time determination. It’s something that you’ll need to do on an ongoing basis. Once you create a first-year baseline, you can build on that for future VOI assessment strategy work. As you monitor trends and information requirements change, you’ll be more quickly able to shift any resources so that your activities reflect actual scholarly activity and trends at your institution.
- The presentation of your VOI Assessment is as important as the plan itself. This is your opportunity to stand in front of stakeholders and decision makers who will determine your budget, and either advocate or strike down your recommendations. To win them over, make connections between administrative goals and objectives and your collection. Make your presentation short, clear and memorable. Include those quotes you gathered, add summary graphs, and forecast, clearly, future needs that you anticipate. Always make sure to include a brief executive summary.
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