The following quotes below about transportation libraries illustrate a common plight faced by many of us at some point (or for special libraries in general for that matter) — the interesting fact is that these quotes are 74 years apart! Can you guess which one is from 1928 and the other from 2002? More power to you if you can identify the authors of each.
“This fixation on the highly visible and readily tallied costs of transportation libraries and lack of knowledge of their difficult to measure benefits and savings lies at the root of the problems noted … It is easy for managers to see the considerable amount of space occupied by a well-stocked, well-staffed library. It is difficult to determine the space saved throughout an organization by the corresponding reduction in the need for small collections of information resources scattered among dozens of offices and departments. It is easy to calculate the total dollars invested in library staffing and purchases. It is difficult to calculate the costs of hundreds of even thousands of employees attempting to find information without professional assistance …
Libraries have costs, but ultimately libraries save an organization money. More importantly, libraries and librarians add considerable value to an organization and its information resources.”
Answer: From “Transportation’s Information Crisis”, by Jerry Baldwin, Past Director, Minnesota Department of Transportation Library, 2002.
Baldwin responded to presentations by Francis Francois, former AASHTO executive director and Lee. H. Rogers, international transportation expert, detailing the need to preserve the memory of the transportation profession and bemoaning the trend of scaling down professional libraries. He clearly states the need for national organizations to recognize the importance of transportation librarians’ systematic development and preservation of the transportation profession’s collective memory, while adding the value and cost-savings elements that transportation librarians provide to their organizations.
“Libraries are often regarded as non-productive, their budgets scrutinized with unusual care and thoroughness, their expenses subjected to criticism and oft-repeated suggestions for reduction. The result-producing qualities of the library, being intangible, have no yard stick by which to be measured, and are, therefore, questioned all too frequently.
Of course, libraries are expensive, but their existence finds ample justification in the self-evident fact that ignorance costs more than knowledge. The expenses of a library must find warrant in the service it renders; that is, the degree to which the library serves its purpose.”
Answer: From “The Value of Bibliographies”, by Eugene R. Woodson, Railway Accounting Officers’ Association, Washington, D.C., November 1928.
Woodson emphasized that though libraries are storehouses of useful, practical information, it is the special librarians and their work creating bibliograhies that ‘unlocks’ these storehouses and provides great value and ultimately realizes the great potential of a library. In particular, Woodson relied on the services of the Bureau of Railway Economics Library and Head Librarian, Richard Holland Johnston. Johnston, a colleague of SLA founder John Cotton Dana and SLA’s fourth President, was a national library figure and early champion of transportation libraries.
Read it here in ‘Special Libraries’ (November 1928): http://www.sla.org/speciallibraries/ISSN00386723V19N9.PDF (this issue also contains the article, “The Necessity for Transportation Libraries.”)
Posted by John Cherney, 7/30/12.