Case Study

Collaborative studies help identify factors influencing spend levels and what choices are available to management

University characteristics

Collaborative study by: 17 universities

Reasons for joining UniForum

  1. Forum members can nominate areas in which to conduct collaborative studies
  2. Collaborative studies identify best practices, the choices others have made and the lessons learnt
  3. Collaborative study reports produce case studies that are available to participants – for example, the Library Study described here

Icon Challenge


Situation

  • Forum members had identified through the UniForum comparative data, that the cost of managing libraries varied significantly across the group
  • Library management believed the reasons for the variations included the hours of services, discipline mix of the university’s teaching and research and the demands of supporting an internationally recognised research program
  • In most cases, these were thought to be factors outside of the library management’s control
  • The lack of a robust fact-base made it difficult to understand the real drivers to support an open discussion about the choices or agree on who held what responsibility

How UniForum helped

  1. Provided the forum through which to constitute a collaborative study, generate hypotheses that management believe may explain operating costs differences and agree how on to test these with the resources available through the UniForum program
  2. UniForum data on the resourcing of libraries combined with other data on discipline mix, research performance and library operations showed that three quarters of the variations in normalized costs arose from two main factors: the difference in the number of locations the library operated from and the size of the physical collection the libraries had to manage
  3. Both of these factors were largely outside of the librarians control but within the control of University management
  4. By normalizing for these factors, librarians are now able to make comparisons between library operations that focus on factors within their control that impact the efficiency of their operations

Icon Challenge

Results

University executive teams now have a better understanding of the costs of managing libraries and the choices in their control
Library management now have a better understanding of the factors influencing their costs that they can control
The outcome is a better informed strategic planning process