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Banner: Council of Federal Libraries

Librarians and Library Services : Strategic Business and Service Enablers within the Information Management Environment

Donald Bidd, Chair, Community Renewal Project
Julia Goodman, Development Officer
Council of Federal Libraries

December 15, 2003

Librarians and Library Services: Strategic Business and Service Enablers within the Information Management Environment [PDF 102 KB]

Purpose of this Presentation

To present the renewed role of federal librarians in the Government of Canada information management environment

Federal Librarians: The Community Renewal Project

As a core IM group, the community of professional librarians is engaged in a renewal of its role based on these drivers:

  • Need to fully align services on GOC business activities and priorities such as Service Transformation
  • Need to fully align services on the Information Management model
  • New client-centered models for delivery of services by librarians

Council of Federal Libraries has conducted extensive consultations with the librarian community (focus groups, email and telephone surveys) structured on a SWOT analysis. The project has integrated expert advice on key trends and change management issues in the profession.

Librarians and the Government of Canada

  • Information is critical to evidence-based governance and public service management (policy and program development, service delivery).
  • Information organization is at the heart of providing Canadians with an effective and easy experience of e-government.
  • Information is a key component of continuous learning and its supportive strategies.
  • Information has a major socio-economic impact by contributing to research and innovation.

A Snapshot of the Librarian Community

  • 450 librarians who work out of library service units.
  • 150 librarians working in other IM areas.
  • 275 library service units (includes many small units of 1-2 staff co-located with clients or in regional offices).
  • The federal librarian community is supported by Library and Archives Canada through the Council of Federal Libraries.

Profile of Clients and Communities served by Librarians

  • Most clients are:
  • GOC employees: executives, program managers, scientists and researchers, judges and lawyers, policy analysts, economists, artists, etc…
  • Various publics accessing services and information on GoC websites
  • Librarians serve GoC employees in subject areas as diverse as the programs and services of GoC.
  • Many GoC employees are members of Communities of Practice.

Key Findings of SWOT analysis

  1. Librarians provide leadership in GOC IM activities such as metadata management, collective licensing and desktop delivery of strategic information products, website management for clusters and departments, taxonomy development.

  2. Librarians are implementing more client-centered service models: working as part of business teams, serving clients by business function or portfolio, taking up an "information catalyst role" for Communities of Practice.

  3. Librarians are offering more strategic and customized services such as business intelligence monitoring, industry analyses and electronic document delivery.

  4. Library services are often being organizationally realigned with IM areas such as records management and website management.

Strengths of the Community

  • Strong client-centered service ethic
  • Service commitments: quality, timely, authoritative information from any internal or external source in support of business functions (policy development, program design and delivery, research and innovation)
  • Strong systems management skills
  • Expertise in standards and protocols relevant to IM
  • Portability of skills and competencies to new IM roles

Portability and transformation of skills

Library Services Model IM model
Reference services Business intelligence
Information Brokering
Value-added Research
A more reactive service model Proactive, anticipatory model with strategic focus and enterprise-wide IM scope
Transactional focus Transformational role: designing customized information ecologies
Information expertise in the subject domains of clients Information catalyst role for Communities of Practice
Cataloguing of library materials Metadata managementCorporate data quality
Classification of library materials Taxonomies for classification of digital objects and corporate records classification
Copyright Rights management for digital assets
Information systems management Electronic Records Management
Subscription management Electronic Document Delivery
Library collections acquisitions and management Negotiation of database licenses
Digital collections management Preservation of electronic records
Classification and thesauri design Information architecture and website architecture

Action Plan for Librarian Community

  • Obtain a renewed mandate from senior management for a strategic role in information management and knowledge management.
  • Update business plans with tight alignment on departmental priorities.
  • Define change management plans for library services (addressing issues such as redirection of priorities and resources towards IM roles).
  • Position librarian services at the right points in planning and business cycles to leverage their value for mission-critical processes.
  • Partner with other IM and IT professionals to deliver integrated business solutions.
  • Position librarians and their expertise more strategically and visibly within the organization's key projects and initiatives.
  • Strengthen business analysis, project management,
  • presentation, sales and partnering skills
  • Broaden expertise in content management, records management, website and information architecture
  • Redesign key professional processes and tools using resources such as Virtual Reference Canada
  • Reach out to librarians working outside of librarians and recently hired librarians to ensure a renewed professional dynamic in our community

Opportunities for GOC and Departments to Leverage the Value of Librarians

  • As a highly organized and cohesive community with members present right across government, librarians can serve as "synapses" to support GOC-wide, cluster and other horizontal initiatives such as Service Transformation.
  • As a profession built on the valuing of information, the librarian community can accelerate the transition to the information and knowledge-sharing culture needed in the federal public service.
  • Ensure that their departments' IM activities are aligned with GOC, national and international IM standards and best practices
  • Strengthen the departmental information management team for implementation of the Management of Government Information Policy
  • Serve as information catalysts for other Communities of Practice that generate the knowledge underpinning GOC programs and services
  • Develop strategic GOC or cluster-wide database licensing solutions for radically improved employee access to research resources and business intelligence, as illustrated by the Federal Science E-Library in the health and science domains.
  • Integrate librarians' role and expertise in GOC e-learning and innovation initiatives

Key Messages: Librarians and Library Services as Business and Service Enablers

  1. Librarians fulfill a strategic as well as an operational function for the organization. Senior management can strengthen this strategic role through its support and a renewed "IM mandate" for library services.

  2. Librarians enable the business of government by supporting evidence-based governance, management, planning and decision-making.

  3. GOC and departments can ensure that quality, strategic information from internal and external sources fully informs their key business processes and decisions by positioning librarians' expertise and services within the business cycle.

Federal librarians: A few stories…

  • Export Development Corporation
    Susan Hodges and her team have strategically aligned themselves with their key stakeholders and clients by intensifying high value services (such as customized training, research analysis and information needs assessments). Librarians act as portfolio information managers, focusing exclusively on the information and knowledge needs of business teams.

  • Foreign Affairs and International Trade
    Liam Fleming and colleagues have set up global access to a Virtual Library of over 100 strategic economic, social and political databases used by over 8,500 staff in 160 missions around the world. This Virtual Library is an essential resource for DFAIT staff who are responsible for Canada's international relations.

  • Environment Canada
    Paula Tozer and her team in the e-Government Branch manage Environment Canada's Internet site known as the Green Lane www.ec.gc.ca/envhome.html. Paula also coordinates a "cluster" of departments who collaborate on GOC's "Sustaining the Environment and Resources for Canadians" website. www.environmentandresources.ca. This resource "tells the story" of sustainable development through an XML-structured taxonomy. A taxonomy ensures that citizens can easily find their way in searching federal government's websites for environmental information.

  • Human Resources Development Canada
    Lynn Herbert and her team have created a metadata driven website supported by an enterprise content management system, resulting in much more powerful and precise searching on HRDC's website. Over 400 content producers at HRDC easily add 21 meta fields without needing to know anything about metatag coding. Improved service to the public with major efficiencies "behind the scene."

  • International Development Research Centre
    Marjorie Whalen and her team have developed a prototype for Virtual Research Circles, a collaborative delivery model for services to IDRC Program staff and their research partners. The Virtual Research Circle positions librarians within the business or project cycle, allowing them to add value at key points, offering professional expertise, and addressing real information needs as they arise.

  • Virtual Reference Canada (VRC)
    Franceen Gaudet and her team at Library and Archives Canada have created a unique electronic network that facilitates collaboration between libraries, archives and other types of knowledge institutions to offer quality reference services to all Canadians www.collectionscanada.ca/vrc-rvc. A number of CFL libraries are among the close to 300 members from coast to coast that comprise the network. VRC's matching algorithm enables information requests to be automatically sent to the member institution best equipped to respond and thus offer the most relevant answer possible. VRC also promotes the role of information professionals as essential experts in the provision of information about Canada.

What's next?

  • This presentation is being communicated widely in early 2004 to GOC information management committees, senior management within departments, and other IM communities.
  • Now that the community of federal librarians has defined a renewed role it can play for government, it is developing strategic initiatives and project proposals to support GOC-wide IM priorities.

Key research resources consulted

  • Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, United Kingdom: various planning documents
  • Council of Federal Libraries (Government of Canada): a variety of planning documents produced between 2000 and 2003
  • Davenport, Thomas H. and Prusak, Laurence. Working knowledge: how organizations manage what they know. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1998
  • Davenport, Thomas H. and Beck, John. The attention economy: understanding the new currency of business. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2001
  • Federal Libraries and Information Centers (U..S. Government): various planning documents
  • OCLC. The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern recogition www.oclc.org
  • Special Libraries Association: a variety of publications and articles from Information Outlook
  • Treasury Board Secretariat, Information Management Division: a variety of resources related to information management in Government of Canada
  • Wenger, Etienne, McDermott, Richard and Snyder, William M. Cultivating communities of practice: a guide to managing knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2002


  • Questions or comments on this presentation and the Community Renewal project of the Council of Federal Libraries: Donald Bidd, Senior IM Analyst, Treasury Board Secretariat 613-946-9897, Bidd.Donald@tbs-sct.gc.ca

  • For information on the Council of Federal Libraries, contact Carrol Lunau, Development Officer at 613-996-3262, web@lac-bac.gc.ca

We wish to thank the members of the Steering Committee, the Planning and Priorities Committee and the participants in the Community Renewal Action Team of the Council of Federal Libraries for their contributions to this process.