ALCTS Role of the Professional Librarian in Technical Services Interest Group (RPLTS IG) Meeting
ALA Annual 2012
Saturday, June 23, 10:30 am-12:00 pm
Chairs: Erica Olivier, Douglas County Libraries, Castle Rock, Colorado and Shoko Tokoro, University of North Carolina, Charlotte
Vice-Chairs: Allison Yanos, Baylor University and Charles McElroy, Florida State University
Panelists: Susan A. Massey, Head of Discovery Enhancement, University of North Florida; Martha Whittaker, Director, Content Management, George Washington University Libraries; Arneice Bowen, Head of Cataloging, North Carolina A&T State University; Sylvia D. Hall-Ellis, Sr. Grant Administrator & Associate Professor, Morgridge College of Education Interim Director, University of Denver; and Erica Olivier, Cataloger, Douglas County Libraries.
Approximately 27 people attended the session.
Co-chair Shoko Tokoro welcomed everyone, introduced her fellow IG officers and the panelists, then introduced the discussion topic of “Life in TS After the Great Restructure: Stories of Survival.”
Susan Massey the Head of Discovery Enhancement at the U. of North Florida spoke first. They decided internally to reorganize and did not bring in an outside consultant. Over a period of time there had been a reduction of staff due to attrition and a change in the library’s budget due to reductions in state funding. The reorganization focused on several things, including providing support for both digitization projects and the increase in electronic resources, highlighting unique materials, merging Acquisitions & Serials (with check-in moving to Public Services), and overall, realigning positions in technical services to better address the future. After the reorganization, they now have a new Electronic Resource Librarian in Acquisitions, a new Metadata Cataloger in Discovery Enhancement, and a new Digital Projects team. Now there are three heads of units instead of four, and one staff position was moved to systems support. Massey related that the restructuring has worked extremely well for them, but was not easy to enact (as there were many changes in a short time frame).
Martha Whittaker, the Director of Content Management at George Washington University, spoke next. She has worked for a number of libraries and vendors where reorganizations have taken place. She observed that reorganizations happens very quickly in the corporate sector (sometimes with lay-offs with very little notice), while library reorganizations often take more time but are usually more humane. Based on her experience with restructuring, she shared some advice: 1) try not to inherit someone else’s reorganization; 2) take charge and own the process; 3) seek advice from colleagues in other departments (surveys & discussions); 4) don’t be afraid to back track; 5) don’t expect to please everybody; 6) hire people with strong technical skills; 7) before starting, have a good idea of your goals and how you will measure success (even though the goals can change later in the process); 8) support people with training, lots of communication, and patience; and 9) celebrate successes.
Arneice Bowen, Head of Cataloging at North Carolina A & T State, was the next panelist to speak. The university adopted a new vision plan, so the Head of Technical Services wanted her area to change to fit with the new vision. Additionally, she wanted TS to adapt so they could continue to function in the changing environment, as well as eliminate duplicative services. As a result, a task analysis/review process was undertaken, as management desired everyone’s participation. Later a new dean introduced the concept of “Staff Share”—where each person could apply/volunteer for an unfilled task or position. Through “Staff Share”: 1) employees were able to gain both new skills and increased confidence; 2) Technical Services ended up growing by 2 librarian and 1 staff positions; 3) and the institutional repository has grown. Bowen recommended setting clear goals and supporting your staff by providing training.
Next Sylvia Hall-Ellis, the Interim Director of the Westminster Law Library at the University of Denver, talked about her experience with restructuring the entire library—focusing on the technical services aspects. Because of a number of factors, including the new Dean’s desire to reduce library personnel costs, the library embarked on reorganization in 2011 as part of the “turnaround process.” After the restructuring was completed, there were no budget cuts, and the library gained new technology/equipment, as well as a new professional position in TS. Hall-Ellis detailed the following lessons learned from the reorganization: 1) innovation is absolutely necessary for sustained success; 2) you have to re-define and re-determine operations (for example, at the Law Library they used job design techniques and made the librarians re-apply for their revised positions); 3) the library can’t survive through reorganizations and cost reductions alone, as innovations are needed; and 4) manage up by having regular conversations with the administrators, providing “Library 101” information, and being accountable.
Erica Olivier, a cataloger for Douglas County Libraries, described how a new head of Technical Services in 2005 inspired TS to rethink, so they identified a “stop list” of tasks that were done out of habit instead of necessity, and brainstormed how to better serve their users. As a result of this and other little tweaks, they were able to get materials out of TS in 7 days instead of 30 days. In 2010 the head of TS retired, and an interim was brought in. Around the same time, the library director wanted to outsource several TS functions in favor of creating original content. A task force comprised of primarily non-TS employees was formed to analyze TS to see what could be eliminated and who could be repositioned. The task force reported that TS was currently running very efficiently but did not have any recommendations on how to transition to the new tasks/purposes the director desired. So it was decided to not hire a new head of TS, and TS was separated into 2 groups: Collection Development (including Acquisitions and Receiving) and Bibliographic Services, which is comprised of Cataloging and Processing. Currently the staff are working together to fill-in the gap in lost leadership and professional positions (as 3 professional catalogers were lost through attrition). Olivier recommended staff help bring about their own change, because they can be innovative and thoughtful when empowered.
After the panelists finished speaking, the floor was opened to questions from the audience. The session concluded with a brief business meeting. The new co-chairs elect for 2012-2013 are Betsy Appleton from George Mason University and Stephanie Gehring from the University of Houston.