Association of Research Libraries
Research Library Issues 291 — 2017
Organizational culture and institutional culture, like organizational
and institutional politics, can be as much myth or attitude as reality.
Whether a complete restructuring of staffing and duties is necessary,
or small experimental approaches to integrating staff from diverse
areas into shared roles, there are helpful case studies and scholarship
in management, business, and academic librarianship journals.
One possible staffing model to foster collaboration is to develop a
test or pilot project that would allow for cross-training and cross-
staffing, specifically between liaison librarians and special collections
librarians. At its most basic level, and based on interest, librarians
can implement a small-scale staffing experiment, where librarians
serve scheduled time in another department to participate in the
work that takes place there; a newfound and deeper understanding
is inevitable. Cross-training, shadowing, and observation in a test
project such as this should center not just around materials and
procedures, but should take a look at the interpersonal interactions
between the librarians and the end users they are working with, and
how the users are engaging with the resources and information.
Conversations and assessment of these cross-departmental
interactions can be observed and noted during and immediately after
the experience. Librarians can use what they learn and take it to
the next level by creating and implementing plans to improve their
work. Pursuing this approach will lead to greater understanding
among librarians of each other’s jobs and the ability to make
appropriate referrals and to better assess needs library-wide.
The emphasis here is not on specialized training but rather on
observation and shared communication and needs assessment
on the ground. Asking the fundamental questions, “What can
I contribute to this experience?” and “How does my work and
expertise complement and possibly shape this interaction?”