Open Forum Notes – Librarians in the Main and Undergraduate Libraries
Librarians in the Main and Undergraduate Libraries
Divisional Structure Task Force
University of Illinois Library
October 5, 2011
Jennifer Hain Teper
Jenny Marie Johnson
Lisa Hinchliffe (chair)
Emma Clausen (Information Literacy GA)
1. Open Forum Introduction
Lisa reviewed the task force charge, University Statutes, and Library Bylaws documents. She also provided an overview of the previous structures of the Library (two departments and subject councils, etc.).
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.?
- The Law school is not in our system anymore, but they are still a part of our faculty. There is a change in how the Law school relates to the rest of the Library, and a fair amount of confusion surrounding that as evidenced by the varying perceptions offered by people in the discussion.
- Ubiquity of electronic communications. No longer in the age of sending memos through the mail.
- But there are advantages to face-to-face communications—misinterpretation is minimized.
- Unit and division have merged to be one and the same. Not as many units in a division.
- Tech Services is adding more units, in contrast to the rest of the Library.
- Changing shape of units has an impact on communication flow.
- Task forces and work groups have proliferated. So the assumption that work should be affiliated around subject-ness may not be accurate.
- Not seeing a clear purpose spelled out in the Bylaws for divisions. Trying to understand the purpose of divisions. Another attendee concurred with this observation.
- There are responsibilities for the Advisory Committee (AC) and coordinator of the division.
- Nothing in the Bylaws about how the divisions relate back to the Library; only guidance on how the division relates to and supports its own initiatives.
- Summary—Bylaws are not clear in what they mean.
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.
- “Be functional”
- What does that mean? Good communication?
- Need to start at a unit level, and determine what a unit needs to be a contributing unit of the library. Does it need a group of compatriots to meet with regularly? Does it need a communication structure like that? To the speaker, the division is a conduit for AC to report to the rest of the Library, which isn’t as important to the speaker as meeting with affiliated units to her work, to discuss mutual interests and needs. She was never sold on the usefulness of the division as a conduit of information from this place to that. Not sure that communication needs to be at that level, perhaps just at unit level.
- Units are currently in one division, not more than one. What about those hard boundaries?
- Speaker—it works well in speaker’s case. But there are units in other divisions that require her to attend separate meeting times. So she gets to meet with a lot of the affiliated units on a regular basis, but has to make special effort to meet with others not in the same division.
- Concurrence from another speaker—going to division meetings as a liaison or visitor means other groups get to sit at divisional tables even if not as voting members. Feel welcome to attend when the conversation centers on day-to-day management and workflow decisions.
- Summary—people have found a way around divisional boundaries by having liaisons. Doesn’t perhaps work as well in all divisions, especially when scheduling is an issue.
- Speaker thinks there needs to be some intermediary between units (small) and the Library (big). The divisions have traditionally acted in this capacity.
- Speaker mentioned reviewing Association of Research Libraries (ARL) org charts for another purpose over the past few weeks and noticed a lot of things we don’t do here at UIUC, but which would be valuable. Is there a different structure to cut across divisional structures and be more functional?
- The AC responsibilities in the Bylaws are particularly deficient in “recommending procedures and committees that will encourage faculty participation in formulating policy.” We don’t have good ways to really influence policy.
- Clarification: the structure allows us to do this, but we aren’t doing it, so it’s more an operational issue.
- Bylaws structure is explicitly about the “good of the division” but not the Library as a whole?
- Thought originally was that AC was to manage operations, to have a role in administering the Library. Are there tensions between AC and Executive Committee (EC)?
- Another concurs that there *was* a tension, but not perhaps currently.
- But has AC given up? Are the AULs doing the work of divisions and the AC?
- Summary—there is a question whether AC is currently carrying out its responsibilities from the Bylaws.
- Maybe the departmental structure is not a bad way to go, because it would mirror the campus. There are viable reasons to go back in that direction. Perhaps would make us more understandable to the campus.
- Board of Trustees review was required to leave department structure, so something similar would likely be required to return to department structure. It’s more complicated beyond a revision of the Library Bylaws. Another speaker concurred that perhaps department structure is the way to go or at least worth putting on the table, as it certainly does provide an intermediary between units and the Library as a whole.
- Perhaps some combination of structures. Speaker thinks the AC layer is where we have “trouble” and confusion.
- Speaker noted AC is still functioning as though the divisions are the conduit for information. Information was presented for transmission to and through the divisions, but the info didn’t necessarily need to be transmitted that way. AC almost seems to be behind the times with this approach to information delivery, especially on divisional and unit to unit levels.
- Is direct input from people as opposed to going through divisions a desirable solution? Having a “do-er” group, as opposed to an ephemeral communication hub, where info all gets duplicated elsewhere anyway.
- AC used to be very viable, with budgeting responsibility. With the formation of the Budget Group, those responsibilities were removed. It lost a lot of its force with that change.
- There are groups that serve as library-wide presentation—like Collection Development Committee (CDC)—that don’t require AC (although it’s made up of divisional reps). Maybe it’s AC that needs to go away, rather than divisions.
- AC has management responsibility on paper, but how do they do that without budget management?
- A speaker asked if the budget should be re-vested with AC.
- Another speaker noted that the budget is at the heart of carrying out day-to-day responsibilities.
- We have awarded EC a lot of responsibilities outside of what the Statutes require, by our own choice.
- AC has only schedule harmonization and other minimal tasks; much of its duties are now with Budget Group and AULs.
- Depending on what needs to be decided or determined, AC may need approval from EC to move forward.
- Giving power back to AC seems misguided to one speaker. Maybe we need better mandates for our Library-wide committees.
- The composition of AC is only important if you rely on AC and division coordinators for communication.
- Summary—look to committee structure as a way for library-wide input, rather than AC. Other thoughts to give AC its former teeth, or form departments or something with more authority than the current AC.
- Speaker proposes (not facetiously) that we change the name of the Task Force and the Charge. Maybe become the Library Structure task Force.
- Another speaker noted that such a group did exist a couple of years ago and was dissolved “pretty damn quickly” because it was just too big an issue to tackle.
- Suggestion that the Task Force address the charge directly, but also make additional recommendations to address issues that we uncover along the way.
- Back to the divisional functions: one of the things the speaker found helpful was to talk about similar experiences and concerns with others in similar units, and then funnel that through AC to get our concerns addressed. How would a similar function work with committees?
iii.) What are the strengths of the current divisional structure?
- As noted above—the divisional structure gives you a way to come together and place to air concerns.
- A decent role in mentoring untenured faculty. Some divisions play a strong role in this, others don’t.
- We will have seven untenured faculty after this year—how do the divisions play into mentoring them?
- A *potential* strength of the divisions could be that divisions take a leadership role in mentoring untenured faculty.
- One speaker noted that this may not be applied across the board and that there could be an emphasis on divisions to take a leadership role in the tenure and promotion processes. Is there more of a formal role to task divisions with?
- This is something currently being discussed in other forums, to make this mentoring role more formal and less hit-or-miss within divisions.
- Also, mentoring through the process, not just publishing output.
- Upcoming loss of untenured faculty this year, plus upcoming retirements, we need to address these structural shortcomings.
- All divisions are not functioning equally.
- Speaker—Divisions have been a good place for mentorship and ideas for research and publications. It made the Library smaller and more manageable.
iv.) What are the weaknesses of the current divisional structure?
- Responsibilities are enacted in different ways, so all don’t benefit from divisions equally/in the same way to the same degree.
- The upcoming round of retirements that will impact divisions separately.
- This will affect the full professor process.
- One speaker questioned how divisions will handle promotion after the retirements because there won’t be enough people to process promotions.
- Faculty shrinkage means divisions may not be as pertinent as they were for a large faculty.
- Concurrence on that point.
- Faculty Review Committee (FRC), CDC, and AC are the only committees which are made of divisional representation.
- It can be difficult to find an FRC rep, because the rep needs to be tenured and you can’t be on the Promotion and Tenure Advisory Committee (PTA) at the same time.
- The main issue there may be that people who serve on FRC have a lot of work to do, and people bow out as soon as they can.
- Summarize—individuals’ willingness and ability to represent the division on these committees is limited.
- How does the falling number of faculty impact the representation on committees?
- Hiring tenure track faculty is an investment in the future; that investment isn’t present in the hiring of visiting faculty. How should we view visiting faculty on committees, discussing a future for the Library when they themselves may not be part of that future?
- Divisional structure is sometimes an impediment to other affiliations. Example: Central Public Services (CPS) talks about instruction a lot, but never has the Education and Social Science Library (ESSL), a major instructional unit, in the room during the meetings.
- Perhaps this could be an interest group? Would love to have someone to talk about assessment ideas, etc.
- Too many meetings prohibit this from happening.
- Divisional structure doesn’t interface well with committee structure.
- Sometimes, we have division members that are part of more than two divisions because of joint appointments.
- For PTA purposes, you can only be in one division.
- No current allowance in Bylaws for primary divisions and secondary divisions.
- Bylaws presume a person wouldn’t be in two divisions.
- This may be a classification problem? In terms of the structure, if we allowed ourselves to think of ourselves as hybrids, not just subject areas but also functional areas or categories. Could we think of a set of functional areas, infrastructure, and internal communication methods?
- Example from another speaker--Thinking about job descriptions, few libraries do outreach, and then could there be a divisional outreach person to support all of the outreach for the units in that division.
- We find a lot of ways to “get around” things and this should be a structure that supports our activities instead of forcing a work around.
- Example: One division doesn’t have a lot on a staff level to talk about, and more meetings are cancelled than are held though the unit heads in the division meet often and have many items to discuss.
- Suggestion for unit heads to meet alone, and then hold a separate division meeting for whole units?
- Any practice that encourages people to cancel meetings is a good one. We have an addiction to meetings, and don’t use them as judiciously as possible. If a new structure imposes more committees, then we may not be working in the best interest of the Library.
- We are free in our divisions to define the Advisory Committee and how often a division meets.
v.) If you could create any system, what would you create?
- A functionally-based structure
- A structure that facilitates and strengthens shared governance like we used to have and one where faculty have a stronger role.
- Two years from now we will have a new dean, and we need to strengthen our faculty-ness now
- How does our division structure enable us to work with a dean, or impede us from working with a dean?
- The divisional structure came out of the arrival of a dean that had a strong, fixed idea about the Library’s structure that was contrary to the views of the faculty, so we need to get this right now and determine our future.
- We can’t act as a committee of the whole faculty on all things.
- Hypothetical—explore two departments and possibly three?
- Another speaker remembers a lot of tension over resources when there were departments.
- Response was that this was the management style at the time, not an issue with the structure.
In addition to open forums, we’re putting out a WebTools survey to allow people an opportunity to share ideas. It will be open-ended and won’t require answers to particular questions. The task force is more than willing to meet with any group outside of the open forum sessions.
The task force is committed to making this investigation as transparent as possible. If minutes do not clearly capture a conversation, we welcome your feedback for improving our communication with the Library.