Open Forum Notes - Current and Past Division Coordinators
Open Forum Notes – Current and Past Division Coordinators
Divisional Structure Task Force
University of Illinois Library
October 25, 2011
Jenny Marie Johnson
Lisa Hinchliffe (Chair)
Emma Clausen (Information Literacy GA)
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’ll have a new dean in two years. We’re making assumptions but when the new dean comes that person could have a different view of structure.
- It’s an opportunity to have a clear idea of where we want to be as faculty.
- There are fewer of us [faculty] than in 1993. The division structure helped us through changes in our division.
- The division structure as is may not be sustainable anymore.
- One division changed it bylaws to say the division coordinator does not have to be a unit head. Question asked whether all divisions have that within their bylaws?
- Group consensus is that it differs among divisions.
- Let’s consider the ease of email communication and the ubiquity of email. People take messages from one meeting and bring that message to another group. Is it an effective way to disseminate information?
- Relying on email does not generate discussion the way that groups do.
- Our division is quite lively when we meet as a group but soliciting feedback through email is hard.
- But, email is good for sending out information. Better to send to everyone than to division coordinators to forward to their division. Going through division coordinators duplicates effort and leaves out everyone not in a division.
- We’ve changed the Library Faculty Meeting structure to some extent. Fewer meetings to make it more worthwhile, but what if we increase the number of meetings to lessen extent to which others have to report back? By more people attending a required meeting there are fewer layers.
- You’d hear the message directly from the source. There wouldn’t be a filter.
- Don’t want to lose sight of conversations that occur at divisional level—these conversations do not occur at faculty level.
- True right now but it could be different.
- What’s the incentive for getting people to go to Faculty Meetings?
- Why doesn’t the Administrative Council (AC) set policies anymore?
- The budget group makes decisions.
- The description in the Library Bylaws states that the primary responsibility of the Administrative Council is the day-to-day management of the Library. Do we want AC to be executing that?
- Decisions like that are currently out of our hands.
- Would like to see AC have a more active management role.
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.
- Do we want a hierarchical structure?
- Maintain the autonomy of the units. That has made my time as a Unit Head more interesting.
- I can be the voice for my division. We’ll cover for one another during sabbaticals.
- There are varying experiences across the divisions. There isn’t the ethos that “we’ll cover for each other” in every division.
- Is that a personality disparity? Is that a structural issue?
- But you could have a structure that is not quite as flexible with those things.
- In the last five years people have gone outside of division for sabbatical coverage.
- Why is that happening when there is a policy in place?
- Is sabbatical coverage only a staffing issue?
- It’s also a leadership issue.
- The divisions don’t handle this all the same way. Do we want a system that allows for different approaches?
- Some people feel disenfranchised with this level of flexibility. People do favors for each other rather than the system ensuring equitable treatment.
- We have a structure right now that allows these different experiences to flourish. Are we happy with the range of experiences that this structure enables?
- People prefer open structure with divisional autonomy. Maybe this wouldn’t be through a structural solution.
- Three possible models have emerged during previous discussions: Maintain the current divisional structure, possibly with some tweaking. Eliminate divisions and have Unit Heads to carry out day-to-day governing. Return to the pre-1993 departmental structure, either a two-department or possibly a three-department structure.
- I’m not sure going back to what existed is the best approach.
- I don’t see a reason to change things so dramatically. I want to see a plan.
3. What are the strengths of the current divisional structure?
- The current divisional structure has worked with small or large groups of faculty.
- It has worked well in the consolidation of units.
- So far during this discussion, we’ve heard flexibility, evolution over time, and autonomy in units and divisions as strengths of the current structure.
- A structure that facilitates communication and grouping of shared subject interests.
- Mentoring and fostering tenured faculty and those working towards tenure.
- Informally—maybe we don’t mandate that divisions should have mentorship role.
- Part of the environment is not just for untenured faculty members. The division meetings are a safe environment—there are things that I’ll only express to my division.
- There’s no cohesion among those outside and inside of the Main Library. Nothing that reinforces a sense of community.
- I actually feel as if I’m not in the building. I understand Main Library vs. Outside of the Main Library. But, being in the Main Library doesn’t mean one feels “inside” of it. I feel like an outsider.
- Maybe it is really that the 2nd floor is the Main Library.
- All of the email announcements about the Main Library elevators reinforce that the perception that the Main Library is what matters – we don’t do library-wide announcements of facilities problems elsewhere unless they are so severe as to cause closure.
- One speaker suggested lightheartedly that we might need a 4th floor division.
- Division Coordinators value the quarterly meetings with the University Librarian.
- Without these meetings, one would not be able to foster a library environment based on communication and support.
- One speaker remarked that meetings are rescheduled with very short notice, sometimes twelve hours before the meeting, after prep work for has been completed. This is very frustrating since it makes it difficult to have planned for a meeting and then not be able to follow through.
- Some have not found a way to be comfortable with meeting with Paula because the meetings are being cancelled all of the time. Hard to build a relationship.
4. What are the weaknesses of the current divisional structure?
- One of the problems right now is that there is one division that is one unit.
- Area Studies units merged into one unit. There’s some potential tension because you have a Unit Head and a Division Coordinator who are not the same person.
- Not all divisions have it stipulated within their bylaws that the Unit Head will act as the Division Coordinator.
- We have an additional single unit division. Law has been its own division since 1993.
- If we can address this, it will help farther down the line as other units are consolidated.
- I was never clear of the purpose of division coordinators. No distinct function other than to keep a group of folks working in a common direction. What’s the function of divisions outside of some basic governance?
- According to the Bylaws, divisional coordinators are responsible for holding regular division meetings, seeking advice and consent from their division in matters affecting the division, coordinating the activities of their division, assuring the implementation of general library policies and procedures, and reporting regularly on the activities of the division and keeping their division fully informed of decisions made by the Administrative Council.
- A weakness you see of the current divisional structure is that the role of the Division Coordinator is not clear?
- We’re pretty powerless. It’s one-way communication coming down. We don’t have a stake in the decision making process of the Library.
- Two of the last three AC meetings were cancelled for lack of an agenda.
- We’re kind of out of the loop and therefore we don’t know what to ask when proposing possible agenda items.
- We aren’t even being brought together—we don’t know what to ask or who to ask.
- It seems impossible to intuit the desired agenda items.
- You feel like you’re not participating.
- In some cases, an agenda item or multiple agenda items have been suggested and the meeting has been canceled anyway.
- AC is an opportunity for collegiality and mentorship—every time meetings are cancelled we can’t fulfill this function.
- In the many years I’ve worked here, we’ve have two or three Unit Head meetings. These have been some of the best meetings. These meetings were a time to share. There’s no structure to make that happen unless an individual just steps up and takes initiative. But, that isn’t a structural approach.
- AC could be charged with making that happen.
- The weakness isn’t at the divisional level—it’s because of an administrative failure to execute Library Bylaws relative to AC.
- The Division Coordinator is not an administrative position. Unit Heads report and talk to the University Librarian. Do you want hierarchy of Unit Heads sitting below the Division Coordinator? I.e., have the Division Coordinator be a reporting line role?
5. If you could create any system, what would you create?
- If we’re going to tweak our current system, we need to address areas that need improvement.
- Address problems at the AC level.
- Is it better to go to the University Librarian or Associate University Librarians (AUL) to solve problems regularly as units? Should Division Coordinators not be elected but chosen from the largest unit within a division?
- Coming from a smaller unit: Will smaller units begin to lose their voice?
- Compensation package—is it arbitrary? We have a stipend and a quarter time Graduate Assistant (GA).
- If we’re looking at it holistically from a library-wide appointment, should there be a compensation package involved?
- Certain Division Coordinators treat the stipend differently. As a Division Coordinator, I take on different things. I do it because I get the GA. In smaller unit you need some compensation. The compensation is not in the Library Bylaws.
- It should be more flexible. I turn my quarter time GA assignment into hourly student wages. I’m not sure that everyone can do that—I just work through the Library Business Office.
- On the other hand, things have changed with the Graduate School of Library and Information Science and GA assignments. If we value that flexibility, we need to document it in the final report to the Executive Committee.
- Double review of tenure cases through the Faculty Review Committee (FRC) and the Promotion and Tenure Advisory Committee is getting difficult to sustain as we lose full professors and faculty members. Though, we have fewer people going up for tenure.
- We are required to have two levels of review, but it’s at our discretion how we do both.
- Maybe have divisions perform the first level of review.
- Might be challenging. In some divisions, it could be difficult to find faculty members that are at or above rank for tenure evaluation purposes.
- That speaks against the idea of moving back to two departments. Not the best for diversity and people got burnt out.
- Getting people to serve on FRC is one of the hardest things.
- Interesting, it is a contested position in Central Public Services. Always have to have an election.
6. Open Discussion
- Sometimes Division Coordinators are bypassed by Unit Heads who go directly to the University Librarian and only later copy Division Coordinators on communication. This happens even when it impacts other people or procedures within the division.
- This is not collegial. The unit becomes the primary objective.
- We need a structure that addresses this.
- What kind of authority do you have as a Division Coordinator? Is it mostly secretarial?
- Should we get rid of Division Coordinator positions?
- A lot more work would fall on the University Librarian and AULs.
- What are we going to replace it with?
- How long are we going to have enough units to make sense to have divisions?
- What is a unit? The Library organizational chart is hard to understand in terms of units.
- What about Academic Professionals (AP)? There are a lot of APs in units not in divisions and those not in divisions are not engaged by divisional structure.
- There are three groups with divisional representation: FRC, AC, and CDC (Collection Development Committee).
- Should we look at more committees having more representation for better communication and less communication outside of committees?
- Worried about stretching people too far.
- Though it might help people be engaged in the work rather than just hearing about it later.
- One real challenge is that there is no communication from IT.
- We need minutes from the Content Access Policy and Technology committee. Also—what about Budget Group minutes?
- This is the last open forum session. The task force will be begin to review open forums and other documentation in November, put together a draft 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.