The academic library

I got an email from a recruiter a while ago wanting to talk about candidates for a director at a UK research library. I was struck by some of the language used. The post was described as one of the "most significant non-academic posts" (my emphasis) in the college, and it reported to a "head of administration".

If this were a post at a peer US University, it would in all likelihood not be described in this way, or positioned thus in the institution. It would be described as an important part of the scholarly enterprise, and it would probably report to the chief academic officer, the provost. In the US you have library deans and discussions about faculty status for librarians.

I am not sure what this difference signifies ....

Comments: 0

Aug 23, 2006
Sailor Moon

I'm with the brits on this issue.


There is a "glass ceiling" at US Libraries: the only people who get taken seriously are people with MLS degrees. IT people, in particular, are ignored. Librarians end up making decisions about things where they know nothing; projects fail, IT deparments get slowly liquidated.


It's probably good for the OCLC, since at least one major research library in the US thinks that it's too hard to run an OPAC, but it's one more way that libraries are working to make themselves irrelevant.


Academic Libaries, the bulldozers will punish you!

Aug 23, 2006
Dorothea

My honest opinion? It means a lot less time wasted on status angst and insecurity; also the awareness that research faculty are not the center of the academic universe.

I don't see either of those as bad things.

Aug 23, 2006
Sailor Moon

I don't like many of Stan Aronowitz's books, but I do like "The Knowledge Factory", his account of the postwar academy in the US.


Aronowitz says that universities are both over- and under-managed. They've got the kind of management that crushes people and stifles innovation, but they lack the kind of management that supports people, makes it possible to do hard things, and makes it possible to get consistent results.


Many universities are getting into "Project Management." That's a really good thing. Yet, the project orientation is a lot of the problem at Universities. It's easy to get funding to start something at the University, but hard to get funding to keep it going.


Everywhere I look, I see a "management gap" at universities. Libraries and other units bite off projects that they don't have the managerial capability to handle. Often you'll find that nobody is in charge of systems that serve whole campuses or whole academic disciplines.


If there's a single reason why libraries are endangered by commericial information providers, it's that the commercial competition has healthy business models that reward improvements in performance. if Amazon makes it 5% easier for you to buy a book, Amazon might sell 5% more books: finding $50,000 to pay managers, interface designers and programmers is nothing.


Elsevier could certainly make it 500% easier to find books in Voyager, but they don't have any incentive. They don't have any way of capturing the value they'd create. Neither do librarians.


Organizations run on 40-year old management principles don't have a chance against modern corporations that practice continual improvements.

Aug 25, 2006
Steve Thomas

Interesting, because we're just being restructured here, and the Library is being moved from reporting to the Deputy Vice Chancellor-Academic to "Corporate Services". A lot of people are upset about this, seeing it as a further erosion of status. (In a kinder, gentler age, librarians had academic status, but that is long gone.)

Personally, although I dislike the "Corporate" tag (I'm a child of the sixties), I can't honestly say that the library should be part of an Academic portfolio any more than it should the Research portfolio (we have a DVC-R also). The library services both academic and research needs, and since we cannot report to both, perhaps its best we sit in a "services" structure instead.

Aug 25, 2006
Charles Blair

This comment lost me: "I can't honestly say that the library should be part of an Academic portfolio any more than it should the Research portfolio." Where I am, "academic" includes teaching and research, and the library supports both. Also, librarians here are academic non-faculty, and I don't see any signs of that changing anytime soon.

Aug 26, 2006
ivans

Organizations run on 40-year old management principles don't have a chance against modern corporations that practice continual improvements.

i think libraries do strive to improve. but they do so within the limitation of their mission which is to serve and educate.

now, how to capture the value of an informed and educated citizenship, if we believe that's the value public libraries do create?