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BC ELN Communications Framework 2005

BC ELN Communications Framework, 2005

The 2005 Communications Framework broadens BC ELN's communications priorities to include an expanded role in the promotion of BC ELN projects and services to external stakeholder groups. Previously, the 2000 Communications Framework focused primarily on improving operational communications, with the goal of streamlining the exchange of information required to support and grow BC ELN projects and services throughout the consortium. Our success in meeting our operational requirements provides us now with the opportunity to refocus our communications activities to increase awareness of BC ELN initiatives in the broader educational, library, and government communities.

This document outlines current plans for addressing communications priorities within the context of BC ELN history and past activities. It includes information about communications history, outcomes, key stakeholders, planned activities, and the key messages to be reinforced in all communications efforts. BC ELN's aim in preparing this draft communications framework document is to convey its plans and solicit feedback from the Steering Committee.

Communications History

Strategic communications are a vital tool for creating and raising awareness of BC ELN's products, services, and benefits to the BC post-secondary library and educational community. Over the past 14 years, the BC ELN Manager, in collaboration with the Project Coordinators and the Steering Committee, has managed key areas of communications. One of these key communications activities is the delivery of critical messages about products and services to a broad range of internal and external constituents. The other key area is gathering feedback and suggestions from partner libraries.

In January 1996, a new logo and communications material were unveiled as part of a cohesive communications plan aimed at raising awareness of BC ELN's services and benefits.

The 1997 - 2000 Strategic Plan identified marketing and communications objectives that would strengthen BC ELN's position within the post-secondary system, assure its financial well-being, and generate strong and diverse support for BC ELN products and services among its partner libraries and their constituents. Since then, a number of key activities have been undertaken to further this priority.

In July 2000, the Steering Committee reviewed the Communications Framework. The need to move ahead with communications efforts at that time was twofold. First, recent site visits to partner libraries had clearly indicated the need for immediate action for communications to facilitate operations. Partner libraries needed more customized and comprehensive product and license information. Second, due to recent staff transitions, this was seen as an opportune time to revisit the communications framework, provide a renewed focus on communications activities, and engage a new Project Coordinator in leading this aspect of BC ELN's work.

Planned Activities 2000: Status

The majority of planned activities arising from the 2000 Communications Framework document have been successfully completed, as detailed below.

Measures of Value

Information has been gathered about approaches used by consortia, libraries, and other organizations to communicate the value of services to members and other key stakeholders. Recently, there has been an increasing recognition of the importance of qualitative data, used in combination with quantitative data. For details on research and results, see Appendix A.

Best practices for quantitative measures will continue to be investigated. Qualitative approaches will be employed, to develop ways to explain the meaning and importance of BC ELN services through the eyes of partner libraries, learners and researchers.


Current goals are to maintain and enhance existing communications efforts to better serve key stakeholders, and to develop communication mechanisms to demonstrate value of services. Outcomes include:

Activities 2005/2006:

External Communications

Internal / Operational Communications

In order to achieve its goal of enhancing its current communications efforts to better serve its partner libraries and key stakeholders in the education, library, and government communities, BC ELN will target a wide range of constituents, including:

Key Messages

BC ELN communications will reinforce its key messages, outlined below, which capture the vision of the work BC ELN strives to achieve:

Appendix A

Research: Approaches by Other Consortia, Libraries & Organizations

Information has been gathered about approaches used by consortia, libraries, and other organizations to communicate the value of services to members and other key stakeholders. Many consortia, like BC ELN, use a variety of quantitative measures to express value of services, such as average % discounts, # of journals available through licensed databases, items available through resource-sharing arrangements, and so forth.

Some consortia express economic value in terms of cost avoidance. The BC ELN approach has always been cost effectiveness. That is, value is seen as what is made possible. For example, there are students who can work through research-based assignments, developing information literacy skills, which are among the most essential of skills in the knowledge economy, thanks to resources that would not have been available without BC ELN services.

Other consortia rely on database usage statistics to express value. Generally, this is most useful where states and provinces are providing resources for everyone in their area. In the BC ELN context, information is provided to partner libraries for production of statistics at a local level, where the decisions about resource acquisition and renewal are made. There are advantages to the use of database usage statistics, but also some real drawbacks to relying on statistics for financial decisions for scholarly communications as a whole. The current BC ELN approach is likely optimal at the present time.

Quantitative measures provide useful, but somewhat limited information in any organization. Within the context of library consortia, truly meaningful quantitative measures are particularly elusive. For example, the cost avoidance measure used by some consortia is, at best, a very approximate indication of value. In most cases, learners and researchers likely would have gone without resources, rather than paying list prices. List prices themselves are difficult to gauge, as group discount purchasing becomes more common. In some cases, vendors are now working with library consortia to bring a new product to market. The consortial price, in some cases, is now the norm, with the individual library list price being the exception.

Factors limiting the usefulness of strictly quantitative measures in the consortial environment include the differences in the organizational structure and services of library consortia, which renders cross-consortial comparison on quantitative measures difficult, if not impossible. For example, the central purposes of library consortia differ, ranging from database licensing to sharing of an integrated library system. Some consortia serve one sector, while others are multisectoral. A service may be coordinated by a group of consortia, as for example with the database licensing activities of Consortia Canada.

The limitations of strictly quantitative measures are recognized not only by library consortia, but by the business community as well. There are some indications that the overall trend in business management is to move forward from traditional quantitative measures, towards qualitative measures that provide in-depth information on needs and perceptions of services.

The Cynefin Centre http://www.cynefin.net/ has been conducting research on the application of complexity science to management and organization practice. The art and science of story as a means of understanding and explaining organizational success is being explored, and is beginning to be used by businesses. Stories provide a more in-depth understanding of the meaning of services than is possible to achieve with numbers alone.

Some of the most successful libraries and consortia are using a story-based approach, which focuses on the importance of services to the end-user.

The British Library, in a recent major evaluation of services, found it was important to include qualitative along with quantitative measures, and used case studies in addition to quantitative information in every aspect of their study. This made it possible to articulate not just whether the library is being used, but also how. For example, Mandy Haberman, Entrepreneur and British Female Inventor of the Year 2000, explained how she used the British Library's patent collection, and reference services, in development of her products. 1

OhioLINK frequently uses stories, which illustrate how OhioLINK services work for the end user. One example:

...At Wilberforce University, an historically black college with 63,000 volumes on campus, students typically borrow books from several schools to complete a single larger project. Rachel Armour, a senior who wrote about the influence of Western mass media on Nigerian culture last fall, had 14 books on loan from nine libraries one day last November. "I could never have done this project without OhioLINK", she said. "We have a good collection of African American literature, but I need other resources for studying Nigeria". 2

The Alberta Library has used a "Tell your library story" campaign in the development of a successful province wide "Visit Your Library" promotional campaign.

The Council of Federal Libraries presented the results of a recent needs assessment study at the March 2005 ICOLC conference. The objective of the study was to inform planning processes; to identify needs, rather than simply measuring use of services. Interview and focus group techniques were used extensively, along with traditional survey data. 3

BC ELN appears to be ahead of the curve on the trend towards planning informed through consultative research. Some examples include the 2001 Resource Sharing Survey, the Resources Forum and Ranking Survey, and Town Hall, the Futuring Scenarios (BC ELN 2010) developed for the 2003-2006 Strategic Plan, numerous smaller surveys, and the 2004 Resource Sharing Consultations.

Information gathered from partner library staff on a more informal basis indicates the likely success of a story based approach for BC ELN. For example, in the 2004 Resource Sharing Consultations, participants spontaneously brought up comments such as:

BC ELN staff have received numerous comments, verbally and in writing, over the years. This suggests a readiness among partner library staff to share their stories about BC ELN services.


  1. Natalie Ceeney. British Library: Measuring Success. Charleston Conference, November 2004. http://www.katina.info/conference/2004%20Presentations.htm
  2. Feemster, Ron. Volume Discounts: OhioLINK is a purchasing consortium, and a state-of-the-art library system. National Crosstalk 11:3 (Summer 2003).
  3. Lynne C. Howarth, Deb Wallace & Ross Gordon. Building a Foundation for Moving Forward: Report of Needs Assessment Findings. Council of Federal Libraries Consortium 2004.