Open Forum Notes – Librarians Outside of the Main Library
Divisional Structure Task Force
University of Illinois Library
October 13, 2011
Lisa Hinchliffe (chair)
1. What has changed since the division structure was implemented in 1993? E.g., changes in technology and communication channels, changes in number and type of employees, etc.?
- We benefit from division meetings by getting out to see others and facilitate discussion. We are dispersed and we don’t see each other in the hall.
- Emailing is now the method of communications which changes things quite a bit.
- There are fewer remote/departmental libraries and fewer librarians.
- We have also condensed some libraries and service points. Librarians from outside the unit are serving on larger unit reference desks, e.g., Chemistry Librarian working the desk at Grainger.
- Collections are more digital and there are bundled collections. There are more multiple collection purchases by multiple libraries. Packages require us to work together as a group and we get together to talk about this. There is more strength in numbers in terms of purchasing power. This leads to shared advocacy and more interactions between librarians from related subject areas but different units.
- A lack of funding makes us work together more collaboratively. Greater fiscal challenge maximizes collections and staffing. Smaller units have to work with larger units to get help with staffing.
- We still have physically remote locations (Veterinary Medicine and Prairie Research Institute). We still have to service remote locations.
2. If we did not have a structure, what principles would be the foundation of an ideal structure? E.g., facilitates communication, minimizes hierarchy, etc.
- One way to group units is by shared or complimentary interests; related subjects or related areas could be grouped together. Two functions of the divisions: 1) representation on committees but also 2) communication.
- Maybe communication isn’t as necessary a part of the divisional responsibilities?
- Three groups require divisional representation: Administrative Council (AC); Collection Development Committee (CDC) and Faculty Review Committee (FRC). These are the only committees that have divisional representation.
- What type of structure do you want to see? Hierarchical?
- A flatter structure is more desirable. The library may have more open minds now due to lots of change happening. Some of the things done in the past don’t make sense. We have warmed up to the feeling of change.
3. What are the strengths of the current divisional structure?
- It helps us get together and have a chance to talk. Getting committee participation and quick representation is easier with the ability to go to the divisions. The flip side is that it’s often hard to get a division to find a representative who will be ready to serve. By going to the divisions, nearly everyone is represented. However, there are almost no APs in divisions. Perhaps we should expand who “everybody” is that’s in a division. Divisions are flexible.
- What do other colleges have for APs in their governing structure? The library may be one of the largest employers of APs. This expands the scope of our considerations.
- The current structure allows us to deal with situations and problems that are most appropriate for our division. We can decide how best to handle it for our needs. Helps us be more accommodating and flexible. The structure is customizable.
- Not the same across all divisions.
- Mentoring role for junior faculty is an important function of the division. Naming referees for promotion cases.
- Divisions also handle larger group proposals for shared collections. This is facilitated well in the current division structure.
- Each Area Studies subject has a center it relates to on campus. This is a unique relationship with center and it needs to be maintained.
- Good point. What are the broader consequences of the division structure? There has been a long-term focus on departmental librarians (since 1897) and collaborations with teaching departments. These relationships have been a real asset for the Library’s development and they have been pursued through faculty/librarian specialists – one reason we are so strong. To what extent is divisional structure important to that relationship? For example, should Area Studies and Special Collections merge (both small)? While this may seem logical, there are no center-related units in Special collections. What is the connection between divisions and departments? How is it special? Needing to be preserved for any reason?
- We may not need an Area Studies Division if we now have an Area Studies Library. No idea yet how this will work.
4. What are the weaknesses of the current divisional structure?
- One division has become a library (Area Studies). It is bad having a head of division and head of library – two persons who might be in conflict. The bylaws of that division allow that. Two people may have different ideas. Some divisions have bylaws that say the Division Coordinator must be a unit head.
- The structure assumes that every librarian is in one unit within one division. Now have overlapping responsibilities – essentially one person holding two positions that are in two divisions. Is this desirable?
- Variant of that: One librarian develops a collection in areas that include several different divisions. Structure does not deal well with interdisciplinarity.
- Prairie Institute now more naturally aligned with other divisions than Life Sciences. And now they have even included archeology research.
- Units change and take on other subjects; historical limitations based on prior subject alignments. Any structure becomes obsolete over time.
- Obsolete – divisions need to be flexible but are still meaningful. Moving one unit to a new division is a sign that the divisional framework has a modicum of flexibility. Request to take what’s good about structure and create the bylaws to reflect that. But then we get back to who decides and how what is best or good about the current structure?
- When divisions were created, the structure was not really based on size of faculty. Size might have been factor maybe but not one that set the rules for composition. Now we have divisions of radically different sizes. Fewer faculty means more work, but in larger divisions it could mean that your sabbatical rank is lower because there is more competition. Pluses and minuses on both sides; interesting disparities.
- At the University of Minnesota you can choose your division; Latin American chose Economics due to alignment and focus. Based on person, not on unit decision.
- Bylaws don’t prohibit liaisons from the Undergraduate Library attending other divisions.
- Intriguing issue: if you allow them to choose the division, what is division supposed to accomplish? Works with people/faculty development/research agendas and expertise. If divisions are a communication tool of Library Administrators to Faculty, then that may not be a viable option. Question is do we need divisions at all? Or do we need a layer at all between Library Administration and Library Faculty? Or do we need more layers?
- Strategic plan (process before this current one): each division had an assignment as part of the process. Brainstorming, etc. This was a good experience that would not have happened well without the divisional structure. This is a good example of needing a layer between Library Administration and Faculty. Of course, the strategic planning process this time is not using that structure so the structure doesn’t guarantee involvement.
- What about unit heads instead of division coordinators as that layer?
- There is a danger if there is a unit head that did not want to allow input. This is not as likely to take place in the divisional structure. Division Coordinators reviewed every three years. Unit head appointments are now five year appointments, however some unit heads are in the older system and are there for the duration. Everyone at the divisional level meeting gets a chance to be heard. Also there is not a reporting structure for unit heads. Some see more collegial communication in divisions is possible than within units or between units. New initiatives in Acquisitions or Cataloging – it’s easy to visit a division meeting and communicate with that group. More relevant feedback is possible with divisions. Lots of efficiencies with divisional structure – communication through Associate University Librarians.
- Is there an argument for going to more divisionally-based committees?
- Don’t know. Divisional representation on more committees might be worth considering.
- If we do keep similar division structure, one option is to look at the committee representation.
- Do we need it in the User Education Committee or the Services Advisory Committee?
- Check for underrepresented groups. When the committee can make a final decision, we may need to have divisional representation due to the decision making power of that committee.
- Problems if the division keeps the communication responsibility. For example, Life Sciences division does not have anyone on Content Access Policy & Technology. How do we find out about what’s going on? If communication is supposed to be passed on through the division, then you’re out of luck if there isn’t a divisional representative on that committee.
- AC seems broken. Unsure of its role and its power and purpose. What should it be doing?
- AC previously had real budgeting power; now responsibility and authority has been moved to Budget Group.
- Why are some things vetted through AC? No reason to present an oral report to Division Coordinators and have them go to 12 other rooms and give an oral report. And there is the telephone effect: a different story emerges after a few tellings. Is the information being received as originally intended? Is having a way around this a way to avoid the problem?
- AC has changed. AC used to be a way for division coordinators to bring input back to the group. Not as much feedback from divisions. What happened to the need for input? Also when there are no agenda items from division coordinators that results in no meeting. They just cancel it. What do we not know to ask about? Seems problematic to require division coordinators to know what administration should be asked about. Sometimes AC is canceled even when a division coordinator has suggested agenda items.
- When Tom or Scott wants our input; they come to our division meeting. The obstacle to that: scheduling. Some divisions have had multiple visits though and others none or fewer.
- Do away with AC? What are the things that the faculty does as a whole; what role does faculty need to play in communication? Maybe problems are solved in the division and not brought back to AC?
- Strongest concern: leadership, mentoring, and communication are at varying levels among divisions. Not a structural problem, but more of a personality, capacity, and training problem
5. If you could create any system, what would you create?
- Get rid of divisions? There was not much support for this. Should we move from nine divisions to some other number? Do a small restructuring?
- One suggestion: re-structure into four divisions: Departmental Libraries; Technical Services; Central Public Services, and Special Collections.
- Should Life Sciences merge with Physical Sciences? Neither division is against this at this time due to falling numbers of librarians in each division.
- System is not drastically broken now. Maybe it just needs to be tweaked.
- To reduce the number of meetings division members have to attend, reduce number of divisions and increase the number of divisional committee responsibilities. There can be a lack of communication between Technical Services, Central Public Services and departmental libraries.
- Social Sciences Division has a liaison from Technical Services, UGL, and Prairie Institute.
- Divisions offer a collegial way of having a discussion about operations. We want the ability to participate in good faith and participate in these discussions.
- Is there any way to strengthen our IT support through this division restructuring process? That would be one potential benefit of this process
- In terms of a timeline, the task force will begin analysis of the data in November, put together the report in December, and invite comments and feedback for improvement of the report in January. The final report will be submitted to EC by February 17, 2012.
- A recommendation was made to schedule an open meeting to discuss the final report before EC takes any action.