American Library Association
Library Administration & Management Association
Human Resources Section
Emerging Trends Discussion Group
ALA Annual Conference 2008
Anaheim, California / Sheraton Park Hotel A
Monday, June 30, 2008 / 10:30 a.m. – Noon
Summary of Discussion Group
The Human Resources Section of the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA) hosted the
Section’s first Emerging Trends Discussion Group at the 2008 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim,
California. Fifty-eight people attended the 90-minute morning discussion.
A petition to officially form the discussion group was circulated and subsequently taken to the Committee on
Organization (COO). COO is responsible for making a recommendation to the LAMA Board (this
recommendation was made by COO later in the conference and was approved making the discussion group
official). One suggestion made was to have future co-chairs be representative of public and academic
The initial part of the discussion focused on what major trends exist at the current time in library workplaces.
The question posed was: What are the major trends you are seeing in all areas of human resources in
your library workplace?
One academic librarian feels that the “employment for life” perspective is changing and that early-
career librarians do not expect to work for one employer or institution for their whole career.
There is an increased interest and emphasis on work-life balance.
More libraries are seeing an emphasis and demand for Learning 2.0. Staff need more learning and
development and training opportunities once on the job. Employees want to learn more about their
jobs and how to do them well while also wanting more career development programs such as
interviewing skills. Opportunities related to succession planning are also hot.
There is an increasing amount of short-term project work that is attractive to new graduates. Some
projects take as long as a year and half and provide new workers with the opportunity to improve
There is increasing interest in a “blurring of the lines” between librarians and staff and it’s coming
from both librarians and staff.
Some libraries report a growth in the number of exempt positions which is increasing the size of the
staff in some cases and changing the demographics of the staff in others and reflecting the changing
nature of the work in libraries of all types. Many libraries are converting non-exempt (hourly)
positions to exempt (salaried) positions when vacancies occur. This reflects the change from clerical
work to more professional work.
It is challenging to get H1B visas for librarians.
One of the needs in the area of staff development is for change management and all the skills
required to effectively manage change.
The mentoring of new librarian faculty is another area of emerging need.
LLAMA HRS Emerging Trends Discussion Group Summary / ALA Annual Conference 2008 / Page 1 of 4
The “hybrid librarian” is in more demand. This is a librarian with strong information technology
The cost of the benefit portfolio for employers, particularly in the areas of health care and retirement,
is increasing significantly which is a challenge for employers.
Recruitment continues to be challenging. Finding individuals with the right skills and with up-to-
date knowledge and willing to remain up-to-date is the key. New graduates have strong skills being
sought by many libraries, public and academic, and the most current information.
Achieving consensus in a workforce with multigenerational teams is emerging as an organizational
issue. The question of “who will get to speak first?” in meetings is an issue between senior librarians
and staff and early-career/newer librarians and staff.
In the employee relations area, there is an increased need for skills related to supervising and
managing individuals with a broad spectrum of medical issues, i.e., leaves, accommodations, effect
of medications, etc.
Another related issue is figuring out how to deal with physical restrictions such as lifting,
particularly in jobs that require such tasks. This factor is also related to the aging of the population
The number of management retirements looming is driving a need for succession planning and
Another library is not seeing the anticipated/projected retirements. In some cases, this stifles
innovation and the ability of the organization to change.
The issue of how to capture the knowledge the Baby Boomers will take away from the organization
is a concern.
In some organizations, individuals who plan to retire in the near future are reluctant to learn new
skills or take on new work. This emerges as the “I am retiring soon so I don’t need to learn
Another aspect of this is the attitude of “We always done it that way.” Finding the right balance
between acknowledging and understanding history while staying open to innovation and change is
The ability to collaborate beyond the library is a new skill that is highly desirable.
One trend is “scope creep” which reflects the addition of new services and the need for staff to wear
many hats and assume new duties, responsibilities, and roles.
Getting employees to identify with the library as a whole rather than with their own individual unit.
The desire and need for open communication is increasing.
In consortia, the need for collaborative research and development and creation of “common
sandboxes” to foster new innovation and to develop new skills is increasing the demand for more
continuing education and learning and development and training opportunities.
One concern of many is whether or not the library profession is competitive with other professions.
Are our salaries competitive? Is the work attractive? Are we employers of choice?
The affordability of housing and rising living expenses such as gasoline and food prices is a major
The rise in the cost of living is increasing the number of requests for telecommuting arrangements in
organizations of all types as well as for alternative schedules such as 4/10s (4 work days/10 hours per
The backlash to affirmative action is making it more difficult to recruit and retain diverse
Service changes are driving the need for more changes particularly for senior librarians and staff who
are not as well trained or up-to-date on Web technologies. In some cases, the individual has some of
the technological skills but does not possess the right attitude to do the job.
There is an increased integration of the library with other campus entities, particularly in areas
related to scholarly communication and digitization. These are areas the library and librarians can
take the lead.
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The second question discussed by the group was “What best practices are you using to address these
trends and changes?”
One public library is using the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Challenge to empower staff learning.
Different staff members are presenting on the topics in the challenge to build skills. The topics are
such things as: “How to Create a Blog,” “Trying Out Twitter.” Using these topics, staff are training
themselves and each other and learning how to do more new things.
One library is using facilitation training for Library 2.0.
Another library is working on developing a more flexible and agile environment via a staff cross-
training program to encourage staff to be more open to moving around in the organization.
One library is encouraging staff to present training sessions on new trends and new developments on
a regular basis to foster innovation and creativity.
In meetings, one librarian has introduced the concept of asking “dangerous questions,” i.e., the
questions no one wants to or thinks to ask. Such questions might be: Do we have to use Dewey as
our classification system? What if we let customers be in charge of their experience? Who can we
partner with in the community to address the issues of homelessness? The goal is get everyone to
think differently and more expansively.
One library is recalling retirees to fill in and manage projects as a part of succession management.
One library is trying to identify the needed competencies beginning with identifying what type of
work will be done in the library. They are also using competency-based interviewing and
Another library is involving staff in project planning to increase participation and build skills.
Training the management team is a best practice of another library which has focused on effective
and timely performance management and communication training.
In regard to the blurring of lines between librarians and staff, some libraries and institutions are
revamping their classification systems and creating categories such as classified staff, civil service
staff, librarian, and management.
Another university, the University of Arizona, created a new title of “Information Associate” which
is a coordinator role for individuals in programmatic areas.
The University of Florida has created new series – Library Assistant I – III and Library Associate I –
III. The new series reflects the significance and complexity of the work. At the higher levels, the
qualifications and salary reflect the work. The new series creates a career path.
In the area of benefits, some organizations are creating benefits lists or documents that tell an
employee the financial value of the benefits package. One institution is providing each employee
with an annual income statement that outlines salary and captures and explicates benefits costs. In
addition, information sessions are held to provide an overview, answer questions, and reinforce the
message about trends in benefits and the value of the benefits offerings. This assists with retention
in some cases.
Yale University recognizes that potential employees look beyond the institution, campus, and
workplace and are interested in the community. Concerns of new recruits related to housing, school
system, employment for spouses and partners, work/life balance. This has led to the campus
coordinating with other entities in the community to collaborate on various issues. As a result,
“community relations” is now part of human resources work at Yale.
Advocating for higher pay for librarians and library staff is another best practice. Some libraries
have had success in comparing jobs to those in information technology, instructional technology.
In one community, the public library has expanded its services to offer programs and workshops for
job hunters as part of a community-based program entitled “Bridges on Poverty” and are offering
resume and interviewing workshops for those in the community seeking work. This helps to ensure
there is a community for the public library to serve.
Finally, the group discussed “What keeps you up at night? What is the one problem you would solve if
you could only solve one problem?”
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Hire more staff of all types. Many are afraid to accept jobs and move in the current economic
End resistance to change.
Develop staff more and retrain good staff with new skills.
Get people to understand that sweeping problems under the rug is not healthy and encouraging
creation of a culture where conflict is addressed in a healthy manner. The unwillingness to address
difficult issues and problems, human resources and otherwise, causes more harm than good in the
In the employee relations areas, find a way to help staff “let it go” and move on so there is not as
much of a need for counseling by human resources.
In times of heavy personnel changes, be able to hold people accountable and eliminate favoritism.
Involve more people and make expectations clear. Be fair and ethical. Be able to foster a work place
where staff let the little things go because the big things are good and it’s becoming or has become a
great place to work.
Make process transparent and offer multiple ways for staff to offer comments and suggestions. This
In the area of scope creep, find out if we are asking too much of individuals for the salary.
Move more training into the online environment and less in the classroom
Figure out a way to reduce stress for employees to enhance retention, reduce labor tension, and
eliminate grievances and lawsuits.
Find a way to eliminate violence in the workplace. Recent incidents reflect the reality it could
happen. Safety for students, faculty, and staff is critical.
Enhance disaster preparedness planning by putting together task forces with broad campus, local,
and regional representation.
Compiled by Jenifer Abramson and Pat Hawthorne
LAMA HRS Emerging Trends Discussion Group—August 2008
LLAMA HRS Emerging Trends Discussion Group Summary / ALA Annual Conference 2008 / Page 4 of 4