Looking for the impact of libraries

Helsingin yliopisto, Kaisa-talo. Kuva: Veikko Somerpuro.
Helsingin yliopisto, Kaisa-talo. Kuva: Veikko Somerpuro

We celebrate the 25th anniversary of FUN Finnish University Libraries’ Network during this exceptional period in the form of webinars. The topic of the first webinar was FUN Impact in accordance with one aspect of FUN’s strategy.

Lynn Silipigni Connaway, OCLC’s Director of Library Trends and User Research, demonstrated the topic in her presentation “Where are we Going and What do we do Next? Demonstrating Value and Impact of Academic Libraries in Uncertain Times”. The subject is very topical. Over the past year, many libraries have had to rethink their operations and demonstrate their impact and effectiveness in the midst of a pandemic. Libraries have been closed for some time, and are still not in normal form of operation.

Silipigni Connaway’s presentation based on her research Academic Library Impact: Improving Practice and Essential Areas to Research (2017). In addition to a literature review, the extensive study included interviews with university management, such as provosts. The areas related to the effectiveness of libraries were service, learning support, collaboration and communication.

An important manifestation of the impact of the library was the increase in critical skills in the world of fake news, which at the time of publication of this study (2017) was only raising its head and expanding to wild proportions in the United States. Impact, according to Silipigni Connaway, must also be produced by visualizing achievements and various metrics. Adding data as part of the data collected by the university is very important, and I dare say that in many Finnish universities this is something we already do quite well.

In assessing impact, a picture speaks more than a thousand words, as the phrase says. The impact of the library can also be improved by cooperating in many directions from within the library. By expanding to work closely with your own university administration, researchers, teachers, and students, and increasingly cooperating outside of the university, we can achieve a fundamentality of action. The involvement of different groups in the planning of library operations and facilities is also becoming increasingly important, as university’s facilities are condensed and renovated. In many ways, it is conceivable that the impact and significance of the library in the future will serve as a partner in achieving the university’s strategic goals.


Tommi Harju
Library Director
University of the Arts Helsinki

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