15 steps to an academic library service model

168271484In last month’s blog: 10 steps to a library value proposition, I looked at part of Alexander Osterwalder’s & Yves Pigner’s Business Model Canvas honing in on analysing library customer segments, pains and gains for a strong library value proposition.

This month, I will further go into this strategic development and communication tool by taking you through 5 more elements to the canvas that focus on the essentials around the resources necessary to realise your plans.  Link this information with solid knowledge of your customer relationships, segments, channels and your value proposition will help you acquire the bigger picture of the key elements for developing a new library service model when planning significant change. This totals 15 steps to a Library Service Business Model.

For the 1st 10 steps, see last month’s blog, and for the next 5, read below.


The Business Model Canvas, Strategyzer.com

iStock_000055741992_FullEssential: collaboration first and foremost

What is important to point out here, is to use this model by exploring the following elements with as broad a team as possible including various stakeholders. You will be familiar with the 5 elements below when considering new service plans, however, exploring them, with other stakeholders external to the library may not be the usual practice. This helps engage with new partners, your communities and create the most comprehensive insights on how and whether to make something happen.

1.  Key activities

Key activities will help you make your value proposition happen, reach markets, work on your customer relationships or earn revenues. What are the key things that need to be done to reduce or eliminate a pain or create a gain for your PhDs for example? These are large types of thematic activities, such as problem-solving or training. Do you have an online website or platform for your PhDs? In this case, key activities here might be PhD website management, PhD literacy, PhD network service management, or platform promotion.

2.    Key partners

Key partners are those individuals, bodies or institutions who are essential in providing your business / service model. You can help provide better services by partnering with others, reduce risk or acquire resources you need to provide new plans. In the case of developing more services for PhD students, this could mean alliancing with competitors or non-competitors within or outside the university. These could include IT, Communication, Research services or other service centres focussed on writing or publishing such as University Presses.

coins3.    Key resources

Like Key Activities, key resources are those that will help you deliver a value proposition for your client segment, develop your relationships, earn revenues, etc. : all the elements of building your library service business model.  These can include financial, physical, intellectual or human resources.  You can also acquire what you need from key partners. E.g. What physical resources, i.e. IT infrastructure or physical space do you need to offer optimised services to your PhDs? Intellectual resources: Would international benchmarking information on PhD services help you develop your services? Human resources: What skills do you have in house to engage, develop and disseminate new PhD services, and what not yet? Can you borrow skills or expertise from within your institution, e.g. hire someone on a project basis? Financial: Do you have an innovation budget that you can call on / create?
Scanning key resources together will raise awareness of the consequences of your plans on your assets.

4.    Cost structure

As service institutions, libraries are both value-driven, i.e. focussed on value creation, and cost-driven. Austerity forces are driving libraries more to cost-driven models where the need is high to keep costs down and be efficient. This is especially the case when necessary change is not necessarily paired with an increase in budgets.
As part of your new library service business model, it is useful to note what types of costs are necessary, e.g. fixed versus variable.
Libraries generally have high fixed costs with permanent staff on the payroll for example. Variable costs have the potential to rise when buying in knowledge, software or hardware to address new activities in the areas of data management or publishing for example, which can also form part of PhD service ideas.

Exploring the costs with your stakeholders will help you weigh up together whether the costs balance out with the value to be created.

iStock_000026953858_Full5.    Revenue streams

How is the Library supported financially? Is generating additional revenue part of your strategy? Do you aim to cover real costs or aim for profit? Does the Library purely acquire central funding, or are there other streams such as faculty subsidies, project income, SLAs (Service Level Agreements), or crowdfunding? And are your streams with or without strings?
Do you provide your expertise in digitisation to others for a price? Perhaps you lend out technology for a fee, or provide access to scanners or poster printers for a price. Explore together what revenue streams you could create to fund new activities for PhDs for example.

In summary

Identifying and analysing these 5 aspects will help form a solid framework to discuss the concrete how of delivering your value proposition to key stakeholders.  In this model, you will above all do this collaboratively with your team and with your stakeholders to acquire the most all-inclusive and valuable picture. Your team will above all shed light on how far your proposed library service business model demonstrates a strong balance between value and investment by using this canvas. This is essential in times of increasing new and diverse demanding opportunities in the area of library research support in a context of stretched budgets and demands for heightened efficiency.


If you haven’t yet tried the Business Model Canvas, why not try it out for one of your new library service / business models? If you’d like some guidance, just drop me a line at info@proud2know.eu



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