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You Thought Your Organization’s Business Model Was Broken? Talk to a Librarian

Posted February 14, 2013 2:52 PM by Mark Cutler

Way back before there was Wikipedia and search engines such as Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos, or even Ask Jeeves there were these quiet buildings in towns, cities, and schools across the country called libraries.  You may even remember being in one at some point if you are over 30 years old.

Anyway, the point of these “libraries” was to provide information in the form of books (and magazines and newspapers) to the general public – or students and faculty in the case of school and university libraries – basically for free.  And, acquire your collections through funding you received either from property taxes, tuition, or donors who understood the importance of maintaining free and open access to information.

So, you can figure out the story by now … The Internet goes mainstream; more and more public domain information goes online; search engines continually improve; internet access goes from dial-up to dsl to broadband in most homes, dorm rooms, and offices; and before you know it, no one has any reason to get up from their desk to conduct research, never mind go to an actual bricks-and-mortar library and remember how to use the Dewey Decimal System.

Well, as is the case when most disruptive innovation occurs, there are those organizations that refuse to change and by the time they re-consider their decision they are out of business.  On the other hand, other organizations choose to adapt and re-configure their business models to change with the times and leverage innovation.  At Ascendant, we’ve spent the past few years working with the Association of Research Libraries (ARL) to help their members successfully adapt to this new reality by training them to use the Balanced Scorecard.

In my opinion, the results are surprising.  While many of the member libraries we’ve worked with have strategic objectives in their scorecards that seek to leverage technology through both in-house systems as well as online portals, the focus on providing “productive and engaging library spaces” or “becoming  the campus destination for intellectual pursuits,” creating “global partnerships,” and being a cutting-edge service provider was eye-opening.  You mean a library isn’t just a place to store books?

To hear more in-depth stories of how ARL’s member libraries used a strategy and performance management framework like the Balanced Scorecard to adapt their organizations to critical changes in their environment, visit the ARL YouTube channel and view their latest Balanced Scorecard Webcast at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PXT_QubQ7o.