Camden Meeting on the Subject of the Libraries Reorganization

September 13, 2006 at 10:00 a.m.
Robeson Library, Camden Campus

Attendees: Susan Beck, Vibiana Bowman, Sara Harrington (recorder, via teleconference), Theo Haynes, Jane Sloan, Julie Still, Roberta Tipton


Today's meeting is given over to a discussion and discovery session, led by Roberta Tipton and Jane Sloan, on the subject of the Rutgers University Libraries reorganization.

The following handouts were distributed: The minutes of the June 21, 2006 Planning and Coordinating Committee meeting, the current RUL reorganization chart, and the Faculty bylaws.

Reorganization documents can also be located off the Libraries homepage by following this pathway: About the Libraries / Staff Resources / Planning / Reports.

Meeting participants were referred to the June 21, 2006 Planning and Coordinating Committee minutes, authored by Tom Glynn, since these minutes include an initial discussion of the then- impending Libraries reorganization. During that meeting a round robin took place that resulted in the airing of interesting new ideas, and Roberta Tipton volunteered to chair a Working Group on Reorganization. Subsequently, the University Librarian decided, along with R. Tipton and Faculty Coordinator Jane Sloan, that the first step in the process would be a series of focus groups with library faculty.

This is an effort to engage everyone and collect new ideas. A September 22, 2006, special faculty meeting is planned to report what has been offered, then perhaps to explore the implementation of any potential changes.

R. Tipton began with introducing the questions that would form the basis of a round robin. In thinking about the Libraries reorganization, R. Tipton posed the questions, What is missing? What isn't working? What would you like to see?

The group expressed a sense that it was hard to envisage what affect the Libraries' reorganization might have on the Robeson Library. Additional information about the new structure and its significance might be helpful. It was noted that things work well at the local level at Robeson Library, and there is a strong sense of group identity. One participant offered, 'we're our own thing,' but also noted that the Robeson library is part of the larger Libraries system, and the effects of the Libraries' reorganization may reveal themselves over time. However, there was strong support for the idea that RUL has to define user-centered service as an articulated priority, particularly with the University's new emphasis on undergraduate education.

As in other meetings, the group noted two issues that have arisen repeatedly: the running of the Libraries and the role of the Libraries faculty. In the teaching faculty departments, faculty members set curricular policy and deal with personnel issues. For the Libraries faculty, curricular policy may be analogous to programmatic policy, but the Libraries faculty has not come to grips with this issue.

There was a sense that there is a good deal of 'role confusion' in New Brunswick about where people can speak and offer input, and about who mentors tenure-track faculty. This situation might be particularly acute in the position of AUL for Research and Instruction Services-will it be possible to balance system-wide and local responsibilities in this position? Was there an analysis of why the recent NB Director search was unsuccessful? There was some question if the new mentoring program will offer 'cross campus' mentors-or will the different cultures preclude this? Who will offer development opportunities and mentoring to staff? Which AUL is broadly concerned with human resources, and how does this relate to the responsibilities of the AUL for Organizational Planning and Research, since the effective allocation of human resources requires long-term planning. It was also noted that the two-tier faculty/staff structure also poses challenges for the organization.

There was an extended discussion of the Council structure. Will the Public Services Council continue to exist in the new structure? Should the bylaws include more specific language about how Councils are populated? The Councils have succeeded in connecting the operational administration with the faculty. In the context of the series of reorganization meetings a variety of suggestions relating the Councils have been made, including that the faculty chair serve on Cabinet, or that there be a single Council. One participant noted that Councils are advisory, and that what is needed is a group with the ability to make and act upon decisions.

There was also a discussion of the fact that the Planning Committee was once a standalone Committee, and a consideration of whether or not the merging of this Committee with the Coordinating Committee affected planning regarding open lines. There have been discussions of open lines in the merged PlanCo meetings, which means that lines can be discussed in the context of budgetary and other contextualizing information. Recently, the faculty has indicated that open lines should be looked at as RUL-wide open lines.

There was some concern expressed about the centralizing of services such as ILL, and that this might adversely affect the smaller units and/or branch libraries.

What are faculty prerogatives at this point in time? It was noted that the faculty should look carefully at issues such as retirement. There is a general sense that there are too many meetings, and that meeting time may not be effectively used, with an overemphasis on announcements rather than on real dialogue. Likewise, Committee or other reports are filed away without decision or explanation. Decisions are made outside of committee settings, and the committee is used to promulgate, rather than arrive at, a decision. This is sometimes vexing, given the enormous amount of effort expended on committee work.

Furthermore there was a consideration of why we don't meet as faculty colleagues. Would a faculty caucus before faculty meetings be worthwhile? Is there some other mechanism that would be worthwhile-perhaps meeting separately from faculty meetings, as faculty undoubtedly have a variety of issues to discuss? There was some concern about why important discussions and issues fade away so easily-it seems that we don't have a mechanism to return to issues, despite the fact that issues we face as faculty are the same.

Respectfully submitted,
Sara Harrington

Last updated: September 6, 2006
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