(Archived February 1, 1998)
| Cindy Chick has been a law firm librarian for 17 years. She received her M.L.S. from UCLA with a specialization in law librarianship. Cindy is the co-editor of LLRXchange, and has developed several software programs for law libraries under the name of CINCH Library Software
For tips on writing your Annual Report, be sure to read Marie Wallace’s accompanying article, “Annual Reports: Connecting the Parts with the Whole.”
|Through the years, I’ve heard over and over again how beneficial it is to produce an library annual report, and I do believe it is true. Annual reports offers us an opportunity to tell management what we accomplished during the past year, what it is we actually do, how much it cost, and what our plans are for the next year. An annual report is a marketing tool, a communication medium, and a self-evaluation. It provides the answer to management’s ongoing question, “what have you done for me lately?”
In fact, the first 4 years I was a law firm librarian, I DID produce annual reports each year, really I did. But something happened, things got too busy, I missed a year, then another, no one ever asked me for it, and I lapsed. I knew I SHOULD do it, but I also know I should exercise more and eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
Last year, however, I did finally “just did it,” though, mind you, not until April. I realize that doesn’t qualify me as an expert on annual reports by any means. But since I finally managed to overcome inertia, I decided to see if I could help you do the same. After all, the first annual report is always the hardest. In succeeding years, you have a basis from which to work, rather than starting from scratch.
|As is often advised by management experts, the way to get started in a big project is to break it down into pieces, and work on a little at a time so that you don’t get overwhelmed. The first thing I did was start pulling together statistics and data that I thought would be good to include in an annual report.
Sources of Information
I’ll confess, I don’t keep a lot of statistics, though that’s definitely on my to-do list for 1998. But when I started looking around, I found that I did have important sources information available to me. For example:
For More Info
For more information on writing annual reports, see Sharon French’s The Annual Report of the Private Law Library: A Checklist of Considerations, Managing the Private Law Library 1989, (PLI Patents, Copyright and Course Handbook Series, no. 278)
For more information on Mission Statements, see samples below , and/or “Mission Statements,” by Marie Wallace, in Managing the Private Law Library 1989 (PLI Patents, Copyright and Course Handbook Series, no. 278)
Are you willing to share a sanitized version of your annual report to help others get started? Have I left out something incredibly important about writing an annual report? Would you like to share a positive reaction to your annual report? Please send us an e-mail , and we’ll include your comments.
Data or Information?
So you’ve collected all of the data related to your library operations that you can get your hands on. But before we proceed further, let me share something with you. I once took a perfectly dreadful class on Management of Information Systems. However, there was one thing from this class that has stuck with me, that is the definition of data vs. information.
According to the textbook, “Data consists of facts and figures that are relatively meaningless to the user.” In other words, if you include in your annual report the number of ILLs you processed last year, that figure will be relatively meaningless to the reader. What you need to do is present information. “Information is processed data, or meaningful data. Information reveals something that was not previously known.” You have to put the numbers in context by comparing them to previous years, or to other firm’s figures. For example, I included a chart showing the decline of ILLs in our library over the past 3 years, and attributed that decline to our flat-rate plans with the online services, and the availability of law review articles online. So think about your data, offer enough for a meaningful comparison, and help interpret it for your readers. Then you are presenting information.
And if you have statistics that don’t demonstrate anything important, leave them out. Don’t report them just because you have them, report them because they demonstrate something about library operations that management would be interested in.
Make an outline of your annual report, then start filing in the blanks. If possible, you may want to work from home for a day or two so you can work uninterrupted. Last year I included the Mission Statement up front, then I listed each library goal from the Mission Statement and what we did to try to further that goal. The downside of this structure was that it was not easy to scan the report for the main points, or go directly to the section on a particular topic, as suggested by Marie Wallace in her accompanying article, so I may try something more traditional and straightforward next time. But however you choose to organize your annual report, you will probably want to cover the following ground:
| Word Processing or HTML
If you have an Intranet, you might want to consider writing your annual report in html. The hypertext linking would enable you to organize the annual report so that readers could go directly to the sections that they want to see. For example, see Upper Arlington Ohio Public Library Annual Report or the King County Library Annual Report , which by the way, includes a section on “Quotes” from users. Not a bad idea! The Health Sciences Library at the University of Washington also incorporated anecdotes and quotes as a way of making their annual report more personal.
When you’ve finished your annual report, you are inevitably going to ask the $64,000 question, will they read it?
I’d like to tell you that everyone you send a copy of your annual report will read it cover to cover. But let’s be realistic, it’s not likely. However, by making sure you are presenting information rather than data, and by increasing readability by following Marie’s tips on writing the Annual Report, your chances are good that SOMEONE will read it. In my case, that someone was my office administrator. He must have liked it, because he made sure to tell me that he expected to see an annual report every year from now on. Oh, geez, I’d better get to work.