The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at www.emeraldinsight.com/0888-045X.htm FLUX CAPACITY Efﬁciencies and responsibleEfﬁciencies and responsible staff stewardshipstewardship: a library manager’s 129 critical self-reﬂection Accepted May 2011 Colleen S. Harris University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Lupton Library Department, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USAAbstractPurpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the myriad non-ﬁnancial ways in which librarymanagers can motivate employees and address performance issues, reducing attrition and increasingproductivity and satisfaction without increasing salaries.Design/methodology/approach – A critical self-reﬂection summarizing the author’s experientiallearning as a new assistant department head tackling a library department’s productivity and costissues with staff processing of course reserves. After an initial description of the situation, the paperexplores the theories that apply to the experience, and includes analysis of the experience in light ofthose theories. The article includes how application by one library manager of ﬁndings frommotivation, trust, and leadership theory literature was able to reduce staff attrition, increase staffsatisfaction, and reduce costs.Findings – The literature from a number of ﬁelds demonstrates that there are areas aside fromﬁnancial compensation that library managers can harness to increase the motivation and satisfactionof staff members. An awareness of the factors cited in these literatures can help library leadership andmanagers improve unit performance. As budgets continue to shrink and open positions remainunﬁlled, it is imperative library managers ﬁnd creative, non-remunerative, and effective ways toaddress stafﬁng needs.Research limitations/implications – The continued economic and budget limitations facinglibraries create implications for library leaders and managers in terms of replacing and rewarding staffmembers, and creating workﬂow efﬁciencies in necessary library services.Practical implications – This paper brings the issue of responsible staff stewardship and practicalmanagement to the forefront in an effort to engage library leaders and managers in a discussion aboutengaging with other discipline literatures for suggestions on how to maintain productive, satisﬁedstaff while faced with fewer resources for rewarding good work.Social implications – The culture of library management practice could (and should) be affected bythis issue, and the work in other disciplines may have wider application in terms of human resourcesmanagement, distributions of managers’ effort, and performance management issues in libraries.Originality/value – The paper outlines one library manager’s approach to an under-performinglibrary department, relating those approaches to factors identiﬁed in the broader literature asimportant to managers and leaders, and addresses the issue of how to address library service needs asbudgets are stripped and staff attrition without replacement becomes regular practice.Keywords Library management, Leadership, Library staff, Efﬁciency The Bottom Line: Managing LibraryPaper type Viewpoint Finances Vol. 24 No. 2, 2011 pp. 129-137 q Emerald Group Publishing LimitedHuman resource and management practices have a signiﬁcant impact on staff turnover 0888-045Xand productivity, and there is evidence that staff turnover lower among good DOI 10.1108/08880451111169197
BL performers (Huselid, 1995; McEvoy and Cascio, 1987). It has also been demonstrated24,2 that increased trust in both immediate managers and in higher-level administrative management correlates with increased staff ability to focus on productivity (Mayer and Gavin, 2005). In addition to work overload and insufﬁcient funding and resources, poor management practices have been cited as a staff stressor, resulting in lost productivity and lower morale (Gillespie et al., 2001). If poor management has an economic and130 social impact on libraries in terms of lower productivity and staff satisfaction, it follows that improved management leads to greater efﬁciencies and increased staff satisfaction. Library managers are currently faced with a dilemma that is ﬁnancial in origin and social in impact. As library budgets decline and staff are laid off, or not replaced if they leave the library, managers are left with fewer hands, increased workloads, and overworked staff members. The literature in leadership, behavior and motivation, and power reveal a number of non-ﬁnancial factors that have been demonstrated to have a positive impact on staff satisfaction. In cases where a library leader manager has little (or no) direct control over staff pay rates, staff members’ job satisfaction and efﬁcient work distribution become crucial elements in good human resources management, and it behooves managers to pay close attention to those additional factors. The new manager In my ﬁrst mid-level library management position, I was hired as an assistant department head at a large research library with clear instruction from administration to assist the department head in improving the performance and morale of an access services department. The department was responsible for running two circulation desks (where users checked in and out materials including books, media, study room keys, and portable technology items); reconciling user billing and library ﬁnances; generating and altering user records and permissions; interlibrary loan and document delivery services; and print and electronic course reserves services. The department consisted of 33 people: the department head, myself, the media services and reserves librarian, the interlibrary loan librarian, a day supervisor, evening supervisor, overnight supervisor, 8 interlibrary loan staff, 15 circulation staff and three off-site shelving facility staff. The ﬁrst thing I did upon my arrival was to meet with every staff member in the department individually, to learn more about what they did in the course of their work, whether their job description and assessment tool actually matched their daily responsibilities, and to ask what they saw as their biggest challenges facing them personally and facing the department as a whole. Staff, who felt their concerns and ideas had been ignored by previous administrators, were happy to talk about their work and their concerns. Reﬂecting on the situation, those meetings may be seen as an exercise in transformational leadership as deﬁned by Bass (1990), as I offered individualized consideration, personal attention, and communication of the importance of employees’ work in the context of the larger organization. I quickly learned that there were a few hard divides within the staff group, and though there were multiple issues, one of the most impactful had to do with the department’s responsibility for processing course reserves for faculty. My experiences with regards to the skill and skill-development divide related to course reserves, the divide between those staff favored by department supervisors and those less-favored,
my manner of handling the issue, and the interrelationship of these factors with Efﬁciencies andleadership theory are detailed below. responsible stewardshipThe great divide: course reservesCourse reserves is a library service offering faculty the opportunity to request thatcertain materials related to their courses (varying from books, to articles, to boxes of 131rocks or skeletons) be made available to students through the library. Hard copyreserves, or physical items such as books, have item records created and are processedso they are available for checkout at the library service desk. Many libraries also offerelectronic reserve services, meaning that records created for those items differ in thatthey are designed to be accessible through the library catalog remotely by computer(largely articles and book chapters). I learned quickly that the entire circulation staff had recently been reclassiﬁed in thestate job system. In order to move the staff into a higher pay grade and reﬂect thecurrent, more technology-oriented work of the library department, the (shared) jobdescription of all the circulation staff members was rewritten, with the result that allstaff members now had responsibilities related to processing course reserves in theirjob description, along with standard desk and customer service responsibilities.Behavioral theorists note that conscious goal-making and intent by people have moreof an effect on both motivation and behavior than monetary incentives (Locke, 1968).Other reviews of motivation theory note that motivation is largely psychological andthat goal-setting, cognitive, and organizational justice factors are more important thansimple physical rewards like salary (Latham and Pinder, 2005). This body ofmotivation knowledge appears not to have been taken into great consideration byadministration or management, as it was expected that the large pay raise alone wouldresult in transformed performance and increased job satisfaction, which neveremerged. Through my meetings with staff and going over the job descriptions and evaluationtool we would be using at the end of the year to assess performance, I discovered thatthough every person’s job description stated that they would be processing coursereserves, only those staff members who already possessed strong technology skills, orwho the supervisors had felt would be fast learners, were trained and performing thatduty. No consideration had been given to the organizational behavior researchdemonstrating that ability to learn effectively is related to motivational andenvironmental inﬂuences (Noe, 1986), which were patently ignored by the departmentrelying only on those already possessing the needed skills. Older staff and those staffwho had demonstrated problems with detailed work in other areas had not beentrained in reserves processing. The situation was exacerbated by the supervisorsassuming staff future performance would reﬂect past performance, and given theteam’s past poor performance, that it would remain that way. Because of this attitudeon the part of the supervisors, the unskilled staff members assumed they would remainunskilled, and did not believe that the supervisors had any interest in helping themimprove. This directly reﬂected Dirks’s (2000) assertion that “(p)erceiving lowperformance may cause the team to expect low performance in the future and thenunwilling to trust the leader” (p. 1006). As a result of this situation, of the 15 circulationstaff, only four were able to process course reserves.
BL I viewed this situation from the perspective of my supervisory and management24,2 experience and in the light of the human resources training I had, which had been very clear on the point that you cannot punish someone for failing to perform a job responsibility if you have not offered them training in that area and coaching to improve their performance. With the approval of my department head, I immediately embarked on work to ensure that all of the circulation staff were cross-trained, so that132 every person could process course reserves and fulﬁll their position duties as described. Department reserves supervisors were asked to design such a training program, utilizing the most skilled staff as mentors to those learning the process. A ﬂurry of complaints, particularly that such training would be time-intensive, that many of the less-skilled staff were older and would retire in the next few years anyway, and that personality differences between the skilled and under-skilled would make training problematic, were offered. The issue was also raised that skilled staff preferred not to work with the less skilled staff, since it required much more work and attention. After much discussion, the management team considered it our responsibility to ensure that our staff had the tools and development options to perform all of their job functions, not just those they were best at. The department head and I pointed out that we could hardly tackle performance problems if the staff could truthfully respond that they had never been properly trained for their duties. Leader-member exchange theory in practice My individual meetings with each of the staff members prompted my examination of the underlying causes of the tensions in the department. Though I did not realize it at the time, these meetings were a reﬂection of my latent belief in leader-member exchange (LMX) theory, which posits that the importance of a dyadic relationship between the leader and each individual follower (Pierce and Newstrom, 2011). In essence, each staff member must be understood as an individual with individual needs and concerns, and not simply as part of the behemoth of “access services.” Particularly entering such a large department, I felt it essential to take the opportunity to speak with every person, since it was made clear that once I was in the full swing of everyday work such interactions would be a luxury. Those individual conversations accomplished a number of things – in particular, they established an initial foundation between myself and each staff member, and allowed me to discover some of the issues challenging staff. In particular, as a result of the skill and training differential I discovered during those initial conversations, the less technology-savvy and detail-oriented staff were required to work longer hours on the service desk (which was considered less-skilled work by supervisors and less desirable work by staff) than their colleagues who processed reserves. Desk work was much less valued (though it comprised a great deal of the department’s work) and the staff members were more easily replaceable on short notice. This stratiﬁcation of work was reﬂected in language use around the department: whereas “Bob and Gina” were needed to handle a reserves issue, supervisors arranging desk schedules referred to needing “warm bodies on the desk” or “a breather for desk hours.” This situation is representative of the in-group/out-group phenomenon posited by LMX theory, in which relationships between in-group members and the leader are
qualitatively different from relationships between out-group members and the leader Efﬁciencies and(Pierce and Newstrom, 2011). The authors state: responsible [i]n group members may be given more interesting and desirable task assignments, they are stewardship likely to be communicated with more frequently and therefore exercise more inﬂuence or control over group activities and receive more support and recognition, and their tangible rewards are often greater than that received by out-group members (p. 28). 133Among staff, this manifested in the in-group of reserves processors and the out-groupof the under-skilled staff members. In addition to the skill-development difference caused by relying solely on in-groupmembers to do complex tasks, the staff who processed reserves received beneﬁts suchas overtime pay and comp time at the beginning and end of semesters, when reservetrafﬁc from faculty was heaviest. Because reserves processing also involved moredirect contact with faculty (which was considered higher-level service) and liaisingwith other library departments, staff members performing the processing were moreoften nominated for library and campus service awards. This created a great deal ofresentment from those not receiving these beneﬁts, and created a general divisionwithin the department in terms of not only skill, but attitude among staff, reﬂectingexactly the situation described by Pierce and Newstrom (2011). In group out-group dynamics created divisions not only among the staff, but alsobetween supervisors and staff. Pierce and Newstrom (2011) note that: Selection of those who will come to be a part of the leader’s in-group is based, in large part, on personal compatibility, perceptions of subordinate competence, and dependability (p. 27).Supervisors interacted more often and at deeper levels with those staff given theirgreater responsibilities. Reserves processing staff were seen as the most competent anddependable staff members and department supervisors had developed the habit ofturning to those members and offering them additional assignments. Essentially, oncea staff member was thought of as under-skilled, they were never given the opportunityto prove themselves again. Scandura (in Pierce and Newstrom, 2011) stated that“out-group members should be re-tested periodically by the leader making offers ofin-group roles” and that “[t]he assumption should be made that all members canbecome in-group members if given the opportunity to contribute to the work-group[. . .]” (p. 39). Upon my arrival in the department, this occasional reassessment of roles,and offering of opportunities, was not happening. In the situation with course reserves,this openness to out-group members was not practiced, and served to reinforce thedivide between staff members, and between staff and supervisors. With the department head and reserves supervisors, we initiated cross-training ofall the staff to lay the groundwork for more fair distribution of work, and thecross-training was largely successful, expanding staff skill sets and opportunities forparticipation both within the department and in larger organizational initiatives(Harris, 2010). While occasionally there was still an opportunity for overtime or comptime accrual during particularly heavy processing times, the fact that all staff with thatresponsibility were properly trained to do it meant the beneﬁt was more broadlyoffered on a volunteer basis. Those who chose not to take advantage of the offerappeared not to begrudge their fellow staff receiving the beneﬁt. This appears toreinforce the organizational justice factor of LMX theory, which posits that if
BL distribution of beneﬁts by a leader appears to be procedurally fair, reward decisions24,2 will be accepted by both in- and out-group members (Tyler and Caine, 1981). Interestingly, once a number of the under-skilled staff were trained in processing course reserves, some found the processing so onerous and different from the work they expected that they refused to do it. Essentially, they were allowed to choose out-group status as opposed to being relegated to that status through lack of134 opportunity. At that point, once all staff were held to the same standard for their work duties, after determining that it was not a skill but a performance issue, I was able to address these issues with performance management and disciplinary action measures. Strategic contingencies and power In addition to the obvious connections to LMX and trust theories in leadership, my experience (and consequent study of leadership theory) also encouraged me to explore the issues of strategic contingencies and power relationships in the context of the library department. Salancik and Pfeffer (in Pierce and Newstrom, 2011) note that “power revolves around scarce and critical activities”, and that even “trivial resources can become the bases for power if one can organize and control their allocation and the deﬁnition of what is critical” (p. 123). While course reserves are a library service, that service is not often considered a seat of power in many libraries. In fact, processing reserves, while a technology-heavy and detail-oriented task, is a service provided at many libraries with little fanfare, other than trying to make it more efﬁcient (Pilston and Hart, 2002; Reichardt, 1999). Record manipulation and information organization is at the heart of what libraries do (Taylor, 2003); in this particular case, however, record manipulation skills within the department were restricted to a select few, making those skills particularly critical, since they were involved in providing an essential service for the larger university. In terms of this experience with staff and course reserves processing, the situation had gotten to the point where staff involved in the processing held an inordinate amount of power over their peers and even over supervisors. The power over their peers came from being more skilled and being more likely to be given assignments and training that continued to augment their skills, creating dependencies. For instance, when a staff member had a question about reserves as they were helping a user at the service desk, they often had to defer to the reserves staff knowledge and information instead of being able to make decisions or answer questions on their own. In terms of power over supervisors (and indeed the department), reserves-processing staff were integral to an essential service to faculty to keep their course materials updated and available because of their rare skill set and speciﬁc knowledge (expert power). Because of this, reserves staff garnered greater consideration for requests for overtime, comp time, and to work on other plum projects; they also created the credible threat of stopping the essential service in its tracks if too many of them called in sick or took vacation. Because of this, supervisors deferred to the wishes of reserves staff to a greater extent than compared to demands and requests of the under-skilled staff, which were more easily replaced or substituted. The criticality of the service itself had not changed, but the scarcity of staff members to handle the service did change. Salancik and Pfeffer (in Pierce and Newstrom, 2011) noted that when critical contingencies change, “the power of
individuals and subgroups will change in turn” (p. 125). In fact, cross-training Efﬁciencies andadditional staff members altered reward structures (no overtime or comp time had responsibleto be awarded since additional staff offered the additional hours necessary fortimely processing, even during peak periods), and reduced the power of the stewardshippreviously rare skilled staff member to coerce imbalanced beneﬁts from supervisors.This resulted in both ﬁnancial improvements and social improvements in thedepartmental culture. 135 At this point, the power and leadership in course reserves became based not onbasic ability to process, but based in skill – the strategic-contingency power nowrested with the department as a whole, but expert power merely shifted forms. Thosestaff members who had been trainers (a small subset of the previously few skilledprocessors) became mentors to the larger team for detailed issues and non-routinequestions having to do with course reserves. These staff members largely lost beneﬁtssuch as comp time and overtime pay which had earned them the enmity of theircolleagues, but now garnered respect from those same colleagues due to their broaderand deeper knowledge of complex processes. The department atmosphere grew much healthier once differences in staff powerwere based on expertise, tempered by the fact that everyone was properly trained fortheir responsibilities.The trust issueAt the point that the staff were cross-trained, the management team began to addressperformance issues with disciplinary action. The department head and I hadestablished credibility and trustworthiness with staff in terms of being honest andtransparent about our intent. When I expressed slight concern that disciplinary actionmight create a culture of fear, one of the staff members who had moved fromunder-skilled into successful reserve processing noted that he was not afraid, becausethe management team had established that we would talk to staff who wereunder-performing and try to help them improve before moving into ofﬁcial action.Dirks and Ferrin (2011) note that:Q Trust-related concerns about a leader’s characterare important because the leader may have authority to make decisions that have asigniﬁcant impact on a follower and the follower’s ability to achieve his or her goals (inPierce and Newstrom, 2011, p. 43).The same holds true for trust-related concerns aboutmanagers. Coming into that position, I had the good fortune to be an essential unknown to thestaff members. As opposed to the entrenched management team who had been theresome years, supervisors and department head, who had established norms ofdifferential treatment and allowing the skill and attitude divide to fester, I was verytransparent about my displeasure with the situation and the measures I intended totake to change it. Because of my actions, in my discussions with staff individually andas a group, and my efforts to ensure cross-training, I established a basis of trust that Iwould follow through on promises, in a hope that establishing my character andfollowing intent with action would create an atmosphere where my staff were moresatisﬁed (Dirks and Ferrin, in Pierce and Newstrom, 2011). However, it is important to note that any successes occurred on a dyadic basis,between myself and certain individuals, and was not universal.
BL Conclusions24,2 Library managers asking staff to take on additional responsibilities as a result of staff attrition, service point mergers, or other factors should take into account the organizational behavior research demonstrating that ability to learn effectively is related to motivational and environmental inﬂuences, and not necessarily ﬁnances (Noe, 1986). Library units that redistribute work and rely only on those staff who136 possess demonstrated competencies, without training the entire body of staff who share the same job description may well see the motivation and productivity of their staff members decline. In addition to behavior research factors, library managers should also take heed of the leadership literature (particularly the work addressing leader-follower interaction) and note that assigning additional work only to the most capable (and perhaps least likely to complain) staff members not only rewards other staff with less work, but structurally disenfranchises those other staff who are not tapped for new assignments and places an undue burden on the “in-group” staff members amenable to taking on those extra roles. Once available resources (especially staff) are optimized, both in terms of assignment and skill development opportunities, issues created by critical contingencies may be alleviated. References Bass, B.M. (1990), “From transactional to transformational leadership: learning to share the vision”, Organizational Dynamics, Vol. 18 No. 3, pp. 19-31. Dirks, K.T. (2000), “Trust in leadership and team performance: evidence from NCAA basketball”, Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol. 85 No. 6, pp. 1004-12. Dirks, K.T. and Ferrin, D.L. (2011), “Trust in leadership: meta-analytic ﬁndings and implications for research and practice”, in Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. (Eds), Leaders and the Leadership Process: Readings, Self-assessments and Applications, 6th ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, pp. 35-42. Gillespie, N.A., Walsh, M.A., Wineﬁeld, A.H., Dua, J. and Stough, C. (2001), “Occupational stress in universities: staff perceptions of the causes, consequences, and moderators of stress”, Work and Stress, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 53-72. Harris, C.S. (2010), “Matrix management in practice in access services at the NCSU Libraries”, Journal of Access Services, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 203-11. Huselid, M.A. (1995), “The impact of human resource management practices on turnover, productivity, and corporate ﬁnancial performance”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 38 No. 3, pp. 635-72. Latham, G.P. and Pinder, C.C. (2005), “Work motivation theory and research at the dawn of the twenty-ﬁrst century”, Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 56, pp. 485-516. Locke, E.A. (1968), “Toward a theory of task motivation and incentives”, Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, Vol. 3, pp. 157-89. McEvoy, G.M. and Cascio, W.F. (1987), “Do good or poor performers leave? A meta-analysis of the relationship between performance and turnover”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 30 No. 4, pp. 744-62. Mayer, R.C. and Gavin, M.B. (2005), “Trust in management and performance: who minds the shop while the employees watch the boss?”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 48 No. 5, pp. 874-88. Noe, R.A. (1986), “Trainees’ attributes and attitudes: neglected inﬂuences on training effectiveness”, The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 736-49.
Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. (2011), Leaders and the Leadership Process: Readings, Efﬁciencies and Self-Assessments and Applications, 6th ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.Pilston, A.K. and Hart, R.L. (2002), “Student response to a new electronic reserves system”, responsible Journal of Academic Librarianship, Vol. 28 No. 3, pp. 147-51. stewardshipReichardt, K. (1999), “Electronic reserves at a small college library: from research to reality”, Technical Services Quarterly, Vol. 17 No. 1, pp. 1-12.Taylor, A.G. (2003), The Organization of Information, 2nd ed., Libraries Unlimited, Englewood, 137 CO.Tyler, T.R. and Caine, A. (1981), “The role of distributive and procedural fairness in the endorsement of formal leaders”, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol. 41, pp. 642-55.Further readingSalancik, G.R. and Pfeffer, J. (2011), “Who gets power – and how they hold on to it: a strategic-contingency model of power”, in Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. (Eds), Leadership Process: Readings, Self-assessments and Applications, 6th ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, pp. 122-6.Scandura, T.A. (2011), “Rethinking leader-member exchange: an organizational justice perspective”, in Pierce, J.L. and Newstrom, J.W. (Eds), Leaders and the Leadership Process: Readings, Self-assessments and Applications, 6th ed., McGraw-Hill, New York, NY, pp. 42-62.About the authorColleen S. Harris is Head of Access Services and Assistant Professor at the University ofTennessee at Chattanooga. Her interests include academic library management, libraryinstruction for graduate students, and library staff development. Her work has appeared inJournal of Access Services, Library Review, Library Journal, InfoCareerTrends, LISCareer, andher book chapters have appeared in Teaching Generation M: A Handbook for Librarians andEducators (Neal-Schuman, 2009), Writing and Publishing: The Librarian’s Handbook (AmericanLibrary Association, 2010) and The Frugal Librarian: Thriving in Tough Economic Times(American Library Association, 2011). In addition to her MLS, she holds an MFA in Writing andis pursuing an Ed.D. in Learning and Leadership. Colleen S. Harris can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.orgTo purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: email@example.comOr visit our web site for further details: www.emeraldinsight.com/reprints