Open Forum Notes – Civil Service/Staff
Open Forum Notes – Civil Service/Staff
Divisional Structure Task Force
University of Illinois Library
October 3, 2011
Lisa Hinchliffe (chair)
i.) 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.?
- Collection development has changed tremendously—e-everything and contracts and licensing associated. There is a need to “hang together” divisionally because of these changes—purchasing of packages collectively, etc. Part of the theory was that divisions know what they “have” in that subject area in their collections and the speaker doesn’t think that’s true to a great extent anymore. Packages also cross divisional lines making the divisions an artificial divide.
- The multidisciplinary nature of work.
- With all of the mergers, there are divisions with one or two units. Area Studies is a prime example. Law has been like that since 1993.
- There may be a situation where the division coordinator is not the unit head. Divisions can control through their bylaws who the division coordinator could be.
- There is now a policy that unit heads can be assigned for 5 year terms. “There are questions around leadership” was the summary statement to wrap up this line of discussion.
- It was proposed that electronic communication has changed radically since 1993. However, if a memo doesn’t state clearly what it means, sometimes it’s better to communicate face-to-face.
- The size of the divisions is a big change—fewer faculty now. Attrition over the past 10+ years has happened. LIS has changed from physical to virtual. Academic professionals have been hired rather than faculty—how do they fit in? The system is not balanced.
- Requested to clarify the point, speaker said the imbalance comes because the divisions are built on units. For example, Central Public Services (CPS) has more librarians because they are public service, so divisional decisions accommodate faculty more there. Divisions that are heavily Academic Professionals (AP) have different decision processes and are represented differently. There are too many divisions for the number of units. “What functions do divisions serve that are essential for governing in the Library?”
- One of the challenges before us is to question whether it is the structure itself that should change, or the way we operate within the structure?
- How to break divisions down? For example, do we put all of the sciences together? That’s a challenge.
- Maybe we go back to what it was pre-1993, with technical services and public services? There needs to be some kind of understanding about what is going on before we make rules about it. Speaker thinks it might be better to have two divisions, with enough people being in both to make sure that there is coverage within the division when there are absences.
- Proposal to do away with divisions, and unit heads would be a “council.” If we move to fewer, bigger unit structures, this might have potential.
- One thing the divisions were supposed to do is communicate information. But speaker thinks we rely on the assumption that all information is getting through because of ease of communication (electronic), but that’s not necessarily true. If we choose to rely on electronic communication, we need to ensure that we have information dissemination policies if we limit or do away with face-to-face options.
- Division coordinators go to Administrative Council (AC) meetings, but speaker says information from the meetings is only communicated to faculty in the units.
- Speaker thinks it’s like a game of telephone. Asked to clarify, speaker said in an ideal world there should be no filters; everyone should get the same information.
- If the current divisional structure reflects our work, why is Applied Health moving to Social Sciences?
- Speaker said there’s a problem in that not all civil service staff are interested in politics or the larger Library and if something comes through LIBNEWS not directly related to their job, they’ll delete it. Lots of civil service staff don’t feel invested, like the larger Library doesn’t matter to them, or they don’t matter to the larger Library.
- Comment to the above was that it’s not necessarily true that staff aren’t invested, they just may not understand how (and which) information on LIBNEWS applies to them.
- Summarizing the discussion— we are looking for a system that equalizes communication of information and which is flexible enough to evolve with the Library’s changes.
ii.) If we did not have a structure, what principles would be the foundation of an ideal structure? E.g., facilitates communication, minimizes hierarchy, etc.
- Clarification by earlier speaker—looking for fewer steps in the communication process.
- Some division coordinators write up extensive AC notes to communicate back, while others don’t. People pick the things that are relevant to report in division meetings, and maybe not everything is relevant, or things that were omitted would be relevant.
- Earlier speaker said that things flow together so much now that you can’t leave out details, because you can’t assume that certain things aren’t relevant to certain populations.
iii.) What are the strengths of the current divisional structure?
- Because the divisions are built around broad subjects, they represent a lobbying group, a way for a group to have its voice heard. This can be a positive and a negative, because it literally creates “divisions,” in cases when a topic should be addressed cross-divisionally or non-divisionally. Can you create CDC from a non-divisional representation structure?
- Another speaker’s counter example--Why is Services Advisory not based on divisional representation?
iv.) What are the weaknesses of the current divisional structure?
[The discussion around this question wasn’t so much about weaknesses in the current structure, but rather strengths of former structures and activities.]
- Speaker remembers that staff from each unit could go to divisionally-arranged meetings in the early 90s. It was helpful to discuss issues with people from other units, to get ideas and solutions. Also, a great way to get to know other people. More learning opportunities then. Now, if you’re in a unit by yourself, there is no opportunity for this. Fewer staff now and fewer student assistants to cover if you wanted to go to a training opportunity.
- Another speaker concurred that training is missing.
- A third speaker says essentially that we’re getting off topic, but it was noted that in larger units you can get away to get training and interactions with staff from other units, while that’s not possible if you’re in a smaller unit.
- Over time, it became harder for everyone to go to meetings, which may be why the Library Staff Support Committee (LSSC) rep system was started.
- Speaker noted that so many units have retirements and attrition and people are covering for multiple duties. Now one person is trying to do the jobs of several people.
- Another speaker commented on/reiterated the earlier issue of notes/minutes being filtered or incomplete.
- Summarization—staff would like the opportunity to interact with other staff and members of other units to exchange ideas and get ideas and tips to improve operations.
v.) If you could create any system, what would you create?
- Speaker said there isn’t enough information about alternatives to respond. Suggested corporate structures as a model?
- Beyond the requirements in the University Statutes for an Executive Committee, all of the Library’s structure is in our purview.
- Speaker asked if the task force has seen anything else structure-wise to compare. Task force members reiterated that this is the listening phase so we don’t have anything to propose yet.
- The division structure now has one staff member at each meeting (through LSSC). If you take out the division structure, then you need to find another way for staff to be represented in decision-making processes, as well as APs. As librarians have reduced in number, APs have increased, which looks like a replacement process even if not intended to be such. That changes the dynamics of decision-making.
- Speaker--A large number of APs sit outside of division structure and have no division connection.
- Let’s consider a unit heads’ council—how would you like to see staff represented in this hypothetical structure?
- Response--The way staff currently are there is difficulty getting people to be on the ballot for LSSC. Fewer divisions would make this easier. Speaker would be “for” general elections for staff representatives to any new structure and also for staffing LSSC.
- For sabbaticals, what is the relationship with the division?
- Response—there is a policy statement that says the division must ensure coverage. In practice, the individual finds his/her own coverage, which doesn’t necessarily come from the division. No one is guaranteed a sabbatical. Presumably if we didn’t have divisions to do the initial ranking, we’d have to come up with another structure.
- Speaker says that the widely varying numbers of faculty in divisions means that those who are put forth for sabbatical have different chances for approval by division. Few faculty in the division means less competition and so better chance for higher ranking.
- Speaker would like to see that staff would be more involved in division meetings, since currently the division coordinator may make a division-wide decision without directly conferring with the affected staff of a particular unit. So perhaps have staff representatives from each unit be invited to each division meeting?
- Clarification—maybe there should be one staff representative from each unit in the division? Speaker confirmed.
- So this comes back to division operations and bylaws.
- There are lots of staff outside of divisions who aren’t part of a division and aren’t placed in a division like faculty are.
- One point about fewer divisions is that you might have more divisional representation because there would be more opportunities within each division and more people perhaps willing to serve.
- Speaker commented about being “delighted” to see that there would be an open forum for staff to attend, and for staff alone (not intermingled with faculty) to discuss the divisional structure.