Business Strategy for Libraries

Open Access & the Library | Licensing Strategy & Negotiations | Strategic Planning  for Libraries


Libraries (excepting those in the corporate sector) are mission-based not-for-profit organizations. In dealing with publishers and other vendors (e.g., providers of library automation software), libraries find themselves negotiating with organizations whose missions do not align with their own, as all vendors, including not-for-profit society publishers, have as a core goal to serve the interests of their shareholders or members. In some instances there is a disparity in size between a library and a well-established commercial publisher. This can result in an asymmetry in negotiations, with the vendors having more information than libraries as well as more resources to bring to negotiations. Business consultation is a means to level the playing field, by bringing to libraries knowledge and experience with commercial vendors and publishers, an understanding of the financial and strategic implications of deals and deal structures, and a deep understanding of what it means to operate in a market-based environment. Our library consultation services include:

Open Access and the library — Open Access requires that libraries think through their strategies and operations, and may also involve an extensive budget review. We work with libraries on assessing Open Access strategy and seek to tailor a strategy to the particular circumstances of any one institution or consortium. A key part of an Open Access strategy for libraries is to get all participants to come to consensus on plans and practices, making the socialization of findings a key component of any project.

Licensing strategy and negotiations — Drawing on our extensive background in academic and professional publishing, we work with libraries, both academic and corporate, as they prepare strategies for collections negotiations. We know how publishers think and what points in a negotiation have the best chance of a successful (for the library) resolution. A key part of developing these strategies, and assisting libraries through negotiations, is to develop a model for budgets and negotiations, including a timeline that may extend for several years. All consultation in this area is built upon a library’s own internal information on usage, cost per use, budget projections, and the research and academic programs the library is charged to support.

Strategic planning for the library — Strategic planning is the most important responsibility for the management team of any organization. In the library world such planning is particularly complex because libraries must serve multiple constituencies, even as they navigate the marketplace for content and other vendor services within the confines of budgets that are set by others (e.g., university administrators, state officials). We facilitate strategic planning exercises, pulling in the best voices across the organization and in the adjacent departments at an institution. Such exercises routinely involve workshops, Webinars, series of interviews, and careful financial analysis. In the end the strategy must be the library’s own, but it must also be acceptable to university or corporate administration, for which we prepare presentations to put the plan into the broader context of comparable libraries and institutions.