Change Management in Libraries and Technical Services

An ALCTS preconference “Change Management in Libraries and Technical Services” was held on June 21, 2019, prior to the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, DC.

Janetta Waterhouse, director of technical services and library systems at the University at Albany, kicked off the forum by providing an introduction to leadership and change management. First, she reviewed the definition of change management by discussing the change model, dimensions of change, incremental change, transformational change and variables of complex change.

Change requires vision, skills, incentives, resources, and an action plan. Missing vision results in confusion. Missing skills results in anxiety. Missing incentives results in resistance. Missing resources results in frustration. Missing an action plan results in false starts.
Adapted from Knoster, T., Villa, R., & Thousand, J. (2000). A framework for thinking about systems change. In R. Villa & J. Thousand (eds.), Restructuring for caring and effective education: Piecing the puzzle together (pp. 93–128). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Then Janetta moved on to the topic of leadership. After discussing a definition and theory of leadership, she spent some time focusing on emotional intelligence and indicated that what differentiates leaders is their emotional response to situations. According to her, emotional intelligence often has a greater impact on performance than intellect. She then introduced a few leadership styles and competencies and stressed that the more styles a leader masters, the better. How to lead change was the last but the not least topic. Janetta introduced the audience with Kotter’s eight step process, discussed separately how to lead incremental and transformational change, and offered a few communication strategies. After mentioning a few typical examples of resistance to change, the attraction strategies she offered were well received by the audience in the room. As Janetta pointed out at the end, it’s not just about the process; it’s also about the people.

It’s not just about the process; it’s also about the people.

Janetta Waterhouse

The second presentation was given by Catherin Soehner, associate dean for research and user services at the University of Utah, focusing on how to keep our sanity in an ever-changing world for both employees and leaders in an organization. First, she introduced internal warfare (“us against them”), a typical phenomenon that was recognized by almost all of the people in the room. Typical actions on how people responded to change were described based on their place in the organizational structure (top, middle, and bottom), then respectively followed by tools for sanity. Then Catherine asked two questions to the audience on feedback and transparency. What do we expect or hope will happen when we are asked to give feedback? What do we expect or hope will happen when we ask our leaders to be transparent? These two interesting questions led to discussion around our expectations as both employees and leaders on how to provide feedback and how to evaluate feedback from others.

What do we expect or hope will happen when we are asked to give feedback? What do we expect or hope will happen when we ask our leaders to be transparent?

Catherin Soehner

Caroline Muglia, co-associate dean for collections and head of resource sharing & collection assessment at the University of Southern California, gave the audience a presentation on how to manage an integrated library system (ILS) migration by using strategies similar to a get-out-the-vote campaign. She shared her insights on how to facilitate the opportunity for people find themselves in change, how to manage change to encourage and empower people to take ownership of their role in the outcomes, and also what obstacles we are creating to prevent our colleagues from contributing to their own future. As she pointed out at the end, change is hard but it’s not insurmountable.

Denise Pan, associate dean of collections and content at the University of Washington (UW), illustrated a case study on changing culture and practice by using John P Kotter’s eight steps for leading change. She particularly focused on how to translate the theories into actual activities at UW.

Throughout the entire session, there were group discussion activities when participants engaged in active learning. At the end of the day, everyone in the room felt so motivated. As Fred Ross said, “A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire.”

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