Landslide Reflections: A Snapshot of a Department (Perpetually?) in Transition
I supervise a department called “Monographic Services,” which was formed in the summer of 2008, while I was working at another library and in the process of applying for my current job. Monographic Services emerged from a reorganization of Technical Services, taking on monographic acquisitions from the former Acquisitions Department as well as copy cataloging from the former Cataloging Department. Also created during the reorganization were the new E-Resources & Serials Management Department (serial acquisitions, e-resources and some cataloging) and the Resource Description & Management Department (the “universal donor” of staff to the other two departments), which is responsible for original cataloging, database management and other high-level catalog-related activities.
So, naturally, it's time for another reorganization.
Perhaps you disagree. Please allow me to make my case.
In two years, Monographic Services has permanently lost its last student assistant position and a full time receiving and copy cataloging position. The former Head of Searching & Order Management and Approval Plan Coordinator died this spring. A long time member of our staff is retiring after next month.
We have gone from managing approval plans with one vendor to four (adding approval plan areas, not splitting up our approvals business, thank goodness). So far, we have absorbed the extra approval plan workflows, which are more efficient for us than the firm order purchases they offset.
Our monographic standing orders workload has been and is still shrinking for several reasons: standing orders staff have improved their efficiency and cut a lot of “dead weight”--exchanges, ceased titles, etc.--from our standing orders; budget cuts have mandated the first comprehensive review of monographic standing orders, so many titles have been canceled or moved to approval plan workflows; and, to simplify our budgeting and streamline further, annual standing orders are moving to E-Resources & Serials Management this year.
All of the above events represent fewer staff and less work on the whole of the department. Before you suggest that maybe we should fade into irrelevance, please consider the following factors.
Despite the absence of “e-” in the department's name--and its inclusion in the name of an analogous department--the variety in purchasing methods and volume of purchases are expanding with respect to e-resources that Monographic Services coordinates. We manage e-book firm orders, approval plan selections and publishers' e-book packages. We also buy data sets, whose importance is increasing and which resist streamlining in acquiring. It appears inevitable that we will adopt patron driven acquisitions and e-preferred approval plans in the near future.
All these changes, again, driven by budget pressures and adoption of e-resources, have created workload imbalances in the department and indicate the need to increase our capacity to handle more and different workflows.
To recruit effectively for the two vacancies we will have and to position ourselves well for handling more e-resources demand that we make structural changes in the department and allocate staff time to new processes. Once we have accomplished these two goals, we will be able to recruit for well-defined, future-oriented positions in our new structure, rather than recruit for positions that are becoming obsolete and expect the new department members to change duties early in their roles here.
So far, we have made a couple changes. I assumed the duties of my aforementioned friend and mentor when she died. Recently, I delegated coordination of all approval plans to the other librarian in the department, who is Head of Receiving & FastCat. The staff member who came from a closing branch library is now training with the retiring staff member to learn how he handles special orders: rush, out-of-print and so forth.
How this will all play out involves continuing conversations with my library's administration, colleagues who work with our department and staff within the department. I continue to be amazed at the support from everyone who has a stake in this process. I am especially impressed by the resilience, flexibility and teamwork of my staff as we navigate through a tumultuous year.
We are not sure exactly how monographic and one-time e-resource purchasing will fit best in our worfklows. One idea is to take advantage of the efficiencies and reduced workloads in standing orders by adding our department's e-resources to those staff. Do you have any suggestions? What has worked or not worked in your library? Please share your ideas in the comments section. Comments are moderated and—unless you sign your name—anonymous.
At the risk of waxing too sappy or personal, I'm making the final edits to this post as Stevie Nicks' “Landslide” plays on my Pandora station. A song of love and loss, the lyrics describe a process of personal growth in the face of un-asked-for change: “I've been afraid of changing ... time makes you bolder ... I'm getting older too.”