What is our ROI?
ROI (Return on Investment) is not commonly used among librarians while it is a key issue for commercial business. This is somewhat natural given our different missions, libraries typically serve the public and businesses serve their shareholders. I have been wondering about a possible application of this same measure to libraries and where it might be applied.
Commercial businesses have over the last half a decade moved more and more of their business processes up to the cloud, e.g. as Web delivered applications. Areas that might have been unthinkable to have stored and maintained offsite are now routinely placed on external platforms. Examples are a business's customer relationship management system, HR systems, payroll systems. Why are they doing this, because it allows them to reduce their costs for these systems and re-allocate time and effort to moving their business forward thus enhancing the opportunity for a better ROI.
Why should this matter to libraries? On what would a library ROI be based? To answer the second question I would say it is how well we have served our constituency. Are they delighted and amazed with our service? Or are we the last ditch resort when they can't find what they need elsewhere.
As to why it should matter if we are spending too much of our financial resources on maintaining infrastructure we are reducing our opportunity to increase the value of our services to our constituency. So perhaps we have something to learn here from commercial businesses who have found value in reducing local infrastructure and moving it to the cloud. It could give libraries the opportunity to increase a good measure of return on investment, delighting and amazing our constituencies.