The interview with this acquisition librarian increases my awareness of the functioning of public libraries. This person explained to me the key challenges faced by such organizations; moreover, she identified their weaknesses which prevent them from attracting new readers and from becoming more prosperous. In particular, she believes that these organizations are far too bureaucratic. While speaking about this public library, in which she works, she pointed out that it had a very complex workplace hierarchy: in particular, the chief librarian, the heads of various sections, the heads of the departments, the deputies, and the frontline personnel. This complex hierarchy often slows down the decision-making in this organization, especially, if we are speaking about the initiative of the employees and their recommendations. She says that if she wants to procure certain books or periodicals for the library, it will take her at least a week to receive authorization to buy them. As a result, she finds it very difficult to keep the library collection up-to-date.
In her opinion, such an organizational structure leads to a great number of problems, and one of them is a lack of motivation. The thing is that the members of the staff do not always feel very enthusiastic about their work if they have to continuously ask the approval of their manager. Furthermore, this acquisition librarian argues that this public library as any bureaucratic organization does not have a well-developed remuneration policy. In other words, there are no quantitative or qualitative criteria according to which one would be able to assess the performance of these employees. This is one of the key reasons why some of them lack motivation.
While discussing the organizational culture of this public library, she also mentioned that the bureaucratic approach prevented them from improving customer service. In many cases, people who want to use the services of this public library, have to wait for a considerable amount of time before receiving any help from the librarian. The problem is that they do not have any opportunity for self-help services. For instance, very often they know exactly which book they need and in what section it can be found, but they cannot do it without permission.
This acquisition librarian claims that public libraries fail to adjust themselves to technological changes. She admits that modern readers can find easily information on the Internet, but librarians can also render valuable help to them, for instance, by explaining how and where a certain kind of information can found. They may also suggest some books or publications that can be of interest to the readers. Unfortunately, very often it is not done because employees have no incentive to be more attentive to the needs of the readers. Again, as it has been noted before, their performance is not properly evaluated and they do not always receive adequate compensation for their work.
On the whole, this interview gave me deep insights into the functioning of this non-profit organization. Bureaucratic culture seems to be the underlying cause of its difficulties, lack of employee motivation, slow decision-making, and poor customer service. The thing is that in a bureaucratic organization, the employee’s compensation is determined by his/her position in the workplace hierarchy, but not by the contribution or effort. Thus, library administrators must develop strategies for overcoming this problem; as this will enable them to attract new readers.
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