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Setting Up a Library and Information Service from Scratch

Sheila Pantry OBE and Peter Griffiths


Facet Publishing

September 2005




ISBN 1 85604 558 7


This eminently practical guide is written to help all those who need to set up a library and information service within their organization, irrespective of subject background or type of organization. It offers support to people who have qualifications but no experience in setting up such a service, and those who have had no training at all. Both authors have had many years’ experience of setting up information services for a wide range of organizations in the UK and many other countries.

The book will hold your hand as you tackle the many tasks and responsibilities needed to create a successful library and information service – irrespective of size – and takes you step by step through the processes involved, including:

  • the reasons for setting up a library and information service
  • first steps: the information audit
  • meeting the information needs of specialists
  • establishing the library: premises, design and technical requirements
  • staffing: recruitment and management
  • managing budgets and finance
  • networking and locating sources of information
  • acquisition, organization and dissemination: print and electronic
  • services to be provided by the library
  • sources of support for the library inside and outside the organization
  • promotion of the library
  • training staff and users.

The book is fully supported by appendices containing useful sample documents, including an information centre brochure and a press release. The authors also supply lists of basic reference books and periodicals; sources and suppliers; key search engines; and a quick guide to library basics such as filing, repairs, loans and reference services.

This is a vital guide for anyone, whether an information professional or not, facing the challenge of setting up a library and information service from scratch.


It’s straightforward and conversational style makes this a great book for anyone involved in this challenging task. It starts with the basics: What are the roles of the information service? Who needs information? Why is this service being set up? All logical questions. but it’s useful to have them reinforced from the start. Thinking about the answers ensures that you will think about the service you aim to provide in the wider context of the firm’s own ethos.

It goes on to address the meatier issues, including the important first steps in establishing the service. I found the section on information audits especially useful, spelling out the reasons for audit and what you can expect to identify from them on completion. It also provides useful pointers to ensure that you get the most out of the process. By thinking it through from the beginning, an audit can help you towards a better idea of the perception your users have of the potential of the information service, and later you can use this when marketing your service: another area which is fully covered in the book.

The importance of internal & external networking is highlighted. Networking within your own organisation is essential for promoting the service and building relationships. A number of ways to become more involved in your organisation are described. External networking lets us share experiences with colleagues in the information world to explore common issues and goals. A number of examples are given, from special interest groups to e-mail lists. Library and information unit planning is briefly discussed, to encourage thinking ‘outside the box’ to where the service may be going in the next few years. Another key issue covered is staffing, from managing staff budgets to consideration of the kind of staff you’ll need to provide the best service. Even if you are setting up the service on your own, this is really useful for its pointers to areas you may have to consider in future.

The book is logically structured throughout, with bullet points stating what each chapter will cover, plus a brief summary reinforcing the major points at the end, all the way from the basics at the start to the organisation of training sessions and regular meetings when your service is up and running. There is a glossary of useful terms and a very extensive bibliographic references section to help with further reading on topics of particular interest, and practical appendices including an example of a copyright declaration form and a model information centre brochure.

I found this book invaluable. Although not focused on any particular variety of information centre, everything covered is useful. It differentiates well between large and small units and their particular needs, and offers guidance on practical issues like disability access. It challenges you to ask questions throughout, on both practical and theoretical issues, making reading it an interactive experience. Keep a pencil and paper to hand ready to make notes! An excellent book for anyone creating a new information service.

Kim Worrall
Kim works in a North-East law firm where a new information service is currently ‘under construction’.

ICLG News, Issue 152, November 2005, p. 6


Sheila Pantry OBE BA FCLIP manages an independent information services consultancy and electronic publishing business, including websites. She has had a long and varied career in information management in a range of industry sectors, and also in government as Head of Information Services for the Health and Safety Executive. She specializes in worldwide occupational health and safety information and is an experienced trainer, writer, editor and lecturer.

Peter Griffiths BA FCLIP MCLIP is Head of Information Services Unit at the Home Office, where he is Head of Profession for librarians and information scientists. His responsibilities extend not only to library and information services in the Home Office but also to an internal reference service, knowledge management, and information support to the research community. He is an experienced trainer, writer and lecturer.

Available at a 20% discount to Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals members.
Remember to quote your Membership Number if claiming the discount.
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