Association of College & Research Libraries

The other client

Stuart Basefsky is reference librarian at Cornell University; e-mail:

Information training for administrators pays dividends for the library

When research libraries focus on the topic of client orientation, they normally refer to faculty and students. Meeting the needs of research and the curriculum are what research libraries are all about. No one argues with this objective. However, at the Catherwood Library at Cornell's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, client orientation has been stretched to include the needs of administrators. In turn, administrators are developin…ew appreciation of the value libraries bring to campus.

Reference Librarians Stuart Basefsky, Deborah Joseph, and Suzanne Cohen are conducting training sessions for Cornell's Office of Human Resources (OHR) and other administrative units. In an effort to bring the library’s strengths in line with the mission of the university, administrators are being taught how to use the latest information tools, including leading databases, Internet services, and existing print and electronic practitioner materials provided by the library. The idea behind the training sessions is to:

• increase the productivity of administrators by empowering them with the ability to use sophisticated information sources. This includes training in library research methods and multitasking (how to cut and paste from one or several sources into word processing or e-mail programs), with an eye toward production of reports and memoranda;

• enhance administrators’ creative alternatives by acquainting them with an enlarged scope of information sources, ideas, and communication processes; and

• demonstrate that the library can be an active player in making the university more competitive by providing training and consulting services.

Catherwood Library is particularly well equipped to provide this kind of service. It has the foremost collection of any North American university on workplace issues. Other libraries may consider doing the same. However, while any university library can provide similar services, semiprofessional and professional school libraries may be more comfortable in extending themselves in this direction.

When universities speak of being competitive, they usually mean that they want better recruitment of faculty and students; more success in getting grants and alumni support; more positive publicity; and good working conditions and benefits. All of these issues are better addressed with good information sources and people who know how to use them.

Libraries can train administrators to be better political lobbyists in more efficient ways; to be better monitors of information about alumni; to be more aware of grant and foundation resources; and to be cognizant of new trends in campus services. These training sessions have met with the following kind of response fro…ornell administrator, “I am writing to tell you that the HR Online workshops presented to OHR and some of our ‘affiliates’ were an unqualified success…ontinue to hear praise for the information presented and the on-the-job usefulness of this particular workshop. …”

Research libraries ought to consider themselves the “special library” for the university administration. Any library not pushing its client institution forward can be perceived as holding it back.

It is important, therefore, to pay attention to the administration as the “other client.” Ironically, this often-ignored client is the one who pays the bills. If the administration knows how valuable the library is from its own experience, those bills are more likely to get paid. ■

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