Sources: Letting Go of Legacy Services: Library Case Studies

Letting Go of Legacy Services: Library Case Studies. Edited by Mary Evangeliste and Katherine Furlong. Chicago: ALA, 2014, 159 p. Paper $55 (ISBN: 978-0-8389-1220-1).

Drawing on the organizational theories of noted business thinker and management consultant Peter Drucker, the editors of this volume have gathered together case studies and interviews that illustrate his concept of planned abandonment at work in libraries. Defined as the systematic evaluation of products and services, planned abandonment in libraries means examining reference, instruction, and collection development and abandoning those services that are no longer relevant in the present context. The editors argue that this strategy is the hallmark of innovative organizations and the key to libraries’ future longevity.

Contributions to this volume come from both public and academic librarians, who share how they have used data-driven decision making to implement change in their libraries. For example, in the opening case study, librarians from Lafayette College show how they combined quantitative and qualitative data (usage statistics and user feedback) to shift from an ownership model for journal subscriptions to an access-oriented, pay-per-view model for journal articles. They show how making this change not only cut down costs but also expanded their users’ access to science and technology titles, resulting in improved user satisfaction.

Sensitive to librarians who resist the application of corporate culture and “business speak” to the profession, the editors promise that they are not offering “management techniques” and that the case studies are not intended to be prescriptive. Although they deliver on this promise, and although the case studies they present are indeed rich illustrations of library innovation, some of them are difficult to accept as examples of planned abandonment. Rather, the economic downturn seems to have been the driving force for many of these changes, and although they are a testament to library leaders’ creativity in the face of budget cuts, they do not always demonstrate intentional, strategic planning. A clearer definition and theoretical grounding of planned abandonment might have addressed this issue and strengthened their argument.

Nonetheless, the authors’ and editors’ main message is that libraries should systematically collect and evaluate data, both quantitative and qualitative, to drive decisions about future directions—a point that is well taken and demonstrated in each of these studies. Beautifully laid out and inspiring to read, this book will appeal not only to administrators but to any librarian who is interested in the future of the library.—Meagan Lacy, Coordinator for Information Literacy, Guttman Community College, New York City


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