[UKOLN] Follett Lecture Series

Organised by UKOLN on behalf of JISC


Slouching Toward the Future
Creating a New Information Environment

Sheila D. Creth
University of Iowa

Introduced by Nicky Gardner

University of Ulster, 25th September 1996


Introduced by Derek Law,

Cavendish Conference Centre, London, 30th September 1996


Phrases such as "information age", "global information economy", "virtual library", "information superhighway", are ones that appear with considerable frequency in a variety of contexts including in library literature and the popular media. The very frequency of terms, as applied to computer-based technology and communication systems, and to organization strategies and structure, may have dulled our alertness to the magnitude of the fundamental changes that are emerging while also clouding our ability to see clearly what is indeed changing and what remains essentially the same.

Let us first consider what will not or should not change: the values that are the foundation of the library profession should remain the same into the next century. These values of service, quality, universal access, and cooperation are not threatened unless librarians loose sight of them. The way in which these values are translated into operations and activities, though, will undergo substantial change.

There is, of course, no "age" that has not depended on information as a basic element in all aspects of society, including as the underpinning of the economy. What is the difference, then, in today's world that such hyperbole as the "information age", and the like is applied to information and, more specifically, information technology? Since the mid 1980s a transformation has occurred in which information itself has become a primary economic commodity rather than a means by which products and services are exchanged, bartered or sold.

Information technology has created an interactive and expansive quality to information not experienced previously thus contributing to information becoming a primary commodity. Information is no longer static. Instead it can be continually added to, growing in value as the original data, message or idea is augmented. In addition, the speed and connections of networks has opened channels of communication within organizations and across organizational boundaries and provided a "real time" sense of communication among people around the world.

Furthermore, information technology has created a sense of urgency and created new possibilities for development of new products and delivery of services. At the same time, the impact of information technology in communication processes and connections challenge basic assumptions about organization structure, working relationships and the nature and quality of service.

Some of the characteristics of the current and emerging information environment in which librarians will have to function include:

The reality, then, is that whatever labels -- information age, global information village -- are used to describe the current environment, librarians need to find ways to respond effectively and innovatively to a very different landscape in meeting user expectations. This is needed if librarians and libraries are to flourish, or even survive, within their institutions.

Librarians need to see themselves and their libraries as providing bridges to the past and gateways to the future. They need to establish partnerships, coalitions, and connections -- technological, personal and organizational -- to ensure a central role in the twenty-first century.

Douglas Van Houweling, (1994, p.9) said that universities "assemble people to work together in the creation of new knowledge and the transmission of previously developed knowledge." The challenge for librarians is to rethink and recreate their place in this process, and to move the focus away from the library as a physical space to a new reality of the library providing knowledgeable people who offer a variety of essential and timely services.

Academic librarians are challenged to explore new opportunities and implement change in the following critical areas:


Roles, Responsibilities and Services

The librarian's role should be characterized by visibility and vitality. Specifically, librarians should be highly visible and well integrated into the activities of their institution and the community they serve. This means that academic librarians should be valued as essential to the teaching, learning and research activities of the university. Librarians, not solely the collections or the library building, should be valued and considered an integral member of the university teaching and research team.

Most important, librarians should be seen as part of the solution -- contributing to quality education, rather than as part of the problem -- contributing to escalating costs. Librarians need to be bold and imaginative in defining their role and decisive in acting upon it. They should be visionary in conceiving of the present and in imagining the future, and they should be willing to take the risks inherent in translating their vision into action even though many in the academic community may be as wedded to tradition and what is comfortable as are many librarians.

At a symposium on scholarship in the new information environment held in 1995 at Harvard University, sponsored by the Research Libraries Group, Dr. Stanley Chodorow (1996, pg. 6), a medieval historian and provost at the University of Pennsylvania, described what he saw as the role of librarians in 2090.

"Today, in the 2090s, no individual scholar or research group can work without a librarian as a collaborator. Library science is now a track of the advanced degree in every discipline. It is a track taken by people very much like those who once migrated from academic fields into librarianship, but the name librarian now designates not so much a separate profession as a type of scholar. While every scholar and scientist learns how to use information in the creation of new ideas and new information and while each masters a very substantial body of information, the librarian-scholar or scientist is the disciplinary information specialist. [The librarian] is the eyes and ears of the research community, constantly surveying and mapping the information universe for colleagues. Librarians are the ones who know how to find and use the most up-to-date version of scholarly resources, how long these resources are likely to maintain their current shape and content, and how the process of change works. . . . the corps of librarians . . . live in departments and research laboratories and have absorbed many of the duties that used to be performed by computer consultants as well as reference librarians. Their names are to be found among the authors of most publications."

What activities, services should librarians be developing and strengthening in the late 1990s in order to transform themselves into a very integrated role within the academic enterprise at the beginning, not the end, of the next century? The following describes not only the reshaping of traditional services but the creation of entirely new services in the networked information environment:

Education of User Community. The central and essential role for librarians as teachers cannot be overemphasized. Librarians need to embrace a broad concept for user education, one in which they see themselves as actively contributing to the education program of the university.

The concept of the teaching library and the librarian as teacher will require a fundamental shift in the role of professionals. The historic role for the library and librarians has been largely collection and building centered with the individual (faculty or student) coming to the library to seek assistance or to locate material. The new paradigm of the teaching library, librarian as teacher, is one in which librarians actively seek out users in a variety of settings to provide instruction about information resources and to assist them in acquiring skills in locating and evaluating information. Using a variety of methods and locations for teaching (e.g., classrooms, interactive networks, multimedia presentations and computer assisted instruction), librarians will create a "library without walls".

Instructional programs designed to assist all members of the university, from the new student to the experienced faculty or researcher, in learning and remaining current with information resources (in all formats) will be a priority. Content for library instruction will range from general orientation on information resources to instruction in the complexities of using, and even developing, sophisticated electronic databases to assisting faculty in incorporating multi-media resources into their courses. The objective within a very robust instructional program will be to integrate the basic concept of "information literacy" with the more complex concept of "informatics" relevant to a particular program, researcher or student.

Additionally, many academic librarians will need to give attention to the information needs of students taking courses away from the campus and the faculty who teach in this environment who need access to books, journals and other resources. Students in a distance education setting will need to receive instruction on information retrieval and evaluation as well as to obtain reasonable access to information related to their learning while faculty are likely to need all of the same resources and support of those on campus.

The teaching librarian suggests a broader and more integrated role than the passive nature of reference desk service in which professionals wait for the user to determine if he/she has a question and then to ask it. The teaching librarian goes beyond the idea of tours of the library or providing written handouts or even instruction on bibliographic sources. The teaching librarian embodies an outreach mindset, one in which librarians define a range of information needs of their varied user community (faculty, researchers, undergraduate and graduate students), and design and present instruction in a variety of formats (lecture, self-paced learning, group and individual learning) and different venues (in a classroom, dormitory, over the Internet, computer assisted tutorial) to meet these needs.

Librarians also should be available to provide training and general support to faculty as they explore both networked and multimedia resources for the redesign of curriculum. Librarians have a role in assisting faculty with the use of electronic resources even as they continue to assist with print resources.

Some faculty will want to design and develop their own multimedia products for teaching while others will want to identify and integrate electronic products (both multimedia and networked resources) into their courses. When faculty are designing or developing multimedia products or databases, they are usually drawing on and integrating print resources into the new medium. Whether an instructor is integrating existing resources into the curriculum or developing new ones, they must learn and develop a competency with the new technologies, software and hardware, and learn about new resources and how to use them in relation to the course objectives. In addition, of course, faculty will be exploring and testing approaches different from the lecture model. Librarians can have a very central role in assisting faculty with developing skills and facility with the constantly changing technologies and information products.

Again librarians have the opportunity to come out from behind the reference desk and to play a far more central and involved role with instructors as they develop and test new curriculum designs.

The teaching librarian should be considered as essential and central as the teaching faculty and researchers to education activities and endeavors within the university. User education should not be an activity offered in ones "spare time" nor should it be viewed as an auxiliary duty. The teaching librarian considers information knowledge and skills essential to the educational process, and that it is their responsibility to aggressively develop plans and programs to offer diverse ways for individuals to acquire the requisite knowledge and skill.

In this fast paced and ever- changing information environment, librarians need to make full use of information and multimedia technology to support a greatly expanded teaching venture. Librarians should use the Internet and the development of Web pages, as a method of offering instruction, and they should use expert systems and hypermedia, and similar tools as available, to provide instruction for individuals.

In order to act on a new concept of user education that is aggressive and robust, librarians will have to rethink the structure of traditional reference and bibliographic instruction services. Considerable staff resources will be required to implement such a program, and this means that it will not be possible to continue to provide all services that have been offered in the past; something will likely have to be relinquished in order to move into these new endeavors.

Knowledge Management. Another direction for librarians to pursue in shaping their role and services for the future is knowledge management. Richard Lucier (1993, p.97) states that a knowledge management environment "embraces the entire information-transfer cycle, from the creation, structuring, and representation of information to its dissemination and use." This moves librarians beyond their present role of storage, bibliographic organization, and retrieval into the world of information transfer and creation. The changes occurring in the networked information environment increase the opportunities for librarians to shift and broaden their involvement in the information and scholarly process.

The concept of knowledge management embraces the need to organize large data files, and to link and integrate different but related files and databases to one another so that users can move between and among related resources efficiently. The knowledge management activity requires multidisciplinary teams consisting of faculty-researchers, librarians-information specialists, and technologists-software specialists in order to address the many complex content and technology issues.

As a new enterprise, librarians will have to acquire new skills and abilities, and establish priorities in relation to other more traditional activities in order to have the time and energy to move into the knowledge management enterprise. The work is there, waiting to be addressed; users, particularly researchers, are open to assistance from librarians as is evident from the experience of librarians within the medical community. Librarians with their knowledge of information organization and access, existing electronic resources, and subject expertise are highly qualified to act as partners in creating new information products and new processes for the management of information databases.

Organization of Networked Information Resources. Another activity for which librarians need to accept responsibility and to exercise influence is in the organization of networked information resources. The Internet offers a powerful new way to communicate and to gain access to information of all types. For most people, though, navigating the Internet, may feel like entering the Bermuda triangle during hurricane season. In describing the network and software products more generally, Ted Nelson (1983, p.2) says "what we are seeing out there is a tangled nightmare" and he characterizes the situation as one in which we are increasingly prisoners of clever technologists.

Librarians need to take the initiative in creating better organization and access to what is available on and through the Internet. A virtual library is virtually useless if individuals have no structure from which to search and identify the materials they want or to establish the authenticity of materials that are found.

This requires that librarians broaden their view of cataloging to include electronic resources both those generated and stored on local networks along with sources on the Internet. Beyond, though, the traditional understanding of cataloging applied to electronic and networked resources, librarians have a responsibility and a role to address the issue of authenticity of documents on the network. In the United States, Fred W. Weingarten (1996, p.17), senior policy advisory at The American Library Association, says that "since electronic information is so easily reproduced and just as easily changed, we will also rediscover a problem from the pre-Gutenberg age of scribes: the search for the original source." So not only will librarians need to be able to provide intellectual and physical access to networked resources but they need to contribute to the process of establishing the authenticity for these sources.

Information Policy Development. Another activity requiring continuing attention and leadership from librarians is the development of information policies. There is a range of information policy issues for which immediate and ongoing attention is needed. These issues should be addressed by librarians along with faculty, technologist, and university administrators. Certainly the issue around costs for access to electronic information and instructional software and hardware will need to be addressed. If end-users have to pay for all of these costs then there is a good likelihood that information "have" and "have nots" will emerge. This would be a serious problem in higher education where information is central to the entire process of learning and research.

Beyond the individual institution, librarians have a responsibility on a national level to raise policy issues and to take a clear position on these issues. For example, librarians should be vocal on the issues of intellectual property rights and also access to information by citizens. Weingarten (1996, p.17), has described an activist role for librarians. He states that there are four currents of information -- commercial, private, public, and governmental -- and that "librarians will have to be involved in managing the boundaries [within cyberspace] between the public space and the commercial and government environments." He goes on to say that "when the need for public information comes into conflict with the needs of commerce . . . librarians argue for a balance that takes into account the principles of public access to information and of free space, . . . they must be strong voices. . . "

There are a number of other policy issues that require open discussion and redefinition in the information technology environment including censorship and privacy. Librarians should assume a key leadership position in their institutions and communities, and on a national level, in identifying policy issues and contributing to the definition of coherent and fair policies in the networked information world.

Electronic Publishing. Electronic publishing will become commonplace at many universities as faculty and researchers who serve on editorial boards seek ways to shift existing journals into this format while others seek to establish new and competitive electronic publications.

There is a definite role for librarians in this university publishing endeavor. Librarians can offer their resources -- technological and human -- to provide a site for developing, testing and archiving electronic publications. This activity requires a collaborative effort among librarians, faculty as the subject specialists, and technologists as well as staff of university presses. A range of materials already being published and/or issued in electronic format by universities includes the "pre-print" distribution of papers by scholars, and the reissuing in electronic format papers already published in print when copyright clearance is received; papers from university symposia or conferences; referred journals; and multimedia products developed by university staff. In addition, some university libraries are beginning to create Web pages that offer access to unique items from special collections while others are mounting virtual exhibitions.

In all of these electronic publishing efforts whether working with faculty or focusing on the electronic distribution of specific library-held resources, librarians can contribute in a number of ways. Specifically, librarians can contribute to the organization of information in order to insure access, they can contribute to the testing of software applications to a specific project, and to addressing issues surrounding intellectual property. Finally, librarians, as they have in the past, have an important role in the archival function.

Again Weingarten (1996, p.17) has stated that "if we are to continue to exist as a society with a 'memory,' we will need institutions that are responsible for assuring that resources are available indefinitely. . . . We are entering an age in which copious information will be easily available, yet ephemeral as a mayfly."

Strategic & Operational Planning. How will all of this new effort and activity be achieved, how can priorities be established among so many competing demands for librarians' time, and how can we establish a clear direction for the future when change is the constant with which we live.

Strategic planning -- strategic thinking -- should be a fundamental concept that librarians incorporate into their daily activities. Overall they need to give greater attention to strategic planning at the organization and departmental level, and then integrating these strategic plans into the goals and activities of individual professionals.

For strategic planning to be worthwhile, staff throughout the organization need to be involved in the planning process and will need to understand the importance of this activity in relation to allocation of scarce resources -- staff assignments as well as funds for equipment, space and collections. And there is a need to achieve consensus around the priorities and directions for the organization. Finally a strategic plan provides an important tool to establish accountability both within the library and to external constituencies.

Shaughnessy (1992, p.17) points out, "accountability extends beyond the domain of budgets, fund accounts, and expenditures. It includes all of an organization's assets . . . [including] time on task." He concludes that librarians need to "focus on those activities and programs that are mission critical."

Strategic planning involves assessment and evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, both short- and long-term projection, and innovation. The strategic planning process should involve not only staff throughout the library but individuals from the user community as well as other individuals and groups within the institution that will be instrumental in the success of the strategic plan.

Some people may consider that a strategic plan locks them into a particular direction or decision, thus reducing their ability to be responsive in a changing environment. On the contrary, flexibility does not come from the absence of clear direction and priorities but from that very process of describing a vision and determining what is required to achieve this vision. The plan provides the framework within which to respond to opportunities or crises that arise with a clear understanding of what will have to be relinquished or delayed in order to address the unanticipated.

In an environment of constant change, librarians will have to challenge traditions and assumptions regarding all aspects of library service. A self-critical and evaluative approach to all operations and functions will be essential along with a willingness to make decision based on facts and user needs instead of on personal feelings or "because we've always done it that way." A reliance on intuitive feelings or past experience is indefensible as a basis for allocating scarce resources, which is what decisions regarding operations and services represent. Equally important will be for library professionals to exercise a far greater degree of risk-taking, the willingness to take action when confronting an unfamiliar or unpredictable situation. In a time of rapid change, it will be necessary for decisions to be reached in a timely manner without the luxury of lengthy deliberations.

With the increasing costs to operate libraries, particularly the enormous investment for technology along with the expenditures for staff and collections in all formats, professionals should be able to think and act strategically and to articulate clearly to those outside of the library organization the strategic directions and priorities.

Acquiring New Knowledge, Skills, Abilities

If the scope and the nature of librarians' role in the networked information environment are to be redefined and expanded, then much attention is needed in several aspects of personal and professional development.

It is essential that library professionals continuously acquire new knowledge and skill to ensure that they remain a vital part of information services of the future. Librarians are learning a complex range of electronic resources and systems and are addressing complex issues involving information resource selection, cataloging, and copyright while also expanding user education to include new resources and systems. Librarians need to be able to design databases for their own use and to assist faculty in such efforts, to develop computer-assisted instructional programs for staff and user learning, and to integrate new technologies into service while assisting users in learning how to apply these same tools to their own work.

There is nothing new in the need for library staff to acquire new knowledge and skills. The pace and scope of learning, though, are quite different than in the past as information technology creates change unlike any experienced previously. In this context, the standard approach to teaching and learning for library staff has to be reconsidered to ensure that ongoing, timely, and quality learning is a high priority. Library administrators need to define continuous learning as a part of each individual's job responsibilities and ensure that workloads permit time to be devoted to this activity on a routine basis. Administrators have the responsibility to provide the appropriate infrastructure for staff to learn what is required. This means that funding must be allocated to employ staff to develop internal training programs, to hire external trainers as necessary, and to support staff attending programs outside the library as appropriate. In addition, administrators and managers need to develop a culture in which the process of continuous learning and an acceptance of change by staff is the norm. And staff have to be responsible for their own active participation and the acceptance of learning and personal development as integral to their performance as any other task or activity.

Beyond acquiring specific knowledge and skills, it is necessary for library staff to accept different expectations regarding their work, their working relationships and the environment in which they work. They need to develop strategies that allow them to work comfortably and effectively in the turmoil of the academic and information environments. Library professionals, in particular, should be prepared to relinquish what is familiar, traditional, and comfortable.

In addition, professionals need to assess continually what duties and activities would be performed more appropriately by support staff, and then be certain that these individuals have the knowledge, skill, and authority to perform these responsibilities. It would be a mistake, though, to simply shift activities from professional to support staff. Adding to support staff responsibilities should be done only if these activities are still essential and efficient. Every library should have a process for ongoing review and analysis of operations and services in order to identify tasks and activities that are no longer meeting user needs or ones that are not being performed in an efficient manner. Staff cannot continue to simply add activities and services without relinquishing and streamlining others; choices will have to be made regarding both the continuation of activities and services and the manner in which they are accomplished. These choices should always be centered around an assessment of user needs rather than librarians' perception of user needs or the needs of librarians.

A fundamental premise in changing expectations for work and working relationships is for library professionals to assume that assignments and responsibilities, along with knowledge and skills, will continually alter and change. Acceptance by professionals that there will not be permanent positions either in regard to specific assignments or duties performed is necessary. Staff assignments should not be limited by labels such as cataloger or reference librarian but shaped by library directions and priorities matched with individual talents and abilities.


All organization are in a period of transformation including universities, and librarians should use this period of change to establish, refocus and strengthen partnerships with other professionals groups within their institutions. There are two significant groups with which library professionals should establish strong collaborative relationships: faculty and technologists.

Historically librarians always have had a strong link to the faculty as teachers and researchers but if professionals are to create a different and more dynamic role for themselves on campus then the nature of this relationship may need to alter. In order for a real partnership to succeed, librarians need to see themselves as part of the teaching and research endeavor, and participate as an active and integral member of the education team. A fundamental tenet of a partnership or collaboration is one of peers working and communicating together. This requires that those involved -- librarians and faculty -- be equal within the activities and life of the partnership. And this occurs when there is mutual respect for what each person contributes to the relationship. Peter Drucker (1992, p.95), in his article The New Society of Organizations, states that the "modern organization . . . has to be an organization of equals, of colleagues and associates. No knowledge ranks higher than another, each is judged by its contribution to the common task rather than by an inherent superiority or inferiority.<"

For some librarians this idea of a partnership with faculty may require incorporating a different concept of their importance in relation to the faculty and developing new expectations and different behavior. In the most general sense, librarians need to be certain that their commitment to service does not display itself through behavior that is like that of a servant.

Library professionals also need to reshape and strengthen their relationships with the computer specialists and technologist in their institutions. Carol Barone (1993, p.73), vice chancellor Information Technology at UC-Davis, has described the fundamental need to establish robust partnerships. She states, "we need each other! Complex tasks and rapid change require collaborative effort to succeed. Chaotic environments require mutual support. The best and most creative answers to problems are the result of synthesizing many ideas and viewpoints."

Technologists and librarians in higher education are both dealing with changing and chaotic times, and our activities are centered around information technology so we should naturally consider ourselves partners in addressing the many challenges that exist. We need to be willing, though, to work together differently than we have in the past, to share the act of discovery, to be able to identify shared goals, and to work together as peers.

Steve Franklin (1995, p.23), director of Advanced Scientific Computing, University of California, Irvine, writing about partnerships between librarians and technologists, says that "whatever differences of perspective we bring to our joint endeavors are just that: differences of perspective. Our differences are what enrich our participation together. . . . if we understand the setting in which we operate, the commonality of our values and goals becomes much more apparent, as do the collaborative possibilities."

Typically the relationship between academic librarians and computer professionals has been one characterized by unease, caution, lack of knowledge and understanding, and occasionally outright mistrust. Over the past two decades, a small number of professionals from both organizations have worked together successfully but it has been a relationship based on the library "purchasing" services from the computing center.

The power, proliferation and complexity of today's information technology suggests that more than this traditional work relationship is not only possible but essential. Whether we are in a small college or a large university, we have a responsibility through our specific activities to support the overall mission of the academy -- learning and the advancement of knowledge. In the past, what we needed to do, what actions we needed to take in providing resources and services for our share of the enterprise was fairly clear. It is less clear in today's world of higher education and in the context of technological developments just who is responsible for what, and often there is a shared responsibility around information and technology.

If librarians are to be prepared to absorb and even help shape the magnitude of predicted change into the next century then it will be important for librarians to realign their relationships within the institution so that strong partnerships exist to provide us with necessary support as well as knowledge for meeting the challenges ahead.

Redesigning the Organization, Reshaping the Culture

All organizations are in a period of transformation including universities and their libraries with information technology acting as both a catalyst and an instrument of change. Billings (1996) views libraries as "organic, living, changing bodies of information, and . . . [he says] they are becoming increasingly 'bionic' as their traditional, printed resources are being enhanced and extended through electronic technology."

If we are to achieve this "bionic" state, though, we will need to address the very bureaucratic, slow moving, often tortuous way in which we make decisions and initiate new services and programs. Specifically, we have to change our less than bionic organizations.

The traditional library organization increasingly is becoming a barrier to quality services. Since the origin of the modern organization emerged in the late 1700s with Adam Smith (1979), it is not surprising that at the end of the 20th century organization principles need to be rethought.

As organization grew in size, a hierarchical structure based on functional units containing specialized operations developed with management and employees focusing attention and communication almost exclusively within their own organization segment. In this setting, communication and interaction among staff evolved with a vertical orientation, with lines drawn around working relationships with problem-solving occurring most often in tightly segmented units. Hammer and Champy (1993, p.66) describe this organization as centered around "functional silos."

There are many examples in libraries that reflect these principles for organizing work. Work is segmented into functional departments to simplify complex work for the staff, although not necessarily for the user. Libraries have multiple processing departments such as acquisitions, cataloging, binding, marking, and shelving. Direct user services require that the client (faculty, student, staff) come to the library facility and often to multiple service points to have questions answered, and to secure and circulate materials, and participate in instructional sessions .

The principles and assumptions related to the organization of work proved to be effective in a stable and growth environment. Beginning in the 1980s, though, the reality for organizations across the spectrum of profit and nonprofit, manufacturing, and service began to alter in significant ways. The pace of change was greatly accelerated, economic predictability was no longer possible, competition was intensified, information technology created new opportunities and requirements, customers were more demanding, and employees, particularly professionals, expected to have a greater say about their work and the work environment. The organizational structure that had served so well for so many decades has become increasingly dysfunctional in the turmoil of this technological, economic, competitive, and cultural environments. These realities suggest that now is the time to challenge these decades-old principles that have shaped organizations, including libraries.

Library professionals should be less concerned with an organization that reflects order and symmetry, comfort, and familiarity than with encouraging action and decision-making, risk, and innovation throughout the organization. Keen (1991, p. 8) states that the mature organization, with its "long-established norms of stability and security must be replaced with new values such as speed, simplicity, and unparalleled customer service, and a self-confident, empowered work force." While a change in library organization structure and culture is necessary, it is important to acknowledge that an organization is not an abstract concept or a piece of paper with boxes and lines but a living organism, a society comprised of people, feelings, attitudes, expectations, and needs. A significant change in the organizational structure may represent a very uncomfortable change for some individuals, particularly as lines blur and responsibilities and authority overlap.

It is essential to recognize that the strength of the library is the staff and that people can be fragile and, therefore, the organization will exhibit this same fragility. As change is undertaken, staff should be involved in some manner in the decisions that create major shifts so that they understand the reasons for changes. In this way, staff are more likely to develop a commitment to required changes in the organization and culture and, by extension, their own behavior.

The organization design for academic libraries in the future will not be built on a single model as has been largely true to date. While there will be great difference among libraries based on individual institutional needs and culture, teamwork should be central to the library organization of the future. Librarians should explore an organization design that relies on teams as the primary way that work is accomplished, decisions reached, and service delivered. Keen (1991, p.8) suggests that organizations in this intense information environment should shift from "organizing by division of labor to organizing by division of knowledge." The division of knowledge "captures an obvious reality of work in an era of rapid change and uncertainty," and is another way to conceive of teamwork.

The success of the team approach requires a commitment of all members to the goals of the team rather than individual goals. The team members also must have a willingness to share authority and responsibility. This requires that individuals have respect and trust for one another and their individual talents and ability. In addition, creating an effective team environment requires training to assist individuals in learning new skills and behavior with library administrators and managers assuming the major responsibility in providing this support.

With a shifting organizational environment and culture, managers understandably are uncertain regarding their role. New and clear expectations regarding the role and responsibility of managers are needed to assist individuals managers, as well as those they manage, to make the transition into an organization that is horizontal, rather than vertical, in focus, and one in which people are networked to provide quality service. Managers should shift their responsibilities and approach to one that is more consultative and supportive rather than one of authority and control. The role of the manager should focus on:

Library staff who are struggling to keep up with the demands in today's work environment require, indeed deserve, new ways for accomplishing their work. The redesign of the library organization is imperative if we are to move rapidly and with an entrepreneurial spirit in the delivery of services in the current interactive high-speed communication environment.

In order to make the transition from a structure that has been heavily hierarchical and segmented to one that is fluid and flexible, library professionals need to experiment and explore, to remain open to considering new approaches, and to keep the user as the central focus in any organizational design. Librarians should not expect to find a single organization structure to fit all libraries or even to satisfy their own organization forever. The organization structure and the culture that is embedded in this structure needs to continue to evolve and change and the environment in which we provide service changes.

If fundamental changes in the role and responsibilities of librarians are to occur, then a change in the culture of librarianship and in the library organization will need to occur as well. Reality within most libraries -- constant budget pressures to manage, new technology to learn and information resources to select and organize, and growing expectations from users for varied and ubiquitous services -- requires professionals to reimagine, redefine, and reshape library services, their organizations and thus themselves.


The scope and magnitude of change that are occurring in libraries today are both exciting and daunting, particularly when we contemplate how we will manage the many streams of technological innovations pouring into our libraries and the networked information world. Although these new developments in information technology are challenging and, on some days, even overwhelming, the real challenges that we face are not technical in nature. Instead it is the need to imagine and implement change that will translate traditional values into the networked and electronic information future. In order for librarians to influence and shape the future of information services within the highly technological and global information environment, a change in vision is essential followed by a change in personal knowledge, perspective and behavior. The change required by individuals is the greatest challenge we face into the next century!


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[Biographical Note] : [Synopsis]