The Federal Libraries Consortium initiated and managed a pilot project designed to test and leverage the buying power of the Government of Canada to provide increased access to electronic information resources. The pilot utilized Factiva, a well known high quality electronic information resource and was championed by the Corporate Management and Government Records Sector at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). This report provides the results of an assessment of this pilot project.
The pilot project involved 19 libraries (providing services to 25 departments and agencies) with a client or user reach of roughly 123,000 federal government employees. All of those participating in the pilot volunteered to do so. As May 7, 2008 there were roughly 2300 users or 2% of the total FTE population served by the participating libraries. However, the pilot users represent some 30% of the estimated 'knowledge workers' in these departments (research, policy and communications-focused employees), the core target group for the pilot.
Planning included discussions and negotiations with the vendor, Factiva (Dow Jones) and scoping of the pilot in a Project Charter, developed by Consortium staff. A governance structure was put into place by the creation of a Steering Committee, which reported to/liaised with the Federal Libraries Consortium Advisory Committee and with the sector within LAC where the Consortium reports and which sponsored the pilot (Government Records Branch). The Steering Committee was chaired by the Consortium Coordinator and membership included a representative from all participating libraries. While this provided for a large group (some participating from a distance through teleconferencing), it was generally applauded as participatory and helpful.
Coordination of participation in the pilot was accomplished through mass communication using the Consortium list serve and web site and through specific, direct contacts by telephone and in person. Consortium staff were successful in obtaining participation from small, medium and large departments, libraries providing regional and Headquarters services and good representation of the core Government of Canada sectors. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were signed by LAC and each participating Library, formalizing the relationship by defining the rationale, scope and roles of both parties.
Implementation began in November of 2007 and was planned to conclude at the end of May 2008. Pilot organizers, participants and the supplier cite the uptake or number of users realized in this pilot as an indicator of project success. The initial projection of an estimated 1,000 or 10% take-up of the 10,000 seats made available was exceeded: roughly 2300 users or a 23% adoption rate, more than double original projections.
The Consortium undertook a number of measures designed to ease the burden of the pilot on participating libraries:
Support services included overall administration acting as a focal point for pilot participants and liaison with the vendor; in-person training by Factiva for the pilot Administrators in participating libraries; tools for pilot libraries to use in communicating and marketing the product to their clients; ongoing monitoring and communications on the progress of the pilot project through Steering Committee meetings; and the coordination of end-user training from Factiva (online).
Pilot participants found these support mechanisms very helpful. There was a positive response to the Administrator training and the communication/marketing tools were well used. A number of libraries customized the tools to meet their clients' needs or to specifically target groups within their department. Interestingly, a fair number of the pilot libraries used the project as an opportunity to undertake marketing of their services, and some reported having learned from their peers through this process about new and innovative approaches to marketing their services more generally.
The pilot experience and related opportunities for peer-to-peer exchange was a definite benefit for pilot libraries. While the time invested by pilot administrators varied greatly (from an estimated 12 hours in total to ½ FTE), there was a sense that this was time well invested and was not overly onerous on other day-to-day work demands. In addition, pilot library representatives agreed that a six month period is a sufficient length for a test such as this.
A common landing (or registration) page for all pilot libraries was created, to alleviate this effort being required by each Administrator and to allow for consolidated data monitoring and measurement. This landing page was a source of concern for some participating libraries and their clients, who were uncomfortable with, or reluctant to go through, an 'independent' sign up process.
Value of the Product
Many of the Administrators indicated they participated in this pilot as they were aware of the value of the product and knew it would be useful to their clients. In many cases, the cost of an enterprise-wide license was the prohibiting factor to not having any or greater access previously. While this assessment was not designed to test the product in itself, but rather the process of centralizing acquisition and roll-out of a product, there were positive findings on the value of the product. These were substantiated in two user surveys undertaken during the pilot.
There is strong support for the work of the Federal Libraries Consortium amongst those providing input to this assessment. In some cases, this was the primary (although not only) reason for volunteering to participate in the pilot project. Without exception, the participating libraries indicated that the Consortium, and by extension this pilot, is a critical mechanism to extend the nature and scope of services they can provide to their client communities.
This assessment of the Factiva pilot project sought to explore the following dimensions:
1. Productivity gains and value to participating libraries and end users of access to this new resource.
The two online user surveys inform this aspect of the pilot project and support the desire for greater access to this product. Roughly half of the participating libraries indicated that this type of desk top-accessible information resource was rather new or a departure from the library services to which their clients were accustomed. Yet there was a strong response to the voluntary access and the views of clients support the value of unmediated access to the product. The various aspects of content were highly rated and the majority of users reported a time savings and overall productivity improvements.
2. Impact on library staff in pilot departments of delivering a high quality, authoritative information resource in electronic format to more users.
There was strong and well appreciated support from the Consortium for the participating libraries during the pilot launch and implementation. Anecdotal information from all of the pilot participants indicate the impact, in terms of time and effort, was not onerous and was absorbed within other related work. Many report that the launch of this product, even on a pilot basis, provided an opportunity to market their services more broadly. The feedback from departmental users to the Administrators was generally positive, even in those departments where this kind of desk top information resource was not previously in use and clients were not typically 'sophisticated' users of technology. In some of these departments, the pilot exposed clients to a new approach to their research work, and to the role of their library in providing a desk top information resource, with support from library staff.
3. Contribute to an assessment of cost efficiency and value for money for the Government of Canada of centralized purchasing.
Clearly negotiations for a single, centralized contractual arrangements would be a time savings compared with each interested department (19, in the pilot) undertaking individual enterprise-wide negotiations. The real savings, from a cost perspective, will be the negotiated pricing arrangement - currently underway - for a reduced price per seat, on the basis of greater overall reach within the federal government. Additionally, many libraries, including the 19 in this pilot project, are not able to afford this type of product at all, unless economies of scale can be realized through centralized purchasing. In these cases, knowledge workers in small and medium size departments and agencies are disadvantaged. There is another important factor to the 'value for money' issue - one which was not fully tested through this pilot. Due to copyright constraints, information obtained through Factiva cannot then be shared with anyone who is not also part of the Factiva user community. This is an important constraint on the use and usefulness of the product, notably in view of the magnitude of interdepartmental and horizontal initiatives/work within the federal public service. Government-wide licensing is the optimal resolution to this constraint.
4. Lessons learned in how to address enterprise-wide roll-out of key electronic information resources.
This exercise provides a good roadmap for any future pilots and, in part for the rollout of government-wide electronic information resources. It was a well conducted pilot in many respects. Participants were well informed on the reason for the project and on progress throughout the pilot process. Succinct and informative reporting was provided by the organizers to all pilot stakeholders/participants on a regular basis. Pilot libraries were supported throughout the process with communication tools and a dedicated focal point for issues and questions. There were very few suggestions for changes or improvements in the pilot process itself.