Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 291 — 2017
Identify your skill bottlenecks. There’s always someone at an
institution who knows how to do something important that no one
else does. What happens when that person retires or goes on leave
unexpectedly? Cross-functional teams disperse important skills within
an organization, helping with succession planning and institutional
memory. Look for opportunities to get these specialized staff members
working on a project or collaborating with others so they can share
their skills and knowledge. Perhaps there is a small piece of their
job that other members of team could be trained to do. Both staff
members benefit from such an arrangement; the specialized person
now has help when the workload gets heavy and the newly trained
person has an additional way to contribute to the team’s success.
Upskill existing people before you hire a dedicated position.
The American Library Association job list is littered with functional
specialist job postings like Digital Preservation Librarian or Scholarly
Communications Librarian. Before you post one of these, try asking
an existing staff member to “test drive” the role on a full- or part-
time basis for a few months. This will give you a better sense of what
skills are required for the portfolio and ensure that someone else in
the organization is familiar with it, preemptively eliminating a skills
bottleneck. This kind of testing can also provide an opportunity
to demonstrate how the role brings value to your organization
so you can help secure funding for the position, if necessary.
Our case study demonstrates an intrapreneurial pathway to holistic
librarianship. Recently hired librarians saw an opportunity to approach
a project in a non-traditional way, growing their skill sets and breaking
down organizational silos in the process. Leadership can occur at
all levels of an organization, but it takes vision and flexibility at the
highest levels to shape its growth in the most useful direction.