Library Faculty Meeting on the Subject of the Libraries Reorganization

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 at 2 p.m.
Pane Room, Alexander Library, College Avenue Campus

Attendees: S. Bartz, S. Harrington (recorder), K. Hartman, K. Mulcahy, L. Mullen, R. Sewell, J. Sloan, R. 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, what is missing now? What would you like to see? What is not working, and what might work?

One meeting participant noted that it is not always clear where authority, as opposed to responsibility, lies. In terms of the work of the Councils, this means that issues must pass through multiple Councils before any action can be taken-this invariably slows things down, and perhaps the Council structure could be streamlined.

It was also noted that improved communication is necessary, so-called 'trickle down' communication does not seem to be working, as some feel they receive conflicting messages. Communication is no doubt difficult because of the geographic complexity of the Libraries. While there has been some success in breaking down barriers within the New Brunswick Libraries, many daunting challenges remain that may not lend themselves to the solutions adopted by the New Brunswick Libraries.

What is lacking, it was agreed, is an effective balance between local units and the system-wide entity, the two should ideally exist in a dialectical balance. Campus constituencies need to be heard, but universal messages also need to be aired. Geographic distance and time constraints remain real concerns: it is difficult for everyone to be heard without spending too much time in meetings. (The Creth report results underscored these campus differences.)

Some participants noted that there seems to be a greater sense of freedom in campus faculty meetings than in RUL-wide faculty meetings. RUL faculty meeting seem much more hierarchical, and are sometimes lacking in discussion and dialogue. It is difficult to determine how to foster dialogue at RUL faculty meetings, but it remains important to foster participation.

It was mentioned that we as faculty often talk about our differences, while we point to our 'sameness' much less frequently. We have to promote system-wide thinking, and look at the bigger picture. This is particularly true in light of the budget difficulties RUL is facing and the decreasing numbers of faculty members. It was also noted that there needs to be an examination of the two-tiered faculty structure, which includes librarians in the tenure track as well as librarians who are not in the tenure stream.

One participant expressed the view that RUL still needs to move forward despite the budgetary and personnel constraints. It remains unclear at times how things get done, how decisions get made, and who has the authority to make certain types of decisions. These issues relate to the larger problem of communication, which is often hampered by the geographic distribution of libraries and centers across three campuses. What is the faculty role in communicating decisions, and how are such decisions made?

As in other meetings, the issue of the Councils was discussed at length. Councils are not faculty committees, and there was some question as to why Councils are written into the faculty bylaws. Councils rarely tackle the same issue in exactly the same way, and there may be some alternatives as to how Councils are organized. There was some concern about the so-called 'agility issue'-if every Council needs to offer input on a particular subject, then, again, work is inevitably delayed. We need a structure that can appoint agile task forces with the authority to make decisions and see work through.

Several meeting participants concurred that faculty members must consider what it means to be part a faculty-perhaps there is some way to meet as one faculty body, and the discussions that might emerge from such meetings could conceivably be helpful. One participant wondered if there might be room for faculty representation on Cabinet. Another participant stated that it would be helpful for selectors to meeting across the campuses. It was observed that the Cabinet and the Planning and Coordinating Committee have exclusive membership, save the University Librarian, and perhaps it would be useful for these groups to meeting jointly with the University Librarian on occasion. It might also be useful for a faculty member to serve on Cabinet.

There were some questions about the new reorganization chart, and a desire on the part of some to see the details fleshed out. It is, of course, difficult to undertake this reorganization in light of the current budget situation.

As in other venues, there was a discussion of the issues surrounding the position of Librarian V, and others raised the topic of the designation "clinical faculty," and the growing administrative structure. There was some emphasis that the library faculty as a whole needs to discuss these issues, as we have no general philosophy as to how to approach them.

While there is a general commitment to the Libraries as a system-wide entity we cannot ignore local issues, cultures, and concerns. As one participant pointed out, we have concrete relationships with our buildings and our patrons and abstract relationships with the system. There are communications issues on many fronts, not the least of which is how faculty members communicate with each other.

R. Tipton raised the issue of a potential faculty caucus as an opportunity to discuss items on faculty meeting agendas, plan strategy, talk about common issues, a caucus could forge a connection between faculty members.

Some discussion ensued about replacing NBL structural elements, such as NBCG, with system-wide entities. This was deemed a difficult task, one that perhaps could only be accomplished in stages. One strategy might be a Collection Development Council, for example, working in concert with a Collection Development Assembly-a place for everyone to talk about collections issues. The caucus model could be applied to the assembly, with groups meeting, perhaps, along broad subject lines. It was noted that some Councils already function as working groups, while some Councils focus more on policy updates or issues. In short, one size might not fit all in terms of Council structures, but simplification-the reduction of redundancies and perhaps of the number of meetings--was seen as an important goal. Meeting participants advocated for experimenting with various models and structures before casting any particular scenario in stone as it were, or, in the bylaws. Would these caucuses, for example, include staff?

The meeting concluded with general agreement that it is also important to garner staff feedback on the reorganization issues in general.

The meeting was adjourned at 4:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Sara Harrington

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