The setting and specific management problem
My client works as an acquisition librarian in a small public library. The key problems that she encountered were the low motivation of the employees and slow decision-making within the organization. The analysis of the organizational structure indicated that the difficulties, faced by my client can be explained by the bureaucratic culture of this institution which creates a great number of formal barriers between members of the staff. It was also ascertained that the existence of these formal barriers between the employees led to poor quality customer service and many readers preferred to go to a different library. Therefore, the major objective of this project was to make recommendations that could improve the functioning of this organization.
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The client’s response to the recommendations
I provided several short and long-term solutions to my client. In particular, I suggested that they should conduct regular surveys among readers and employees to pinpoint those aspects of their work should be changed. Furthermore, the administrators of this library should install display and self-checkout units so that readers were aware of the new books in this library and could take them on their own.
Such an approach was already adopted by other public libraries and it was conducive to the improvement of customer service and time-management (Park, 2005). Overall, my client appreciated these recommendations and said that these changes should be implemented a long time ago. She also pointed out that they would be accepted with readiness by the frontline personnel who had been willing to take a more active part in decision-making.
However, while discussing the future strategies of this public library, I stressed the importance of long-term recommendations. I emphasized the necessity to introduce new methods of performance appraisal. I argued that it was crucial to simplify the workplace hierarchy in this institution so that there were fewer barriers between the top administrators and the subordinates. Finally, I insisted on providing regular training to the employees. On the whole, my client acknowledged that these recommendations were quite feasible. Nonetheless, she believed that these organizational changes may not be popular among some librarians.
In her opinion, some of them are quite content with the current state of affairs and they will be reluctant to share their authority with someone else. If the administrators will try to implement these changes, they will have to prove their value for this public library; in other words, they will have to show that this organization cannot do without them. This is the key reason why the new strategies will not be accepted with enthusiasm. Nonetheless, my client admitted that my recommendations can greatly improve the work of this public library. She also added that this re-organization was probably inevitable and that efforts to stop it are virtually doomed to failure.
The problems and successes
There were several problems and successes that I encountered during this project. First of all, I would like to speak about the reluctance of some managers to cooperate. In particular, when I asked them about the compensational policies, established in this public library, they said that there is no point in discussing this issue. In their view, there was no need to adopt new methods of performance appraisal. Furthermore, they claimed that it was hardly necessary to simplify workplace hierarchy in this institution.
They argued believed that their difficulties could be explained mostly by budgetary constraints which did not allow them to update the library collection. They were reluctant to discuss such factors as poor time management, lack of cooperation between the employees, and absence of quality standards. Yet, the existing research shows that these factors greatly shape the readers’ attitude toward the libraries (Ward 2007; Proctor & Simmons 2000). Thus, it is possible to say that the key difficulty that I faced was the resistance to the very idea of change. Such an attitude appears to be an inseparable part of transformation within an organization.
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Nonetheless, I cannot say that this project did not yield any results. While I was interviewing some members of the staff, especially the frontline personnel, they were quite willing to share information with me. They helped me better understand how bureaucratic culture impacts their attitude toward work and explained to me why a great number of problems occurred. Furthermore, when I suggested the idea of conducting surveys among readers and employees, they said that this step could throw new light on the problems of this institution.
Moreover, they agreed with the necessity to install self-check-out units and said that there were many other ways of improving the time and space management in the public library; one of them was to develop an electronic database so that readers could find the necessary book or periodical more quickly. The cooperation with these people confirmed that my hypothesis was right. Additionally, some of the recommendations such as the installment of display units proved to be quite useful. Numerous visitors to this library paid attention to them and found them very helpful since many of the books which they were looking for, were placed there. These results indicated that my recommendations were pointing in the right direction.
The theory and practice of library management
This project has shown to me that there is a significant discrepancy between the theory and practice of library management. For instance, many scholars insist that such organizations should cease to be too hierarchical and bureaucratic (Stueart & Moran, 2007; Hayes, 2001), while in reality their recommendations are seldom carried out. Moreover, many researchers emphasize the importance of establishing quality standards and continuous evaluation of employees’ performance (Mullins, 2007), though it is not done as often as it should be. This discrepancy can be explained by the fact that non-profit organizations, especially those which are dependent on the government’s support, are less willing to apply new theories of management. As a rule, it is done only when the administrators see that bureaucratic culture can threaten the very survival of this institution.
Numerous works have been written on this issue, and practically all of them indicate that the managerial principles, established in private companies, can be of great avail to the library administrators. Yet, such organizations are very reluctant to embrace these strategies since they will involve deep changes in the structure and culture of the organization. Many of them are afraid of losing their status in the workplace hierarchy, while others believe that innovations can undermine their job security. Occasionally, it comes to the point when formal barriers between the employees infringe on their professional values and duties (Usherwood, 2007, p 667). This is the key obstacle that prevents public libraries from improving the quality of their services.
The problems encountered by the managers of public libraries
The problems, encountered by the management of public libraries are manifold. On the one hand, these organizations have to prove that they are still useful in the age of the Internet. They have to show that they still can create value for the readers. Approximately, fifteen years ago they did not have to cope with this task. Due to these technological changes, the library administrators have to find it very difficult to be or remain competitive.
Nonetheless, the main obstacle is the inability or unwillingness of many managers to sacrifice the bureaucratic values for the sake of professionalism and performance. This public library is an example of such an organization. Certainly, one cannot underestimate the importance of budgetary constraints. The financial resources of these institutions are not limitless, and very often they cannot afford to purchase new books or periodicals. Yet, the origins of their poor performance should be sought primarily in the culture of these organizations.
During this project, I learned that many employees were ready to come up with a great number of recommendations about the work of the public library but their opinion was frequently overlooked. More importantly, the individual contribution of an employee was less important than his/her position in the workplace hierarchy. This is why many members of the staff seldom displayed initiative. At this point, I can say that this assignment has greatly increased my knowledge about library management and the main task that has to be done by the administrator of such an organization.
Hayes. R. (2001). Models for library management, decision-making, and planning. London: Emerald Group Publishing.
Mullins J. (2007). Library management and marketing in a multicultural world: proceedings of the 2006 IFLA Management and Marketing Section’s Conference, Shanghai, 16-17 August, 2006. NY: Walter de Gruyter.
Park. C. (2005). Harris County Public Library: creating a design paradigm for twenty-first century libraries. The Bottom Line. 18 (4). p 167-174. ProQuest.
Proctor R. & Simmons S. (2000) Public library closures: the management of hard decisions. Library Management, pp 25-30. ProQuest.
Stueart. R, & Moran B. (2007). Library and information center management. NY: Libraries Unlimited.
Usherwood. R. C. (2007). Professional values in a bureaucratic structure. Library Review pp 666-673. ProQuest.
Ward. R. (2007). THE OUTSOURCING OF PUBLIC LIBRARY MANAGEMENT: An Analysis of the Application of New Public Management Theories From the Principal-Agent Perspective. Administration & Society 38. (6), p 627- 635. ProQuest.