Interview with Joy HP Harriman, author of Creating Your Library’s Business Plan: A How-To-Do-It Manual with Samples on CD-ROM Wednesday, Feb 29 2012
More and more frequently, librarians are asked to create business plans, something they might not have been trained to do or have encountered before. Creating Your Library’s Business Plan: A How-To-Do-It Manual with Samples on CD-ROM by Joy HP Harriman was written to address this growing need. Joy, the Medical Librarian at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, UT, has worked for over 20 years in the health care industry in marketing, library and information management, training, and research. Today she shares with of us some of the experiences motivating her writing this book and her insights on the profession.
• Why did you feel that a book on writing a library business plan needed to be written?
The initial idea stemmed from discussions back in the 1980s among medical librarians about whether a library should be managed as a business. I felt at that time that a number of librarians (including me) were in the field that had no business or management training and that training would be helpful.
The second stimulus came about because I’m really poor at planning (nobody I knew was any good at it either!). I thought if my library had a well written (read: simple) business plan to follow then the everyday questions as well as the more strategic issues might be easier to reckon with. Turns out a business plan made everything much easier.
But it was a frustrating initial experience because it’s so much easier for me to do than to sit and think. The situation was similar to the initial stages of a PubMed search where I have to think about what I really want to find and identify the words to describe what I’m looking for – then run the search. Planning made me stop and look and the various issues that affected my library, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and how to overcome the difficulties we were encountering.
The idea of a business plan to me is similar to strategic planning – but on a smaller scale. The business plan sets the stage for a more successful long-term or strategic plan.
A feature of the book that was an experiment for me was the idea that if a reader were provided with a template or recipe – then given various phrases to adjust and insert into the template – the process might be vastly simplified. So far responses from readers tell me the experiment is working!
• Who should read your book?
Anyone who has to plan an activity, service, staffing issue, any type of a plan – or a whole business plan – can use this book. The template is easily adjustable for any size issue that needs addressing. It’s not just for the library world – the templates can be used by any industry or profession – the language of the phrases has to change to suit the field.
• What will readers discover from your book?
Planning is a heck of a lot easier than anticipated. And if the plan is followed and the new activity is monitored and measured to determine if it’s working as hoped for – they’re going to find that planning is a lot more flexible and workable than they considered. Any plan has to shift – it has to be flexible and respond to current needs.
A plan helps keep track of what’s been done and what will happen next. Documented information is a lot easier to attach monetary value to than non-documented notes. This is useful as librarians from different venues have to communicate with their financial offices. The adage about “true communication is speaking in the language of the listener” is never truer than when talking about money.
• What do you consider to be the most important change to the field of librarianship that you have witnessed?
The most important evolution I’ve experienced is the connection of clinical literature and its value to the institution. It wasn’t until we could prove that a piece of information contributed to the bottom line that libraries began to have real influence in the organization. Before then it was a “good” thing to have. Now, it’s an asset.
Learn more about Joy and her book, Creating Your Library’s Business Plan: A How-To-Do-It Manual with Samples on CD-ROM.