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61st IFLA General Conference - Conference Proceedings - August 20-25, 1995

Identity, integrity, legitimacy and internal acceptance - four key factors to be pursued by any successful organization in the future

Ake Lindstrom, DIK Association, Nacka, Sweden


I have been working - paid or voluntarily - in organisations most of my life. For 25 years I have been hired by professional associations in Sweden and been promoting their interests in different way s. The issues have been education, research, professional development, job opportunities, negotiating salaries, promoting the acceptance and status of librarians and other professionals.

During all these years librarians and thus the opportunities for libraries have been an important part of my work. Since 1973 I have been a volunteer in different positions in the Swedish Library Ass ociation. Professionally I have been working for the DIK-Association (Documentation, Information and Culture), an organisation with 14 000 members, out of those almost 6 000 librarians. The DIK-Association is one out of 25 member organisations in the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations. The other organisations representing among others medical doctors, veterinarians, lawyers, professors, teachers, psychologists, pharmacists, engineers, science majors, dentists.

Why this paper?

Sweden is a small country in northern Europe. A country with a long tradition of organizing both the public, private and civil sector rather well. Roughly from 1870 to 1970 Sweden experienced 100 yea rs of continual economic growth. During this time we developed an effective industrial society and we developed what we call "the welfare state". This entire development was made possible by economic growth and a close cooperation between the public and the private sector. Voluntary organisations played their part as a complement to an extent that is hard to understand by anyone who didn't exper ience it. During the sixties it all reached its peak. "The Swedish Model" was considered to be something for any other country to copy.

Since 1970 the situation in Sweden has changed. The economy is not what it was. The Swedish Model in its old way won't reoccur. The well functioning cooperation between the public sector and the priv ate sector is no more there in the old way. The voluntary organisations are still important but also questioned. It is no more self evident to be an active member in an organisation pursuing a specif ic goal. Organisations - be they public, as most libraries, or voluntary as the ones I work with - are questioned. They are pressured in terms of economy and also sometimes when it comes to relevanc e.

In this situation we have had a couple of groups, where I have been taking part - working within the Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations. What are the problems today? What will they b e tomorrow? How do we act in order to fulfill the goals and requirements of members? What is necessary in order to be a viable organisation of relevance in the future? These are example of questions we have been discussing.

In order to reach hopefully wise conclusions we have used professors, consultants, friends and foes. In the following I will share our results.

The Life Cycle of a Voluntary Organisation

In most countries voluntary organisations are formed in order to pursue the particular interests of a group of people.

Such an organisation is formalized. The very reason for forming it is to promote the interests of the particular group as opposed to other interests or interest groups. The interests may pertain to t he situation for the group or group members in their own field or may pertain to circumstances in the surrounding world that they want to see changed.

Example of these kind of organisations are: labour unions, employer organisations, professional associations, political parties, religious organisations, organisations to promote interests of a speci fic area such as libraries.

(Bild 1)
The Life Cycle of An Organisation



E= Need is established, Primary group formed, Informal organisation and decision making, Volunteer work, Strong leadership

G= Pioneers spread the idea, Organisation and decision making formalized, Local chapters formed, People are hired, Strong and broad engagement by members

R= "Take home" of investments, Acceptance by the establishment, Focus on board meetings and internal working groups, Expansion slows down, Internal work expands, The area of interest is broadened

I= Degenration of the basic ideas, Authority of leadership deminished, Bureaucratization, Networks, The hired people dominate. Gap between hired and volunteers broadens. Engagement by meners deminish es

D= Survival - the primary goal, No renewal, Low authority in leadership, Accelerating the defense against outer or inner threats against stability and survival

R= Renewal of ideas, Concentration on "core business", renewal of organisation, Freeing from establishment, Need of individual member in the center, Improvement of service, "Butchering of holy cows"

In our analysis we have found that many organisations in Sweden have described a development largely similar to the one described in the Life Cycle Curve above. Certainly it may be exaggerated. Certa inly many organisations don't experience all the stages described. But many organisations in Sweden have problems. Some are in a crisis. They meet a decrease in membership and economic difficulties. These are oftentimes symtoms concealing other more deep problems. Therefore we are sure that it is useful to discuss our own organisations in the context described. Our aim being to develop and renew our work to reach efficiency. The direction must be the one that is effective to reach the goals of the members at any particular time.

Four key factors to be successful in the future

According to our experience every organisation thus continually should stop to think. Otherwise it won't be as effective as possible. In this process we mean that four key factors are to be considere d, identity, integrity, legitimacy and internal acceptance.

An organisation that has identity, integrity, legitimacy and internal acceptance will be strong and therefore will be successful. It will be able to deliver the results the members expect. An organis ation that lacks any of these elements will have problems more or less serious. It will have to go back to the life cycle curve and analyze its situation to find what actions should be taken to elimi nate problems and weaknesses and get back to the right track.

To define your mission and to be successful

In most societies today you work in a more or less chaotic situation. The pace of change is tremendous. What is true today we know won't be true tomorrow. A society of peasants have changed to indust ry and is now rapidly changing into what we call "the society of information" or "the society of knowledge". This means new requirements for any kind of organisation. It may be a voluntary organisati on, such as a library association, or a public organisation such as a library.

What are requirements that we can foresee? Without trying to be complete I want to point to a number of matters to be considered. These and others should be used to form a strategy. A strategy to ser ve our mission to put the resourceful, effective library in the center.

The change and development of values
Values in society are developing and changing. What we valued in the fifties or sixties are not the values of today or tomorrow. How do we go about foreseeing what values we in our organisations will have to accept, fight and/or serve? According to present Swedish research we should analyze what are the values of people under 24 years of age and of women younger than forty. Their values will be prevailing five to ten years from now and possibly thereafter. If we adapt to them we will be more successful than otherwise.

Money will be scarce.
Regardless of the economic or political situation we might have, we should foresee that we will have to work with a much tougher discussion when it comes to money. This means that we must produce mor e with less. We probably can't work much harder, but we have to work smarter. There is a lot to be rationalized in the way we work. The visitors have to do more themselves. At the same time they have to get more qualified guidance and service.

Technological development - a threat or a possibility?
We know that the technological development will be fast. It gives us a lot of possibilities but also threats. How should we use the new technology? What does it imply when it comes to new services? H ow to handle staff? When should we go with technology? When should we fight it? I consider it wise to try to be more permissive than many think. Libraries should be in the center of the IT-developmen t. To me this is the most strategic matter since Gutenberg. What other than libraries and librarians can bridge the gap between those who know and understand and those who donīt?

The Chancellor of the Swedish Universities, a professor of physics, described what he would do if he had to form a new university. He said: First I would get an easy-chair, then a coffe-maker, then I would form a library and start reading. I don't know when a professor will be necessary. We know that knowledge is the key to success in the future. This means that people regardless of position in the production process will need more, broader and deeper knowledge. They will need contin ual education. The change in conditions will be fast. They will need it before, during and after work. They will get access to it in loads of new ways. Some that we know today. Many that we don't. Th e distribution of knowledge has already been revolutionized. And this is only the beginning.

In schools and in other educational facilities as well as in the middle of the market, that is where people mingle, the library must be visable. It is a strategic matter not only for those working in the library but most of all for those needing its services that the library is easily accessable.

Less staff must produce more with even higher quality. This means that the library staff must get more continual education to always be at the front of development. Any employer has to realize that t he most important ingredient in a library of high quality is librarians with peak education, librarians that together are working according to a set strategy to fulfill the goals that are set up.

In most production management more than anything else decides to what extent the organisation succeeds in fulfilling its mission. At least in Sweden we state that managing a public institution - be i t a university or a public library - is more difficult than managing a private business. The key problem is the often unclear goal. To this comes the political control which oftentimes is unclear or fast changing in its aims. This means that it is very difficult to be a really good manager for a library. In years to come we also will experience a quest for flat organisations. They will prove to be more effective. Hierarchies will be long gone sooner than we think. This means that the role of management will change. And the managers having to be leading change.

At least in Sweden I feel sure that libraries and librarians will meet a number of years dominated by challenge. It will be economically tough. It will require lots of changes. Flexibility is a neces sity. But at the same time I am convinced that never before have the opportunities been so great, the role so important, and the expectance from outside the library so great.