Back from the brink: saving the Queensland Department of Agriculture Library

ALIA Library

Hoffmann, Danielle

National 2016 Conference, 29 August-2 September 2016 Adelaide: Engage Create Lead.
This conference paper describes the survival story of the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Library. On 29th of August 2012, the Director-General of the then Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry publically announced the closure of the Department’s Library.  This was the first Queensland government library casualty, as part of a wider program of contestability and reduction of non-frontline services from a newly elected government seeking to fix the budget deficit; more library cuts were to follow.
As the news of the closure spread, the Department’s senior scientists ignited a campaign to save a core-science component of the former service, stating that “a modern, relevant and accessible library service is essential for us to conduct RD&E to benefit Queensland's economy through increasing agricultural productivity”.  The  proposal was successful and just twenty-seven days later a new ‘Research Information Service’ (RIS) was launched and collections and staff moved to the existing Library space at the EcoSciences Precinct, a collaborative facility where Queensland Government and CSIRO scientists are working to solve some of Australia’s biggest environmental challenges.
This paper will describe the RIS client-stakeholder model and will briefly detail how it was established, amid the decommissioning and closure of the Departmental Library.  It will address the challenges of operating a service with reduced staff, loss of expertise and budget, and how these issues were overcome.  Cancelling resources, streamlining delivery (both electronic and physical), and reducing administrative workloads helped to generate initial cost savings and reduced the operational burden on a small team.
After three years of operation, the success of RIS is the ability to adapt the library service to match stakeholder requirements.  We CAN do more with less, by focussing budget to essential online resources, seeking cost savings through new consortia deals, firmer negotiations with vendors, targeted marketing and branding initiatives, and upskilling in specialist roles to maximise the delivery of existing valued services.  There have been opportunities too, collaboration with government science libraries, co-location with clients, and engagement with stakeholders, who not only understand and appreciate our service, but were prepared to stand up to save it. This strategic-partnership generates flexibility to respond to changing client needs, and creates a desire for continuous improvement and innovation. Ongoing success now lies in our ability to annually demonstrate our value as a cost-effective, fit-for-purpose research and information service.

Deakin, ACT : Australian Library and Information Association
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries