Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Fit for Purpose is a collaborative research project that will recommend methods for effective business planning in research libraries. It recognizes first that there are opportunities for research libraries to respond to the turbulence in scholarly communications and a potential role in the management of the data supporting scholarly research. But these opportunities raise the risks of acting with limited knowledge of the longer-term costs of developing and sustaining new services. The goal of the project is to present a structured, disciplined approach for making decisions about creating and maintaining new services in research libraries. The structure described in the project output provides tools with which to determine whether and how to create a new service.

The concept “Fit for Purpose” evolved out of the team’s desire to put the new services into a framework that encourages the challenge of fundamental assumptions. In that spirit, the content of the core article recommendations will encourage professionals to rigorously review the suitability of a proposed service in terms of alignment with institutional mission and sustainability. In short, to examine whether a proposed new service is fit for purpose within its context.

During Phase I of the project the team is producing a core article containing a literature review and recommendations. The review of the library, business, and non-profit literatures elicits possible models upon which to build a toolkit that is consistent with research library environments and values. The authors borrow from these to provide recommendations for analyzing organizational readiness, business case development, piloting new services, and monitoring sustainability through the business planning lifecycle. The core article will be released for public comment to provide further input into the model and to request suggestions for case study subjects.

Phase II consists of a series of case studies inspired by the recommendations. Project participants will conduct case studies of services being offered by research libraries or sponsored by libraries in collaboration with affiliated institutions. The case studies will provide the team with an opportunity to explore the planning process and related concepts with practitioners. Based on these case studies, the team will review and revise the initial finding to identify best practices for navigating the inherent uncertainty of developing sustainable services.