Reorganizing for the Future
ACRL ULS Members-Only Online Discussion: July 14th
Reorganizing for the Future
Monday, July 14, 2014
2 PM — 3 PM (EDT)
Do you work in a “library of the future”? Would you like to learn how to reorganize so that yours can be such a library?
Join the ACRL ULS Committee on the Future of University Libraries in an online moderated discussion about how several university libraries evaluated existing resources in order to pave the way for new services. What efficiencies were found in operations? What tough decisions to modify or eliminate existing services were considered? How did reorganization free up resources to help the organization move forward?
For the discussion, we have gathered five stories that describe successful library reorganizations that support the future of the library. The writers of three of the stories will form a panel to discuss your questions using the stories as starting points for investigating how to set priorities, create efficiencies, follow aspirations, overcome constraints, and take advantage of opportunities. Below are some glimpses to get you thinking.
The online discussion is free. To register, please see https://acrl.webex.com/acrl/onstage/g.php?t=a&d=661077865. ACRL ULS members are offered first priority.
Closing and merging libraries forced a focus on library priorities. “We closed and merged libraries, reviewed the library’s priorities, redeployed the staff, implemented innovative ways to develop, purchase and catalog materials, re-imagined the delivery of library services, and re-defined the roles of librarian and support staff.” [Read the whole story #1.]
A whole library reorganization led to successful efficiencies. “The Review simultaneously created staff capacity that was re-deployed in areas where the Libraries are growing, and was informed by a staff survey that allowed people to articulate their strengths and interests and helped the organization reveal hidden talent and interest.” [Read the whole story #2.]
Restructuring is embraced to focus on future aspirations. “…University Libraries are nearing the end of a self-evaluation intended to prepare the organization for the change from an environment based on print resources to one built on digital materials.” [Read the whole story #3.]
Budget constraints prompted the formation of a new access services department. “The new group began by identifying successes to replicate…. User needs, workflows, and capacity were analyzed, to leverage limited resources for maximum benefit. … [Operations] were standardized for efficient and consistent service.” [Read the whole story #4.]
Reorganization provided opportunities within access services units. “The goals of the Access Services reorganization for … libraries included removal of silos, increased cross-training of staff to flex during high-impact periods and to better inform workflows across divisions, re-envisioning the staffing and labor of certain service points, and integration of functions with Technical Services.” [Read the whole story #5.]
The McGill Library faced a $1.8M cut in March 2013, representing 5.2% of the Library budget. A retirement program was implemented by the administration of McGill University in order to help reach the target. Although more than 30 (of 180) library staff members accepted the retirement package, the Library was not allowed to replace any of them. The “new retirees” left in July 2013, so an emergency plan was developed and implemented over the spring and summer 2013. The Library administration closed and merged libraries (including the Medical Library), reviewed the library’s priorities, redeployed the staff, implemented innovative ways to develop, purchase and catalog materials, re-imagined the delivery of library services, and re-defined the roles of librarians and support staff. In addition, we dealt with dissatisfaction and negative publicity from faculty members, students … and unfortunately our staff.
Carole Urbain, Director, Academic Affairs, McGill University Library
In Fall 2011 the University of Minnesota Libraries undertook an organizational review with the intention to restructure the organization to better support the strategic plan and directions. The review concluded in April 2012 resulting in a greatly altered Libraries structure that coalesced expertise from across the organization around broad strategic directions. The structural changes, while foundational, perhaps obscure some of the smaller, impactful intentions and outcomes of the process. The organization adopted a “zone” model in which it increased supervisory spans and decreased structural layers signifying greater emphasis on managerial work and leadership (with still unfolding positive results!). Work became more efficiently distributed across each zone, moving away from a model where functional expertise was replicated in each individual library, large and small.
In the newly formed Research and Learning Division (encompassing Public Service functions), Departmental Directors and Managers assumed the majority of Administrative and Operational Management responsibilities; thereby allowing Subject Liaisons and other specialist professionals (Instructional Design and Delivery, Copyright, Data Services as examples) to more significantly focus on supporting those needs. New horizontal structures (Instructional Coordinators, Research Services, Data Management Curation) were created to provide the opportunity for increased focus in these areas while ensuring coordination across the organization. The Review simultaneously created staff capacity that was re-deployed in areas where the Libraries is growing, and was informed by a staff survey that allowed people to articulate their strengths and interests and helped the organization reveal that hidden talent and interest. At present, roughly 2 years out from initial changes, the organization is working through review and fine-tuning of the new structure to ensure continued focus on the intended outcomes.
Jeffrey S. Bullington, Director, Physical Sciences and Engineering Libraries, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Philip Herold, Research & Learning Director for Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Minnesota Twin Cities
The University of Massachusetts Amherst University Libraries are nearing the end of a self-evaluation intended to prepare the organization for the change from an environment based on print resources to one built on digital materials. The Digital Strategies group, a committee that plans the Libraries’ digital activities focusing on digital content created or collected by the libraries, charged a task force to implement a strategic plan calling for integration of digital content and services into the Libraries’ workflow.
The Task Force began with some basic premises:
- Collection and curation of unique content was paramount
- Our Libraries did not intend to form a centralized Digital Library or Digital Projects office
- Many existing positions in our organization were created to serve a bibliographic work environment, and that environment has changed dramatically
As the Task Force worked through these challenges the group members realized that the incorporation of unique digital materials and services into the mainstream workflows of the Libraries would require an examination of most aspects of the Libraries’ current structure and functions. Through its examination of individual units, the group has explored many topics including:
- Recognizing the existence of a “shadow library” that accomplishes necessary tasks outside the formal organizational structure and how to incorporate it into the structure
- Developing a pool of non-MARC metadata creation specialists
- Developing a R&D/skunkworks/sandbox aspect to the organization
- The redefinition of a subject liaison’s role
- Developing cultures (i.e., new ways of thinking) throughout the Libraries
- Re-tasking existing bibliographic positions for work with digital resources
The Task Force is nearing the end of its charge and is still having strong discussions about the organization and its future. We welcome opportunities to share our experiences with other libraries.
Brian P. Shelburne, Head, Image Collection Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
The MIT Libraries reorganized in 2010. Services, collections and staff were brought together by functions, toward the goal of “One Library, One Collection.” The new organization’s shape was framed by the need to deliver services to an interdisciplinary research community working on a 24×7 basis across the globe, as well as a shift toward digital content. The organization’s size was constrained by economic realities.
Access Services for MIT’s four main libraries, Resource Sharing, Scanning, and Storage were merged into a new department called Information Delivery and Library Access (ID&LA). This diverse portfolio of programs came together as a patchwork quilt. Customer service, including collections as services, was the common thread joining together forty staff across varied locations, schedules, and service cultures.
Each of the teams within ID&LA was composed of talented staff, however, few had previously worked together to jointly solve problems. The new group began by identifying successes to replicate, toward solutions at scale. User needs, workflows, and capacity were analyzed, to leverage limited resources for maximum benefit. Many operations were standardized for efficient and consistent service, with some flexibility to support targeted user communities.
Early actions included encouraging staff to work across service points outside of their home library, centralizing electronic and print course reserves services, creating new approaches for stacks management, and integrating the retrieval of materials from the stacks for both patron requests and resource sharing transactions. Two unmediated borrowing services were added to extend the reach of MIT’s collections. Borrowing periods were increased to reduce barriers to access. An ‘auto-renew’ service will soon launch to save patrons time by anticipating their needs. Expanded delivery of library materials to offices or dormitories is under active discussion. ID&LA now leads improvements to the MIT Libraries facilities to increase support for collaborative learning and innovation.
Christine Quirion, Head, Information Delivery & Library Access, MIT Libraries
In 2009, Harvard University offered the first of two subsequent early retirement packages to staff and the ensuing Harvard College Library reorganizations, while prompted in part by a need to maintain workflows in light of the changes in staffing, provided the opportunity to review all workflows and ensure the skill sets of the staff were being used effectively. This description focuses on the Department of Access Services within Widener and Lamont libraries, the main research and undergraduate libraries, respectively.
The goals of the Access Services reorganization for Widener and Lamont libraries included removal of silos, increased cross-training of staff to flex during high-impact periods and to better inform workflows across divisions, re-envisioning the staffing and labor of certain service points, and integration of functions with Technical Services. Specific goals included:
- Commitment to cross training
- Commitment to collections security
- Staff participation in teams for policy and workflow oversight
- Excellent customer service, internal and external
- Information literacy for reference triage
Access Services staffing was reduced by over 30% as a result of early retirements, attrition, and the elimination of a category of less than half-time employee. Simultaneously, we were working with the campus-wide library community to ensure the launch of a new Scan and Deliver service with no additional labor. Additionally, after a hiatus, we reincorporated Serials check-in with no additional labor, including retrospective check-in.
The tools used to effect the change included a Skills Assessment of all Access Services staff in Widener and Lamont libraries to ensure that librarians and library staff had the opportunity to self-assess their contributions and potential in addition to assessments by managers. Concurrently, working groups were created for the various functional areas comprised of librarians and library staff to ensure that all perspectives and expertise were informing changes to workflows and services.
The reorganization began with the Widener Access Services divisions of Privileges, Circulation, Interlibrary Loan, Harvard Depository Transfer, Stacks Management, and Serials, and eventually included the Access Services Department for Lamont Library (undergraduate library).
Follow these links to fuller reports on the process and results.
Cheryl McGrath, Director, MacPhÃ¡idÃn Library and Archives, Stonehill College