Earlier this week, I was invited by John Burger and Joni Blake to present recent research findings to a webinar hosted by ASERL and GWLA. I focused on the recent Ithaka S+R study on Organizing the Work of the Academic Library. My presentation and the resulting q&a are recorded and available for download. More than 100 librarians joined in to participate in the webinar, and the questions were energetic and robust.

I used my presentation to walk through the project’s key findings, emphasizing that organizational structures can enable the library’s strategic directions when those strategies are clearly articulated. In my conversations with library directors, we focused on three overarching  strategic directions many libraries are currently grappling with: Rethinking Collections, Reimagining Outreach, and Redesigning Technology. Most of the directors I spoke with have at least begun to structure their libraries to adapt their collection strategies to the emerging reality, making changes to how purchases are made, how resources are allocated, and in many cases re-focusing on special collections. A number of directors are also rethinking the nature of the liaison model as they work to improve outreach.  As for library technology? The directors were all over the map, with different ideas about what the library should try to accomplish and the implication on the organizational structure.

A topic such as library organization is bound to be provocative, and the webinar provided an opportunity for the attendees to delve into the report. The discussion centered on a number of questions:

  • Why was the project focused on the views of directors alone and not other librarians?
  • What risks do libraries take on in the course of a reorganization and what do directors regret in the way they approached change?
  • Did directors feel the need to invest in staff development and talent management?
  • How did directors imagine they could reduce the management burden of AULs?
  • Are some of the changes being taken on by directors designed to resonate with millennials?
  • Did the project find that directors consider librarian tenure as a possible impediment to restructuring?
  • Did directors feel the need to get more involved, or more skilled, in their ability to manage technology?
  • How is the university’s focus on student success being reflected in library organizational structure?
  • What kinds of factors external to the library influenced the choices being made about organizational structure?
  • How are directors helping AULs to sharpen their strategic focus?
  • Is the library perceived increasingly as a cost center?
  • Was there a sense among interviewees that the professional role of librarians was declining?

My presentation ran approximately 45 minutes, with nearly another 45 minutes of q&a. Please click the link to listen, and if you have additional comments or questions I’ll be happy to address them here on our blog. 

My thanks to John Burger and Joni Blake for inviting me to speak.