Justifying your existence


I often write about the importance of professional associations and how they can help you with continuing professional development. One of the features of many associations is the journal or magazine they publish, either in electronic or print format. I receive Information Outlook from SLA, and Canadian Law Library Review from CALL. These publications are full of interesting articles written by my peers. The current editon of CLLR (Vol. 34, No. 4) has an excellent article by Anh Huynh, Competitive Intelligence Specialist/Reference Librarian at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP called Justifying Your Existence During the Economic Downturn.

As Anh writes:

As cost centres, libraries are often the first place management looks to in order to make cuts during an economic slump. Unless we can “justify our existence”… our jobs could be on the line…

It’s not all gloom and doom, however. Anh gives us the tools to make that justification, and help management see the value we provide.

The first step is to identify non-traditional clients. Anh suggests looking beyond your regular clients (in my case, lawyers) to offer your services to revenue generating departments. My firm is too small to have enough non-traditional employees to make a difference, so instead, I have started marketing different services to these same lawyer-clients. Instead of only providing legal research, I also help build business by providing competitive intelligence services. This allows my firm to see me as a cost-generating department, instead of just a cost-depleting centre.

Another step is to go out there and market yourself – don’t wait for clients to come to you. Ask them about their business, whether there are any new developments they’d like some help with. Anh notes that “Librarians are generally not natural salespeople; indeed our nature is closer to that of counsellors due to the desire to help others.” I happened to mention how I was working with one client to build his business, and another client said, “Here’s how you can help me.”  Voilà – a new relationship was born!

One of the things I learned very early on is that we’re all in sales. Whether you’re selling a product or a service, we’re trading something of value to someone who needs it. The ones who do it well will always succeed in justifying their existence.

~ Karen

Futher reading:

Mary Ellen Bates, Librarian of Fortune: Competing on value, not price

Wendy Reynolds, Slaw: Mirror, Mirror

Krafty Librarian: Librarians need to stop going to Library Conferences


One Response to “Justifying your existence”

  1. 1 Brenda W

    Still forgot to read CLLR but really liked the insight about librarians being similar to counsellors so hard to sell or market ourselves. We judge others on their behaviour and they are judging us as well.

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