Designing a Powerful Library: A Case Study on Reorganization



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OBJECTIVE: To revitalize an organization too focused on supporting print resources and to align it with a primarily digital environment; to have the right employees doing the right jobs, increasing the library's efficiency and effectiveness. METHODS: Case study: Setting: an academic health sciences library with 22 professionals and 30 paraprofessionals serving a core clientele of nearly 20,000. The library had a flattened organizational structure. Departments were primarily responsible for the print collection, while interdisciplinary teams maintained and enhanced the digital collection and services. A more flexible organization with a clearer focus on the digital library, doing the right things (effectiveness) in the right way (efficiency) was needed. A task force of professionals and paraprofessionals developed a methodology and timeline to address the need. The task force used several methods, including group idea generation, individual job and team analyses, managers' departmental analyses, statistics, an environmental scan, and a literature review to refine the library's mission statement and create a new organization more clearly focused on the digital environment. The process was data-driven, flexible, and inclusive. RESULTS: A new organizational structure was implemented in September 2003. Minimal modifications have been made since its inception. New assignments were well-received; however, some initial confusion with unit charges needed clarification. All but three teams were retired as their responsibilities migrated to departments. A feature of the new organization is the Organizational Efficacy Council (OEC), which continuously evaluates the library's effectiveness and efficiency. The council's oversight is expected to ensure a library better aligned to meet the needs of the digital environment. The OEC experienced growth pains while defining its mission but offers an opportunity to mentor new members, and gives them broader perspective on library-wide issues. It is developing an evaluation methodology using a new strategic plan with goals directed to maximizing digital resources. CONCLUSION: Preparation, research, and communication efforts resulted in a more efficient and effective organization better aligned with the library's mission, positioning it to better accomplish the shift to a digital environment.

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Thompson, L. & Bunnett, B. (2004, May). Designing a powerful library: A case study in reorganization. Paper session presented at the meeting of the Medical Library Association, Washington, D.C. Retrieved from

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