Name: Alice Schofield
Location: Information School, Regent Court
Tell us a little about yourself
My background is mainly in the arts; I studied English Literature as both an undergraduate and a postgraduate student. While studying for my MA at Royal Holloway University I worked part time in the university library, a job which I loved and which made me consider librarianship as a career. I studied for a Masters in Librarianship at Sheffield last year, and my dissertation supervisor, Professor Sheila Corrall, asked me to apply for this PhD project which was related to my area of interest.
What got you interested in this subject?
I did not choose the topic of my research project – it was one that was already formed. However, I have an interest in special collections and collection management, and of the ability of libraries to facilitate learning, and the sharing of ideas, culture and beautiful things. My MA dissertation project involved an examination of the conflicting pressures of preservation and access in special collection libraries.
What have you enjoyed about it?
I am only in the first year of my studies so I don’t feel that I have experienced everything this project has to offer yet. However, I have loved the opportunity to work on site at the British Library for extended periods, and meet so many interesting people working in collection management.
What have you found most challenging?
The most challenging aspect was simply that I came into a project that had already been set up. While it is obviously very relevant to my areas of interest, there were some aspects I struggled with. I didn’t know what intellectual assets were before applying for the PhD, and I’ve had to work very hard to build up my knowledge in that area. It was especially challenging because it has involved working to some extent with statistics and understanding quantitative data analysis. As someone who has an arts background and last studied maths almost a decade ago, this has been very challenging. However, I am grateful for the experience and the opportunity to learn about things I would not have considered otherwise.
What is your top tip for a future KIM student?
Work to your strengths and don’t be intimidated by what other people have done. At the beginning of this project I felt very lost and inadequate, because the researchers who had published on intellectual assets before me all had backgrounds in economics and statistics, and I felt very unqualified to contribute to the field. However, as I have progressed I realised that no one has yet come up with a way of accurately evaluating IAs because they have tried to adapt them too closely to traditional financial asset measurement, and that perhaps a more qualitative, creative method might be better. Don’t try to adapt the way you work to how someone else does it. Learn from other people, but stay true to your own methods, your own ideas and your own strengths.
My main research interests lie with library collections, collection management and the management or rare and specialist material in libraries. My research allows me to investigate the ways in which the collections within a national library are managed, as well as exploring the ways that librarians can capitalise on their expertise to get the most out of the collections in their care.
Evaluating the intellectual assets in the scholarship and collections directorate at the British Library.
Professor Sheila Corrall
Ms Barbara Sen
The project aims to evaluate intellectual assets within the setting of a large national library. Intellectual assets are assets that belong to and benefit an organisation, but are intangible, and thus difficult to represent on a balance sheet. They would include things like staff expertise, quality of customer service, internal communications and the way that technology is used. By developing a system for evaluating these assets, the library will be able to improve its services by identifying their strengths and weaknesses.
Positioning of research
Intellectual assets have been identified by researchers since the 1990’s as key to the success of modern businesses, but there has as yet been no system developed to accurately measure them. There has also been very little research conducted on the evaluation of intellectual assets within the public sector, which this project will aim to resolve. Additionally, knowledge of how to evaluate and exploit intellectual assets will be of great value to libraries who wish to prove their worth in the current challenging climate.
Using the British Library as a case study, a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods will be used to evaluate the organisation’s intellectual assets and develop a measurement tool which the library can use in the future. Three main methods will be used for data collection – interviews with select staff members, a questionnaire involving the whole S&C directorate, and document analysis. I also hope to involve library users and key external stakeholders in the main data collection period.
The aim is to develop an evaluation tool which the BL can use to assess its intellectual assets so that they can be used in the most efficient and productive way. While the model I develop will be tailored for the BL, I hope that it can be used as a basis for other libraries to develop for their own organisations, as capitalisation on intellectual assets will be an excellent way for libraries to prove their worth in an increasingly challenging climate.
Collection management, intellectual assets, knowledge management, special collections, qualitative data.
BA in English Literature from Royal Holloway University, UK, 2007;
MA in English from Royal Holloway University, UK, 2008;
MA in Librarianship from Sheffield University, UK, 2010.
Achievements and awards
Winner of the 2011 Vitae pecha kucha presentation competition.