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Whooo Says:

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Dear Whooo,

I am a hospital librarian in the MidContinental Region. Last month, my RML held a discussion during their “Breezing Along with the RML” session on the library closures and layoffs occurring this year. This program made me very nervous about my job, and has caused me to wonder if there is anything I should do. Maybe I should just continue to do my job as well as I can and not make any waves. What do you think?

Quaking in my boots,
Nervous Nellie

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Dear Nellie,

Thank you for your question. I’m sure there are many librarians worrying about the same issue.

As you know, we are in the middle of a tough economic time, with many businesses and individuals struggling to survive. An article in the Wall Street Journal of August 10, 20111 stated that nonprofit hospitals’ revenue is growing at the slowest rate in 20 years, and that many are operating at a 2% profit margin. These are significant figures.

However, this is not the time to hide in your library! These figures make it even more important for librarians to be

  • visible,
  • proactive in providing excellent service and
  • creative in finding ways to demonstrate the impact of services provided.

In the current economic conditions, all areas are being evaluated and examined for relevance and more efficient ways to achieve needed results. This means that more than ever the library is being compared with other services and departments within the hospital. To keep your head down and decrease your visibility increases the likelihood that the library will be downsized or eliminated.

So, what are some of the things you should be doing? Anything you can think of to bring you positive visibility. Now is the time to:

  • Network with your users
  • Collect stories relating to how library services impacted patient care
  • Share those stories with your supervisor
  • Practice your elevator speech and use it!
  • Show your financial impact by using the library value calculators (remember to involve your supervisor in this process)
  • Write an annual report showing how you support the mission and goals of your hospital. For help see the Hospital Librarian’s Toolkit:

Nellie, I encourage you to continue your hard work and publicize the value you bring to your hospital. I also encourage you to contact your RML state coordinator for help in thinking up new ways to express your value. Those RML folks are always willing to help, and come up with some awfully good ideas.

Please let me know about your progress. I’m always concerned about librarians and love to hear what you are doing.



1Anna Wilde Mathews. “Hospitals Put on Sick List; New Study Finds Revenue is Growing at Slowest Rate in Two Decades, Leading to Uptick in Mergers”. Wall Street Journal. August 10, 2011

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