Changes in the information environment within which learning and scholarship take place have challenged libraries everywhere, including the Grinnell College Libraries. Management of print and digital collections is more complex and more time-consuming, and teaching has become a more demanding, intensive activity for librarians. New digital initiatives — including both digitization of primary resources within our collections and development of an institutional repository of student, faculty, and staff work — will further involve librarians and staff. Traditional liaison, instruction, collection development, and technical services duties will continue, all in an economic environment which does not allow for increased staffing.
The Key Challenge
For new library initiatives to succeed, we either need to identify opportunities for increased efficiency in our current work and/or to identify work that can be eliminated (or both), to create time for launching new programs and learning new competencies.
Current Staffing and Organization
The Grinnell College Libraries are staffed by 8 librarians (including the Librarian of the College) and 15.25 FTE support staff. Since the mid-1990s staffing has increased by one librarian and 1.4 FTE staff (1.0 newly added in FY09). Meanwhile, the College has grown from 1200 to 1550 students and from 173 to 208 faculty. Based on FY07 reports from its 11 designated peers, Grinnell is below the median in total staffing, and last in number of librarians. See Appendix 17 for comparisons with our designated peers.
The Libraries' organizational structure is relatively flat in hierarchy, with all librarians reporting to the Librarian of the College and, until FY09, all support staff reporting to one or another of the librarians. In FY09, five FTE of Circulation and Interlibrary Services staff began reporting to the Manager of Access Services, a newly created position that reports to the Associate Librarian of the College.
Three librarians — the Associate Librarian of the College, the Collection Development Librarian, and the Catalog Librarian — carry most of the supervisory responsibilities in the Libraries. The Special Collections Librarian supervises 0.75 FTE support staff, and the Data Services Librarian has dotted-line supervision over the Acquisition/Government Documents Assistant. The position of Associate Librarian of the College, formerly a permanent assignment, now rotates on a three-year cycle.
The librarians, the Administrative Assistant, and the Manager of Access Services meet together weekly and constitute the Libraries' management team. Agendas are posted in advance in a directory open to all staff, and minutes are circulated to all staff. All staff meet together monthly.
Within the College, the Libraries are positioned as a department of the Science Division and are represented on Executive Council, the Faculty Personnel Committee, and the Faculty Budget Committee by the respective elected representatives of the division. The Librarian of the College reports to the Dean of the College/Vice President for Academic Affairs (meeting monthly) and works closely with the Dean and the Associate Deans.
The primary faculty oversight committee for the Libraries is the Instructional Support Committee, which is "responsible for encouraging teaching initiatives and ensuring the auxiliary support necessary for the successful completion of teaching objectives" by, among other duties, "rais[ing] issues of immediate concern and participat[ing] in long-range planning regarding the development and maintenance of facilities and services to support teaching, including those provided by the libraries, bookstore, audio-visual center, and computer center" (see Faculty Handbook, p. 25: http://www.grinnell.edu/offices/dean/handbook/). The Libraries are represented ex-officio by the Librarian of the College. The Libraries are not represented organizationally on the Curriculum Committee.
Because the Libraries serve all academic programs and many of the non-academic programs, we see some risk in this divisional arrangement that the Libraries' needs for information or resources will be overlooked. Decisions about faculty hiring and curricular changes, for instance, may not be made in full consideration of the implications for library services. This risk is somewhat offset by the Librarian of the College's direct reporting relationship to the Dean of the College. As the College's Expanding Knowledge Initiative matures, we are particularly concerned that the Libraries not be disconnected from discussions about the new areas of knowledge targeted for faculty expansion and the interdisciplinary initiatives under consideration.
2. Reference and Instruction Services
Seven librarians routinely participate in the reference and instruction program, with occasional participation by the Librarian of the College. The reference and instruction program includes:
- providing 43 hours per week of reference-desk staffing and 20 hours per week of on-call reference in Burling Library
- providing 30 hours of on-call reference in Kistle Science Library
- teaching information literacy sessions in tutorials and other classes
- preparing and meeting with students for Library Labs
- serving as consulting librarian for assigned departments (responsibilities include liaison, instruction, and collection development)
3. Access Services
3.5 FTE administrative and support staff are assigned to Circulation. Library materials are circulated from four locations:
- Burling Circulation/Reserve: Staffed by support staff plus student staff all library hours
- Burling Listening Room: Staffed by 1 FTE support staff and students
- Kistle Science Library: Staffed primarily by students under the direction of the Manager of Access Services
- AV Center: Staffed by ITS staff and students, with training and support from Listening Room and Access Services staff (see Media Collections, below).
In addition, two un-staffed facilities are managed by Access Services: the Curriculum Libraries (Elementary and Secondary) in Steiner Hall and the Libraries’ Offsite Storage Facility, which is located at the Facilities Management office site.
Student staff assigned to Burling Circulation are expected to be able to work at Kistle Science Library, and vice versa. This is a relatively new expectation, and procedures for coordinated hiring and training are still being refined. In addition, since 2007 all student staff hired for any public service point participate in a common orientation that covers general policies and service standards.
Print reserve services are provided by circulation staff in Burling and Kistle libraries. Electronic reserve services are provided by a circulation supervisor and the Administrative Assistant. Most document scanning is provided by academic department support staff, not the Libraries.
2 FTE support staff. The Innovative Interfaces interlibrary loan module and OCLC WorldCat Resource Sharing are used for interlibrary loan. Ariel is used for document receipt and transmission. Electronic delivery of articles to Grinnell College patrons is not currently supported but is planned for spring 2009, via Ariel.
4. Technical Services
6.75 FTE support staff:
* Acquisitions and Federal Documents: 1.5 FTE
* Cataloging: 2.75 FTE
* Serials: 1.5 FTE
* Library Systems: 1 FTE
The Libraries acquire and process print and audio/video works in a variety of languages, primarily English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, and Japanese. The College recently filled a three-year position for an Arabic language instructor and interest is growing in a broader program of Arabic studies. The Libraries catalog most English and Western-European language materials in-house. Russian-language materials are currently processed in-house but are being considered for outsourcing. Cataloging for most Chinese- and Japanese-language audio and video materials is outsourced to TechPro. Cataloging for printed Chinese and Japanese materials is generally managed in-house with the assistance of native-speaking student staff.
In recent years a backlog developed of ca. 6800 items, including 2000 books in foreign languages, with Russian, French, Chinese, and Spanish dominant; 1,200 scores; 200 videos; and 100 sound recordings. In 2008 we contracted with a consultant to examine our existing workflow for acquisitions, cataloging, and shelf-preparation and to make recommendations for eliminating the backlog, enhancing workflow, streamlining cataloging practices, and improving service to our patrons. Based on these recommendations, staff implemented new procedures on July 1, 2008, which direct about 65% of newly acquired materials directly to student workers for rapid cataloging. As of February 1, 2009, the “backlog” has been reduced to under 2000 items. Responsibilities for regular cataloging staff have been shifted to make the best use of their skills. Our goal is a workflow that keeps pace with current receipts and frees staff time to address emerging needs. Thus far, we are achieving this goal. The model developed in this process may provide an example for other workflow and staffing changes.
5. Media Collections (Listening Room and AV Center): 1 FTE Support Staff.
The Libraries' media collections (CD, DVD, VHS, and related formats) are divided between the "Listening Room" in Burling Library and the AV Center in Alumni Recitation Hall (primarily classrooms and faculty offices for the Humanities). This represents a relatively recent consolidation of library-owned and departmentally owned collections, with the Libraries now responsible for acquiring, cataloging, and maintaining all media collections. The AV Center is staffed by support staff and students under the administration of Information Technology Services (ITS) with training and support from the Libraries. The Listening Room is managed by one FTE Library support staff (the Listening Room Supervisor). The Listening Room Supervisor is responsible for selection of video and audio (under the direction of the Collection Development Librarian), provision of circulation and other public services (under the direction of the Associate Librarian of the College), and cataloging (under the direction of the Catalog Librarian).
Meeting the Challenge: What We Can Do
In order to do the important new work which awaits us as information professionals, we need to find ways to be more efficient in our work processes and to make the best possible use of the staff we do have. Below are some suggestions for achieving those efficiencies.
A. Systematically assess and evaluate needs and responsibilities
Conduct an inventory of needs and responsibilities to determine opportunities for assignment or reassignment of staff, cross training, delegation, elimination of tasks and/or more efficient means of performing them.
B. Increase cross-training
The ebb and flow of library work in certain areas means there are crunch times for some staff and less busy times for others. We see opportunities to improve cross-training to gain greater flexibility across units and to delegate more work to students. Currently, staff are cross-trained between access services and cataloging for copy cataloging and electronic reserves. The Administrative Assistant to the Librarian of the College has regular duties in electronic reserves and cataloging, and serves as a backup for interlibrary loan. We need to find additional areas for cross training.
C. Implement annual staff plans
Each person in the library should create a personalized annual plan, separate from the annual performance evaluation, which would focus on how their job fits into the Libraries’ annual plan and the tasks each person needs to achieve to help the Libraries attain its overall goals. The plans would include suggestions for training, coaching, and other forms of development needed by individual staff members. These plans would help focus and fine-tune the performance of library staff.
D. Better utilize student library assistants
Improve training and support for students who work at service desks by instituting a training program; develop clear guidelines for referrals to reference librarians; and investigate successes at other libraries that use student staff to provide information or reference service.
Areas of Special Concern
Two major areas of the twenty-first century library have been neglected in our organization. One is the Libraries’ Web presence. The Libraries’ presence on the Web is as important as our physical facilities: it is the portal that mediates library services and facilitates access to library collections. Although the Libraries have had a Web site since the mid 1990s, no staff are formally assigned responsibility for maintaining the site. Although staff routinely update the site and add new content and new features, no one has been able to focus attention on our website in a way that would improve access for our users. This academic year a campus-wide committee, which included library representation, reviewed content management systems (CMS) and recommended that the College replace its current Web-authoring platform with Drupal. The Libraries see a campus-wide CMS as a potentially viable replacement to the Libraries’ own Web site, provided adequate control is delegated to departments. We are currently waiting to see if and when the College might implement a CMS.
Another area of concern is electronic resource management. Responsibility for collection development, ordering, cataloging, proxy access, web page entries, usage statistics, etc., are divided among an array of staff, again with no designated central assignment of duties.
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