Marilyn Bromley is the Library Director at The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA), an employee owned legal publisher in Washington D.C. With ten staff members, the Library at BNA has many responsibilities, including providing centralized acquisitions services for all of the books, periodicals, and web resources that employees need, performing online searches, publishing and editing, and providing competitive intelligence service.
Marilyn is dedicated to ensuring that the Library is appreciated as a valuable part of BNA. Therefore, she was enthusiastic when the Library staff was asked to complete a return on investment (ROI) study for BNA, even though she knew that it would be challenging. "When BNA's Editor-in-Chief (EiC) asked me in May 2001 to do a return on investment study of the Library's services, I answered, 'I'd love to,' but my heart sank," explains Marilyn. "I knew that calculating the value of our corporate library would be a challenging project, not only because we deal in 'intangibles,' but also because most of our budget is classified as overhead and not charged back to business units. But I also knew that we make a real difference in the work of our company, and that an ROI study would be the perfect way to prove it."
According to Marilyn, the perception is often that everything on the Internet is free, so librarians aren't really necessary. In order to combat this perception, the Library staff identified key services and interviewed key users about the time and money that the Library helped them to save and the money that it helped them to make.
Based on the interviews and quantifying centralized acquisitions and other technical services, Marilyn and her colleagues were able to demonstrate that the Library returns $1.26 for every $1.00 that the company spends. Marilyn says in her paper, which describes the ROI study and is available on the Quantum2 web site, that the EiC at BNA "was pleased with the result, and commented that the Library is a 'terrific employee benefit' that he hoped all employees took advantage of.'" Marilyn goes on to say, "In completing this analysis, we had successfully demonstrated our contribution to BNA's bottom-line, and we had received his [the EiC's] endorsement of our services and work."
Marilyn doesn't just prove the value of the Library to BNA in dollar signs, however. Competitive intelligence (CI) is also important to her, and she is dedicated to making sure that employees have easy access to the intelligence data that they need through the company's intranet. In fact, Marilyn founded BNA's competitive intelligence service after joining the company in 1983 as the chief online searcher in the library. Because of Marilyn's membership in the Special Libraries Association (SLA), the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL), and the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP), she receives product information from many of BNA's competitors. "It developed that we were getting all the flyers and all the catalogues from all of our competitors, who are also legal publishers, and we started seeing this as a real rich resource," she explains. According to Marilyn, she began the CI service by keeping paper files of these flyers and catalogues and making them available to BNA employees.
BNA's CI service has come a long way since the days of paper files. Today, CI information is posted to the company's intranet on the CI News page, and employees can visit the site whenever they need to find out more about competing companies and products. Marilyn set up folders for each competitor using company names, and Alerts run every night. She describes this method of providing intelligence information as "self-service CI" and says that it has made distributing and accessing information much easier. "Rather than me pushing, I would tell people 'you can go here and check on your own everyday,' and they really love it."
And what does the future hold for CI service and the Library at BNA? Marilyn doesn't fancy herself a futurist, but she does envision advancements in technologies that make it even easier for people to find the information that they need without experiencing an information overload. Marilyn believes that improving technology will simultaneously make things more challenging and easier for information professionals. "We're a traditional occupation, but we're also service-oriented, and the thing that drives us is meeting the needs of our customers, whoever they are, and that's number one," says Marilyn.
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