“An assessment of the organization’s ability to adjust to the team concept before you start” is the key factor in any organizations ability to utilize teams effectively. Everything else that goes into making a team effective, leadership, talents and abilities, communication, planning, training, personnel’s strengths, weaknesses and values, standards and expectations hinges on the openness to the idea that conflict is why they are there, that friction will increase within the operation of that team and that that is what drives a ideas, creativity, knowledge, understanding and problem solving.
Conflict is a natural outcome of teamwork. Evans and Alire, when talking about teams, states, “They require that you accept the idea that conflict (both positive and negative) is a normal part of team operations and that those conflicts must be addressed in an open and honest manner” (p. 342). Friction is required to move a team forward. Without conflict there is stagnation. It is how conflict is met that determines whether a resolution will be obtained or a faction established. But it is conflict that causes change, good or bad.
“Conflict management works best when the parties involved in a disagreement are equipped to manage it themselves” (Weiss & Hughes, 2005, 93). It is often that members of an organization or team avoid conflict to maintain the peace. There may be a fear of reprisal, a tendency to “lone wolf” (Steiner, 2014) solutions or a host of other factors that contribute to unresolved conflict. Unrecognized or unresolved conflict results in low morale, decreased productivity, and poor job satisfaction. Changing the organizational culture to understand and value conflict as part of growth and success it the key to implementing teams on both large and small-scale ventures.
This requires continued education and training at the individual, departmental and organizational levels.
It is interesting that libraries, many of whose mission is life long learning, are so resistant or hesitant to or ineffectual in implementing teams at the organization’s operational level. Teamwork and collaboration are hallmarks of the services libraries provide and yet “there are not a significant number of libraries where teams are the primary organization pattern” (2013, 359).
Virtual teams are even more exposed to conflict as time and distance add to the challenge of collaboration. Because of time differences there will be scheduling challenges that may seem unfair. Distance means possible language and cultural hurdles. This increases the chance of conflict, through communications, that are highly susceptible to miscommunications. So joining collaborative environments virtually heightens the necessity of understanding and accepting that conflicts are inherent in collaboration and are a propellant to success rather than a barrier.
Evans, G.E., & Alire, C.A. (2013). Management basics for information professionals (3rd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman.
Steiner, V. (2014).Online teamwork[Web]. Retrieved from http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/courses/203/personal/teamwork.htm
Weiss, J., & Hughes, J. (2005). Want collaboration? Accept and actively manage- conflict. Harvard Business Review, 83(3), 92-101. Retrieved http://from hbr.org
Library Staff and Workplace Information
Public libraries are information resources and it seems odd to talk about the information seeking behaviors of staff, many of who are information professionals or paraprofessionals trained in the art of information organization and retrieval. After all Jason Sokoloff has written, “Librarians continue to implore, however, that information literacy is an essential skill in the workplace” (2012, 7). Shouldn’t then the library workplace have information at the fingertips? Unfortunately many times the needed job related information is truly hard to find, outdated, unattainable or non-existent.
The information needs of library staff are broad. Staff needs to know the operational procedures, policies, and job descriptions in order to understand their position in the workplace. Understanding and working with the library systems requires operating instructions and training. The knowledge of immediate and future schedules of programs and services, and the details surrounding those programs and services, is often urgent and is always continuous. Staff needs to be informed of the situations and events that occur within the course of the workday. Information received via training is necessary to effectively work with and communicate with other staff and with the community. Keeping abreast of library and technology trends and industry standards is important in keeping the library relevant to its community.
Library staff seeks answers to their informational needs from a variety of sources. There are manuals of policy and procedure, library board packets, emails, SharePoint announcements, SharePoint databases, reference transaction software packages and reports, departmental meetings and minutes, committee meetings and minutes, the library website, everyday staff interactions and word of mouth, there is even “the newspaper”. “The newspaper has it before we do,” to quote one CSA. I have to agree, unfortunate but true.
Often manuals of workplace policies and departmental procedures sit on the shelf real or virtual gathering dust. Going through the departmental procedures and training manuals made evident the irrelevant information that lingers in these types of documents, citing databases, equipment and technology as well as staff who have long been absent. Board packets are long exhaustive works that have little to offer but historical information, as the information with more direct impact is alternately supplied through email. Emails, too frequently contain information that is time sensitive and irrelevant by the time some staff read them. SharePoint announcements and databases share, share, share and often never get to the point, failing to create a vibrant discussion, an informational reservoir or determine a resolution. Many SharePoint additions are left hanging on an indent like APA format references.
So what is a librarian to do? (Please include all library staff in the definition of librarian, as often, our adoring public makes no distinction.) Most often verbal communication is the information seeking behavior in the library workplace. That verbal communication happens in the first person, through the grapevine, via the telephone and through text messaging. In other words it happens at the water cooler, or maybe something more contemporary, at the Kerig. If there is information-seeking behavior literature out there called the water cooler for this information community (public library staff) please show me the way. All the information avenues are valuable. What is important is the contents the timeliness and the accessibility.
CSA personal communication 9-24-2014
Sokoloff, J., (2012) Information literacy in the workplace: Employer expectations, Journal of Buisness & Finance Librarianship, 17(1), 7. doi10.1080/08963568.2011.603989
Preparing the library and informational professionals of today, necessitates an education in library management. “Librarians are managers. Even if they do not want to be, they are managing personnel, resources, budgets, public opinion, and time.” (Schreiner & Pope, 2011, 2). Library and information science education must migrate outside of the library and information world, as positions both inside and outside of the library world become more competitive. Educational institutions can no longer send out librarians disadvantaged, as “the need for management skills in librarianship is only increasing” (2011,7). Fraser-Arnott’s research indicates that “Management and Supervision” (2013, 6-7) is ranked fifth as a library competency and seventh in the government of Canada job advertisements. What though does it take to be a good manager?
Communication resonates throughout the literature. Fraser-Arnott (2011, 6-7), ranks communication in both library and non-library job advertisements at number two. “LIS professionals have to be effective in oral, written, and electronic communication with users, colleagues and supervisors” states Kumar (2010, 76). It is an expectation that librarians will have good communication skills, “These days good communication skills are essential for library professionals of all levels” (p. 79). In becoming managers, librarians need to be able to “communicate the vision” of the library (Westfall, Johnson & Royse, 2013, 19). From Wojciechowska, a librarian’s ability to communicate was ranked second with library users and first with librarians themselves (2014, 134). Interpersonal skills were ranked first in both 2004 and 2010 according to Wise, Henniger and Kennen (2011, 277) who define interpersonal skills partially as “communication skills” (p. 278).
What then is managerial level communication? Communicating is more that just restating policy, rules and regulations. The ability to communicate effectively and successfully is an interpersonal skill that will influence the work environment, motivation, and job satisfaction, for the manager as well as the staff. This skill is essential in writing job descriptions, conducting performance reviews, delivering information and resolving conflict. A crucial aspect of communication is often forgotten – listening. Listening dissolves communication barriers because it allows for upward communication and facilitates horizontal communication. Responsible communication additionally includes discerning what information to communicate. “Communicating information that is irrelevant serves no purpose, and communicating information that is nonresponsive is far worse than silence; it erodes and damages relationships” (Lee & Wu, 2004, 10). Communicating at the appropriate level also means going beyond the verbal. “Supervisors must follow rules, recognize differences in personalities and individuals emotional baggage,” (Westfall, Johnson, & Royse, 2013, 18) reading and interpreting a person’s emotional state and body language, so that relationships are established and maintained.
“Interpersonal skills and behavioral characteristics remain unchallenged as the most frequently required competencies,” concludes Wise, Henninger and Kennan (p. 276). Beyond communication, what other interpersonal skills and behavioral characteristics must information professionals, as managers present in the job market as a whole? In Table 3 (p. 278) of Wise, Henniger and Kennan, behavioral characteristics have the following attributes: “adaptability, lifelong learning, commitment, confidence, work ethic, creativity, time management, enthusiasm, flexibility, problem solving, self-motivation, organizational ability, analytical skills”. Interpersonal skills include “collaboration”, “mentoring”, and “teamwork”. All of these qualities are transferable skills informational professionals can bring into any managerial realm. Training for these qualities, recognizes the need for an extension beyond the boundaries of information science. Wojciechowska (2014, 132-133) concurs that the competencies of action, cooperation, creativity and information technology are competencies the modern librarian should possess and it is easy to see why that translates into the success as a manager.
“A common theme in literature on library management is the lack of respect or praise received by those who perform their jobs well” (Lee & Wu, 2004, 19) and retention is directly affected by “manifestations of supervisory problems” (p. 17). Paying attention to and developing these qualities in oneself and one’s staff, staves the erosion of morale, increases job satisfaction and improves retention of the organizations most precious asset, its personnel. Education should be continuous and provide a sense of accomplishment and demonstrate the importance of the individual to the organization. “The passively plateaued employee” will challenge the administrator and “may be less productive, have low morale, and be intolerant of administrative actions or decisions” (p. 22-23).
Professional competencies must be expanded to include the skill sets that not only to transfer across employment sectors but provide the ability to navigate an almost certain terrain of management. “For anyone to assume that management is something that one can simply learn on the job at the expense of a well-run department or library seems impractical and detrimental to the profession.” (Schreiner & Pope, 2011, 7). Libraries have ever shifted, never more so, than now. If ignored, the changes in technology, services, and skill sets will jeopardize an important vehicle of information distribution and vital resource to many in our communities. It will be the fault of the library, the librarian and the information community if library management is not educated as it should be. Creating a culture of continual change, instilling creativity and play will go a long way in keeping the information flowing. In order to accomplish this communication, behavioral and interpersonal skills development is the first order of business for our present and future information professionals.
Carpenter, M., & Green, R. A. (2009). Managing library 2.0. Journal Of Access Services, 6(1/2), 158-162. doi:10.1080/15367960802247874
Fraser-Arnott, M. (2013). Library and information science (lis) transferable competencies. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library & Information Practice & Research, 8(2), 1-32. Retrieved from https://jounral.lib.uoguelph.ca/index.php/perj/index
Henricks, S., & Henricks-Lepp, G. (2014). Desired characteristics of management and leadership for public library directors as expressed in job advertisements. Journal Of Library Administration, 54(4), 277-290. doi: 10.1080/01930826.2014.924310
Kumar, B. (2010). Employability of library and information science graduates: Competencies expected versus taught-A case study. DESIDOC Journal Of Library & Information Technology, 30(5), 74-82. Retrieved from http://www.drdo.com
Lee, L. A., & Wu, M. M (2004). Personnel management in access services. Journal of Access Services, 1(4) 5-44. doi: 10.1300/J204v01n04_02
Schreiner, S., & Pope, B. (2011). Management training in library school: Do graduate programs prepare an individual for real world demands?. Endnotes, 2(1), 1-16. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org
Westfall, M., Johnson, K. G., & Royse, M. (2013). Making the leap to mid-management. Serials Librarian, 64(1-4), 15-20. doi:10.1080/0361526X.2013.761017
Wise, S., Henninger, M., & Kennan, M. (2011). Changing trends in lis job advertisements. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 42(4), 268-295. Retrieved from https://www.alia.org.au/
Wojciechowska, M. (2014). Managing professional competency enhancement among polish library staff. Slavic & East European Information Resources, 15(1/2), 121-138. doi:10.108015228886.2014.913953
Staff as Information Community
Public libraries are a product of the community they serve and will vary from rural to suburban environment. Even so there is a fundamental nature to the public library. “In any community, the local public library provides a sense of place, a refuge, and a still point; it is a commons, a vital part of the public sphere and an incubator of ideas. The public library supports family literacy, fosters lifelong learning, helps immigrants find a place and give a place to those for whom there is no other place to be.” (2011,1).
If it is true that “library workers activate the mission of the public library,” (2011,131) it must hold true that they must first know the mission of the library. They must be empowered and trained to carry out that mission. Then too management should know and understand the needs of the staff so that their influence and vision can be implemented. So in that light there are many questions to be asked and answered.
How does management impact the information distribution of the public library? Specifically how do managerial practices impact staff and therefore the informational services to the public? What bearing does internal communication/lack of communication have on public information services? How are relationships between staff and management formed and what is the result?
Staff is the first line of information service to the public. How does management foster staff collaboration in the promotion of library services?
If information communities are to be a reflection of the community, should management be a reflection of the staff? Following the theory further, what barriers can management remove so that staff can have the resources, support and information they need? What barriers does management set up to keep staff from seeking the information they need?
If information communities are foster a sense of community how does management foster a sense of staff as community so as to have the greatest positive impact on the public community?
McCook, K. (2011). Introduction to Public Librarianship (2nd ed.). New York: Neal-Schuman.
9-20-14 Content same. Minor adjustments to format and typing. lj