Monday, October 25, 2010

Organization charts are nice, but....

In library school, in certain classes especially (scarf woman and the suspender'ed, bearded wonder), we were told that as librarians, we were entering management positions. We needed to make sure that our "underlings" understood their new position. Organization charts are our friends because they would tell us who and how to rule. I have found, within about four hours of my new job that organization charts are really just for the administration to feel as though the library has some order.

In small libraries, like my library, I think organization charts are difficult to construct because each worker wears so many hats. My main job deals with the databases and website, but I also do instruction, reference, circulation, IT trouble-shooting, collection development, and programming (as much programming as there is in an academic library). For some of these different duties, I am the "expert". For others, I answer to another librarian. It really just depends on what the task is. The same is true of the library staff: our cataloger (who doesn't have a library degree) does collection development. Our circulation person does ILL. Where would each of these workers fall on an organization chart?

I need to keep in mind that each person wears multiple hats, so when a cataloger questions my collection development decisions, she is not questioning me as the cataloger, but as my fellow collection developer. Library school was wrong: yes, technically, librarians should be in charge, but that is not actually how it works out in my library.


  1. I think you've pointed out a problem that can be found in any organization, library or not. Do you think that a lack of clear "chart" helps or hurts your library?

    The two public libraries I've worked at have pretty clear charts. At FFL we always defaulted to our dept heads OR a reference librarian for questions. In my current library everyone is very aware of who their dept head is and also that the Director has the final word.

    In my very limited experience I've seen that there are differences between lateral conversations versus situations that call for a clear decision by someone with a higher rank or paygrade. I also have to keep in mind that I am brand new to this library, so even people who may fall below me on the org chart have valuable insight into how things work and how to best accomplish things.

    Lastly, organization chart and hats-worn aside, I think it's good for libraries to communicate clearly what roles and tasks take priority for staffs that are continually spread thinner and thinner.

  2. Ditto to that fourth paragraph, Yogurt Moon and to your whole entry, Sara.

  3. Agreed. I don't think librarians can ever feel like we're right just by virtue of having a degree or occupying a position on an org chart. We have to earn it.

    That said, Sara, the point in your last paragraph can be hard to take -- questioning decisions is hard to navigate when you first start, especially if people feel like they have to protect their territory or defend the way things have always been done against a newcomer who wants to change stuff. I've been on both sides of that and it can be an uncomfortable place.

  4. See org charts always help to understand things easily and quickly especially for new people. They can directly start over things after viewing all the ideas.