The meeting was called to order at 9:30 a.m. The minutes of the May meeting were approved.
This was a special meeting of the Planning and Coordinating Committee, the Rules of Procedure Committee and the University Librarianís Cabinet to address the implications of the new administrative structure, which will take effect July 1, 2006. There was a wide-ranging and productive discussion of the possible ramifications of the new structure as it relates to both faculty and staff. Several attendees felt that there is a need for change in our faculty structures and that the new administrative structure presented an opportunity to do so in a holistic fashion.
We discussed at length the current configuration of the Councils. There was general agreement that the Councils, and our committees generally, are too time-consuming. A minority felt that the Council structure works reasonably well at present, that it is the most viable alternative for providing system-wide strategic direction for public services, digital services, and collection development. There were, however, a number of suggestions to make it more efficient and productive, such as having fewer meetings and working via email between meetings. One major issue of concern was the ambiguous authority that resides in the Councils and associated bodies. Often a proposed initiative will travel (slowly) thru several Councils and committees before it is finally implemented or rejected. It was strongly suggested that task forces and working groups simply be granted authority to accomplish a task and then simply exercise that authority.
A majority felt that the current Council structure does not work well and should be replaced. One concern expressed repeatedly in the focus groups convened by Sheila Creth in the summer of 2004 and elsewhere was the perception that their work is often redundant. In a modern, hybrid library, public services, collection development, and technical services are no longer distinct operations. All of our work now cuts across these traditional boundaries. Our structure should facilitate roles and operations in our future. Many felt that it would be more effective to organize our groups functionally or tactically, that is, around a specific activity or goal. Given such a model, the next step would be to determine what members would be needed on a committee in order to make sound decisions and implement them effectively. What skills, knowledge and experience are required for the task at hand?
One important consideration in constituting a group will still be to include representation from all three campuses. Historically, the campuses, and even the individual libraries in New Brunswick, were largely autonomous. Technology has necessitated and facilitated a greater interdependence, but each campus will and should continue to enjoy a degree of independence. The challenge will be to respect the unique needs and cultures in Camden, Newark and New Brunswick, but at the same time to cooperate for the common good. Membership on committees should continue to reflect our geographic diversity, and the key will be to foster system-wide as well as local identities. The reorganization of the once autonomous libraries in New Brunswick is an example of a very successful case in librarians developed a broader sense of identity.
While the membership of some groups should reflect geographic perspectives and particular skills and responsibilities, others should be comprehensive, comprising all of the librarians, or staff and librarians, engaged in a certain activity. In constituting a committee, we should consider whether it would be most effective as a representative or an inclusive body. Greater inclusivity fosters a sense of participation and allows us to take advantage of a wider range of skills, experiences, and perspectives. The New Brunswick Collections Group (NBCG) is an excellent example. Assuming that we design at least some of our groups on a functional model, a number of possibilities were suggested. For example, since many of the librarians are responsible for both public services and collection development, we could have an all- inclusive Public Services/Collection Development faculty body that constitutes steering groups to accomplish specific tasks. Sections within the American Library Association (ALA) use this approach very effectively. For certain tasks it will be important to include faculty and staff from technical services as well. Since digital resources and services will play such a critical role in our future, we need to explore ways to bring in colleagues with technical expertise to help implement priorities set by faculty who work directly with our users.
Several attendees stressed the importance of including staff on committees when appropriate. We should be less concerned with status, and simply determine which of our colleagues are needed to move a particular initiative forward. This is especially true in the case of digital projects, since the necessary skills are often not represented in the faculty body. However, this applies to the library staff generally. Staff have a wide range of skills that allow them to contribute effectively to committees and we should avail ourselves of them.
We discussed what revisions to the faculty by-laws would be required to implement whatever changes are decided upon. There was a general consensus that we should keep the by-laws as simple as possible and that any changes in the faculty by-laws should generally follow (not precede) the outcomes from focus groups, discussions at faculty meetings and voting. University regulations require only the following statutory committees: a Planning Committee (our Planning and Coordinating Committee), an Appointments and Promotions Committee, a Rules of Procedure Committee, and a Committee of Review. It is not necessary to include every committee in the by-laws. If we wish to remain flexible, we should not codify statutorily groups that will probably evolve over time.
In order to explore these issues further and to solicit input from faculty and staff on all three campuses, we decided upon the following procedure. There will be an initial working group appointed to plan a series of focus groups for all units in the Libraries. To facilitate these discussions, the working group will outline various issues and models to be addressed at the meetings, as well as a framework for conducting and recording the open sessions. They will also devise ways to contribute anonymously, such as a webpage for anonymous email submissions. After the open sessions, a second working group will synthesize and report on the results. Roberta Tipton will chair the first working group. She will meet with the Faculty Coordinator and the University Librarian to discuss its membership. Everyone is welcome to volunteer.
The meeting adjourned at 11:35 p.m.