Open Feedback Survey
Divisional Structure Task Force
University of Illinois Library
November 1, 2011 - November 14, 2011
Responses were collected through an online, anonymous survey form. The questions on the survey appeared as they are written here.
1. What are the strengths of the current divisional structure?
- Purchasing power for one time funding of electronic collections. Sharing of information from committees is helpful.
- Some divisions are very supportive of untenured librarians in concrete ways. All divisions provide a sort of 'community' of colleagues for new and experienced librarians alike. The current structure guarantees that everyone is represented through a divisional member on Collection Development Committee (CDC) and Faculty Review Committee (FRC). The possible benefits of subject-based or function-based representation on CDC are obvious, though perhaps not as necessary as we think. The logic for subject/functional representation on FRC eludes me; perhaps the point for divisional representation on FRC has nothing to do with the purpose/scope of the division per se, but simply assures that at least one person on FRC will always be personally familiar with everyone being evaluated? In the past, divisions were useful for discussing, recommending, and prioritizing policy and budget options. In recent years, this function has withered away. Occasionally division meetings provide opportunities for sharing information about policies and politics, and of course for venting complaints and gaining sympathy; it's good to know you're not alone, and sometimes these gripe sessions lead to improvements in operations.
- Building of small community groups that share some affinities and create a sense of belonging.
- Valuable to keep from getting isolated. Good way to network and collaborate on sharing resources. Good way to disseminate information.
- Helpful for communicating across the Library as a whole. Sometimes useful to learn about/discuss issues in common.
- Provides a 'mid-level' grouping for discussion and information sharing.
- Opportunity for small group discussion, in divisions that are relatively small. Potential for the group to serve an advocacy role, though this doesn't happen much anymore.
- Possible small group discussion and grouping people with similar functional responsibilities.
- Faculty and unit network it provides.
2. What are the weaknesses of the current divisional structure?
- Some division coordinators are clueless about their members in how they do business or do not care. A coordinator should have a good understanding of how the members conduct their work. Also, it is too collections focused.
- Over time, the divisional memberships has grown unequal in size and seniority, and that imbalance carries over into their representation on Administrative Council (AC). AC seems to have no real power anymore. AC is just an obstacle in the flow of communication between the administration and the faculty and staff. Division coordinators have no real power and receive a stipend for doing little more than chairing meetings and writing the occasional memo. Coordinators also get a Graduate Assistant (GA), which some make available to units for divisional work but most use solely for their own work or research. The amount of work attached to the coordinator role varies from division to division, but in no case does it actually justify the rewards, in my opinion. Perhaps the most obvious weakness of the current structure is a lack of consistency in what divisions do and how they do it, which seems to reflect an underlying vagueness about their purpose. The use of email for discussions and quick polls makes regular face-to-face meetings redundant and inefficient; why defer seeking input or making decision until a monthly meeting date? Meetings (at least in my division) are regularly cancelled due to lack of agenda items and members' conviction that their time can be more profitably spent on other activities; this speaks volumes about the unimportance of the divisions in 2011.
- I think that they were originally designed to facilitate communication and decision-making in the Library. In this current age, this is not an efficient way to disseminate information. Plus the divisions tend to be protective and at times competitive, so that there are barriers to working across divisions. I have given up going to division meetings, finding them static, boring, and at times a place for griping. They represent the past of the Library, not its future.
- When the division becomes dysfunctional, all of the above goes out the window, and it becomes a detriment rather than an asset. Not all divisions function equally as well.
- No authority to make decisions, budgets, set hours. Too many divisions for number of faculty in divisions. Too many faculty 'outside' of divisions as constituted. Too many issues nowadays cut across divisional boundaries. No longer useful even for Promotion and Tenure functions.
- System encourages competitiveness rather than collaboration. Have to work against the system to work with those not in one's division. Experience of trying to get sabbatical coverage is very negative. Division does not facilitate - all based on convincing people to do favors for one. Sabbatical coverage is an administrative responsibility - it shouldn't depend on the individual finding their own coverage. In other units on campus, adjuncts are hired to cover.
- AC is no longer a decision making body in the Library, so the division coordinators are an artificial position, with no purpose. Differing size of divisions is problematic. Cost (perks to coordinators).
- Varying size of divisions.
- Woefully out of date.
3. Additional comments:
- Divisions aren't meeting as often. With the interdisciplinary nature of pedagogy and research on campus, it would make more sense not to have the current division structure based on collections. But there will be inertia, especially as the CDC is structured by divisional representation and budgets are highly competitive.
- On the whole, I see little compelling reason any more to maintain divisions structured around disciplines or subjects, especially given how increasingly interdisciplinary scholarship at UIUC is becoming, and how we are dismantling the old departmental libraries in favor of broader alignments. Flexible teams in broad scholarly areas (sciences, humanities, social sciences) might be more useful for strategic planning and visioning, while teams in functional areas (access, reference, instruction, etc.) might be better than our current awkward mix of divisions, permanent committees, and ad hoc committees/teams. As our faculty and staff continue to shrink, we need to seriously address the time burden of meetings. My perspective is shaped both by my experience as a former division coordinator and my current membership in a division that cancels meetings more frequently than it holds them. I perceive a real longing and need for connectedness and communication among the Library faculty and staff, both for efficiency and morale, but I think the divisional structure is an outmoded and inadequate way to meet that need. We need to move on.
- There needs to be some sort of divisional structure smaller than the Library as a whole, I just don't know what would work best. There needs to be multiple ways to include people, so that everyone has a support network. At the same time, formation of cliques should be discouraged. Partly, it is up to individuals to form networks, but some people might need help doing that.
- Need fewer divisions (or equivalent), more usefully defined, with more clear responsibilities based on appropriate measure of delegated clout to meaningfully participate in planning, budgeting, and decision making.
- Now that we have fewer units, why not just get rid of the divisions? We can save money by not paying stipends or giving GAs to coordinators. Unit heads are actual management roles - let them manage.
- I would recommend combining the Life Science Division with the Social Science Division to create a relevant body that is able (size-wise and subject-wise) to function effectively. This would also bring in (to the Main Library) the Life Science Division so they are more integrated with Main Library activity. Some people will advocate for combining Life Science with Physical Science, but I don't recommend this because it creates a body that is entirely outside the Main Library, which I think is problematic.
- We may want to consider as few divisions as possible. There could be one public service division, one access service, etc. Or we might want to do away with divisions altogether and begin regular meetings with functional topics: monthly acquisitions meeting for all librarians who acquire material; monthly collections meeting for all who work with collections; monthly reference services meeting, etc. Focus more on our functions rather than artificially imposed 'subject' divisions.
- Suggest fewer divisions, and aligned similarly to campus. That is, divisions as follows: Literature, Arts and Sciences; Engineering and Professional Schools; Collections and Content Access; Administration and Library IT; and, Research, Scholarly and Instructional Services. Would be a mix-up, too, long overdue. Perhaps the divisions could become departments, and the Library remain a college? Also, Library IT should remain a unit of which everyone in Library IT is a member, and then Library IT members should be based in appropriate departments and work out of these. Library IT needs to be integrated into all units. Thank you.