Hyperlinked Librarian

Reflection Blog #1 – Library 2.0 and Organizational Teams

Posted on: September 7, 2019

What I found most striking about the foundational readings was changing the approach to how library staff and administration operate. I started our readings with “Cultivating Complexity” where Mathews (2017) talks about utilizing different types of teams to achieve different types of goals. Mathews describes the new organizational environment as an “evolutionary ecosystem.” Like a natural ecosystem, change is ever-present and organisms must constantly adapt. Mathews says that the remedy for this ever-changing work environment is to adapt company’s organizational structures. The author asserts that “Rather than being bound by static job descriptions, strict reporting lines, and the territorial nature of functional units, employees [should] be free to act upon emerging situations” (p. 23). Mathews emphasizes that teams need to be fluid – without strict hierarchies – in order to cultivate creativity and readily respond to change.

In Library 2.0, Michael Casey and Laura Savastinuk (2007) predict the type of organizational change Mathews discusses nearly a decade later. While Casey and Savastinuk’s main point is embracing participatory culture and putting the changing needs of users first, the authors also highlight the need for the library as an organization to make changes internally as well as externally. Casey and Savastinuk suggest the use of “vertical teams,” or teams that “include staff from all levels of an organization – from frontline staff to the directorial level and everyone in between” (p. 45). In the vertical team structure, all levels of staff are involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating current and emerging services, effectively flattening the “top to bottom” hierarchy.

The distinctively team-oriented aspect of the Library 2.0 model struck me because the library where I currently work has gone through immense changes in the past five years. In that time, I have seen some instances where change has been managed effectively and not so effectively. Case in point, last year the library’s “leadership team” (our head-honchoes) decided that the largest libraries in the district would benefit from merging staff desks (i.e. Circulation and Adult Services desks would be combined into a one-stop-shop for patrons). The first attempt at this desk merger was a huge disaster. Staff at the first test-library felt like the merger was a mandate rather than a choice and did not fully understand the need for such a disruptive change to their regular routine. Thankfully, the leadership team learned from their mistake. With the second test-library they decided to create a “Merge Herd” team dedicated to the smooth transition of merging staff desks. The Merge Herd is what Casey and Savastinuk would call a “vertical team.” Staff from all levels – from shelving to our regional manager – were involved. Not surprisingly, the desk merge at the second library was a huge success, staff even said that services and patron interactions were significantly better after the merger.

After reading Mathews in conjunction with Casey and Savastinuk, the wildly different outcomes at the two test-libraries makes perfect sense now. The Merge Herd was “free to act upon an emerging situation” – the desk merges – and make the situation a positive experience through vertical communication. Additionally, including staff from all levels worked to boost morale and made employees feel like they had a say in a decision that would directly affect their work-lives.

Personally, I’m thrilled to see that libraries (and other company’s) are starting to rethink hierarchical structures that often do not benefit anyone but the higher-ups. Many times, this type of hierarchical thinking does not even benefit the customer, whose experience may suffer based on a management decision that could have been re-thought had they only consulted employees who actually work with the customer every day. This is precisely why staff re-organization is so pivotal to the Library 2.0 model – a harmonic flow of ideas emerging from staff communication at all levels can only benefit the customer’s experience and their perception of the library.

References

Casey, M. E., & Savastinuk, L. C. (2007). Library 2.0: A guide to participatory library service. Medford, N.J: Information Today.

Mathews, B. (2017). Cultivating complexity: How I stopped driving the innovation train and started planting seeds in the community garden. Retrieved from https://vtechworks.lib.vt.edu/handle/10919/78886

Picture References

Lightbulb. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.quora.com/What-is-important-in-teamwork

Plants. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/young-entrepreneur-council/from-starting-lineup-to-game-winning-shot-whats-your-growth-strategy.html

Team circle flying. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/lee-colan/building-and-protecting-your-leadership-values.html

Team clip art. (n.d.). [Picture]. Retrieved from https://www.govloop.com/community/blog/the-foundations-of-teamwork/

5 Responses to "Reflection Blog #1 – Library 2.0 and Organizational Teams"

Hi Melina,
Thanks for sharing your Merge Herd success story. I was hoping to find some after reading Casey’s Library 2.0. How long did the Merge Herd take to enact their change from start to finish?

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for your question! The Merge Herd started in November of 2018 and wrapped up in August of 2019. So roughly 7-8 months. That seems long, but in that time the team had initial discussions, gathered initial feedback form staff, implemented a “beta” version of the desk merger, got more feedback from staff, solidified the desk merger, and continued to get feedback from staff. (While the Merge Herd was comprised “vertically” with people from each department involved, they still communicated with staff who were not on the immediate team, so that everyone would have the opportunity to have a say).

@mdabney Thanks for sharing the Merge Herd story! It illustrates your reflections on management from the two readings so well. It seems to come down to staff buy in through active engagement so often!

@michael Thank you for the feedback! Yes, active engagement is key!

Hi Melina,

I loved how you mentioned Matthews and his idea of an evolutionary ecosystem. Particularly that they are becoming more and more fluid since change is always occurring. I think we get so stuck on staying close as possible to a certain organizational style that it may hinder us from adapting to the new changes and staying static.

It’s amazing he came up with that idea a few decades ago only for it to be confirmed 10 years (a decade) later. I think it’s certainly true.

I remember that you mentioned Casey and Savastinuk, who suggested the use of “vertical teams,” or teams that “include staff from all levels of an organization – from frontline staff to the directorial level and everyone in between” (p. 45). I like that you mentioned that all levels of staff are involved in planning, implementing, and evaluating current and emerging services, effectively flattening the “top to bottom” hierarchy. This is something I found interesting from the lectures and readings as well.

I really do hope that we can make that happen in the future. It would certainly help if we have any communication issues. One library I worked at is where I have found that each department operated as if they were in their own world. It didn’t help that the departments were on different floors of the library and the location made it hard to connect with what each library was doing and keep updated.

Perhaps this system could help with these sorts of situations? I would love to know if you think it could.

I loved how your Merge Herd Story. I think it shows that the leadership team really listened to the staff and did their best to improve. It’s great to know that the end result improved staff-patron interactions. Might have to look into that and suggest it at work sometime.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar