LLAMA SASS Technical Services and Systems Committee - 2010 ALA Annual Program Report
LLAMA/SASS TSSC Program for ALA Annual (Washington DC)
June 26, 2010
Location: Hilton Washington (1919 Connecticut Avenue), Lincoln Room
Program Title: The Backroom Powerhouse: Leading Technical Services in Turbulent Times
- Andrea Kappler, Cataloging Manager, Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library
“Communicating to Collaborate: Moving Forward Despite Looming Budget Cuts”
- Emily Bergman, Head of Collections and Technical Services, Occidental College Library
“From Technical Services to Director and Back Again: Thoughts from an Interim Library Director”
- Andrew White, Interim Dean and Director of Libraries/Director, Health Sciences Library,
“New Chancellor, New President, and You're Interim Library Dean .... What's the Plan?”
- Raymond Santiago, Director, Miami-Dade Public Library System
“Responding to Outside Pressures - Flexibility is the Key”
Lila (Angie) Ohler, Head of Acquisitions, University of Maryland
This program was the result of LLAMA’s realization that technical services librarians needed to know how to deal with the changing and inherent political landscape of their organization in order to remain a viable part of the library team. All four speakers addressed this issue from a variety of situations. Their PowerPoint slides will be mounted on the LLAMA website.
As a cataloging manager, Ms. Kappler remarked how her department needed to recognize that times had changed, and that regardless of how well things had been done in the past, the costs and fiscal realities could no longer allow things to remain as they were. The staff had to become less reactive and more proactive in their daily routines. They accomplished this through increased communication on all levels, collaboration whenever possible, and a realization that the organization had to “do more with less.” This meant more outsourcing, changing responsibilities, and a feeling that the staff has ownership of their work.
Ms. Bergman related her personal experiences as an interim administrator. She learned that “interim” would not necessarily be a short tenure—that it could go on long after what was promised. Because of this, she had to learn to “let go” of things that she once felt vital. The one vital thing she knew she had to do was to “be a leader” above all other things. The staff wants and needs a leader with a clearly defined short-term plan. While it seems tempting to not make major changes in the organization, Ms. Bergman found that she had to make some big decisions—decisions that the permanent administrator would have to live with or change in the future. One must not defer the necessary decisions, even if the interim does not have to live with the consequences.
Mr. White was asked to be an interim director, while at the same time remaining permanent Dean of another library at the same institution. The interim assignment included a directive to reorganize the library and the library’s budget. Already known by the staff in the interim library, Mr. White used that staff knowledge by re-evaluating each vacancy to reduce redundancy of activities and implementing outsourcing in order to assign vacancies to other departments and activities. He also had an outside library consultant come in to provide an impartial review of the library. He emphasized being honest with the staff at all times, and used monthly all-staff meetings to increase communications.
Mr. Santiago stated his philosophy and mantra of “Do less with less” so what the library is doing is constantly changing. He remarked that it was easy to manage when there was a lot of money. But times have changed and his library has felt a great deal of outside pressure, since 100% of the library budget comes from property taxes and the library is in competition with the fire and police departments for those funds. He realizes and accepts that libraries operate under a political atmosphere, and that political decisions are based on impressions and feelings. Impressions are made by the entire staff, and every library activity is political. In order to survive, the library must be flexible. This includes moving technical services personnel out to public services and outsourcing what these people did prior to the move. Realize that one cannot get everything one wants or “needs.” Do the best with what you DO have and the impression left with patrons and other government workers will put you in a position of improvement in the future. Mr. Santiago closed with a list of “rules.” They will be included in the posting on the website. But here are a few:
- Learn how to deliver your message.
- Dress like the people who are making the decisions.
- Know who makes the political decisions.
- Know your allies.
- Know your competition.