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64th IFLA General Conference
August 16 - August 21, 1998
Code Number: 135-96-E
Division Number: II.
Professional Group: Biological and Medical Sciences Libraries
Joint Meeting with: Science and Technology Libraries
Meeting Number: 96.
Simultaneous Interpretation: No
Changing the Culture - Job Design, Work Processes and Qualifications in the Hybrid Library
Technical Knowledge Center & Library of Denmark
This paper focus on the role of the staff in the process where the library is changing from the traditional paper based library towards the hybrid library. The experiences at The Technical Knowledge Center & Library of Denmark are described, especially in developing and implementing services based on electronic information and being a partner in developing new teaching and learning environments requires that a whole new set of qualifications has to be available inside the library.
The Technical Knowledge Center & Library of Denmark (DTV)
Is the library at The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) as well as the national center for scientific, technical and engineering information in Denmark. DTV is situated at the DTU campus 6 miles north of Copenhagen the capital of Denmark.
DTV has always been at the forefront when it comes to implementing new technology in library and information services in Denmark. To illustrate this DTV has been development partner for Exlibris' ALEPH library system and are participating in a number of European and Nordic funded development projects. The first WorldWideWeb-server in Denmark was in operation at DTV in the summer of 1993 - that was the time when the Internet was considered a toy for computer nerds and only a few researchers, decision makers and library directors had any idea of what this technology would develop into. The library has been undergoing major changes through the last six years as a result of the implementation of new information technologies and the increasing capabilities of end-users to access, retrieve and process information from their own desktop and there are no signs that this process will stop on the contrary. This mean that the change from traditional library to the hybrid library will have profound effect on the role of the librarians. Changes we already are witnessing at The Technical Knowledge Center & Library of Denmark.
From a traditional to an innovative hybrid library
The main challenge is to change the organisation from a library that's focusing on the automation of internal processes into a more user-oriented and innovative organisation that are focused on the provision of electronic information to the users desktop and to make electronic state-of-the-art facilities at disposition for the students in the library - the IT-student library. In respect to that for a long time there will be information on paper parallel to the explosion in electronic information - the hybrid library.
Developing and implementing services based on electronic information and being a partner in developing new teaching and learning environments requires that a whole new set of qualifications has to be available inside the library. Along operating the traditional paper based library, new services has to be invented, available technological solutions has to be implemented and applied in the daily operations and comprehensive programme for continuos education and in-house training has to be established.
On the basis of a project description an application to the Danish Labour Directorate relations was made. The directorate had funding available to projects designed to contribute to the development, change and growth of public institutions towards more customer oriented services as well as design of attractive jobs for the staff employed by those institutions. The project - hereafter labelled the JULIA-project - was granted £ 50.000 from these funds. Our own financial contribution was calculated to be £100.000.
The primary objectives of the project was to ensure, that the transition to the hybrid library was a direct process, by which the design of new jobs, new work processes, qualifications and on-the-job training were well considered, thereby preventing feelings of insecurity naturally felt with regard to drastic changes in the work environment.
Furthermore the objective is to utilise the new technological possibilities to create more comprehensive jobs for all employees regardless of there educational background. It was a condition of the funding, that the project was established on the basis of mutual understanding between the management, the liaison committee and the staff and that there was a continuos information and reporting procedure to the liaison committee and the staff in general. A project team was formed consisting of 4 managers and 6 staffs from different departments and with different educational background and the project work took off in august 1997.
On of the major objectives for the JULIA-project was to design the jobs in the electronic library. The basic assumption was that the work processes in the traditional paper based library was well known and well described and that it would be an if not easy then at least double task to describe the work processes in the electronic library. The process of the project has proven, that this was not the case.
What we have learned here is that the transition towards the hybrid library does not take place in a vacuum - the transition cannot be seen upon as an experiment in a laboratory where one can control all environmental conditions. On the contrary external forces has every chance to alter the plans and prospects of the project - the transition takes place in a very turbulent environment.
Furthermore there seems to be very little help in the neighbourhood as to get inspiration on how to design more comprehensive jobs in an electronic library. The JULIA-project group undertook - as a part of the project - a study tour to Tilburg, University of Westminster and Thames Valley University to visit sites, where the transition towards the digital library, the Learning Resource Centre etc. was in progress. We wanted especially to study developments in the division of labour between categories of staff. Although the tour gave valuable insights in some aspects of the construction of the modern library and information services - for instance in the physical integration of paper based, electronic services and new teaching and learning support services - it was rather apparent, that there at these sites still was a rather sharp division of labour between the different categories of staff - especially between subject specialists, generalists (librarians) and clerical staff.
It has for years and increasingly so been the strategy at DTV to generate overlap between different categories of staff in order to reduce staff cost on higher paid staff and create more comprehensive and challenging jobs for the less formal educated. The fact that very few libraries to date has taken more radical steps towards the electronic library plus the fact that the available technologies develop at a very fast pace has made it rather clear that the new library world will do its best by saying farewell to the well known very specific and thus static job descriptions and instead facilitate the individual staff with the necessary tools to continuously create their own jobs. This can be done by implementing a combination of different tools:
- Inducing a certain pressure or competition as to the necessity to be updated, curious and self responsible in order to be valuable for the organisation.
- Organising the institution in such a way, that the individual staff has the competence to make decisions on their own, take individual and group wise initiatives without having to pass several levels of decision makers, allow staff to make mistakes and learn.
- Facilitate self organised or group organised education or development of competence "on demand" - that is with very short notice, for instance by establishing the technological conditions for distance learning and communication.
In short instead of creating the job description, the important thing is to facilitate the framework for the individual staff to create and change the job on a continuos basis.
The evaluation of the JULIA-project was laid in the hands of an external consultant company in the form of a focus group meeting. This meeting and discussion took place in April 1998 and the participants were 18 staffs - representing all categories of staff and all departments - and all were "customers" of the project - that is no one were from the core project group. The participants were to answer a number of questions in writing anonymously and thereafter participate in a 3 hour discussion with the consultant.
The main outcome of this evaluation can be summarised this way:
All categories of staff reports that their present jobs represent the fact that DTV is in a state of transition from the paper based library to the hybrid library - the current job consists of old and new tasks. They consider DTV as a good place to work, with challenging tasks and that they have a bigger variation in their jobs and can take advantage of more of their experiences on the job. It is a common view that the recent changes has led to a greater distribution of responsibilities, and they experience better opportunities to make the decisions by themselves, that problems with more that one solution come more frequently and they experience more involvement in the development of library services and how IT can support this development.
The evaluation reports that the staff do not feel that they are defensive, on the contrary they feel prompted to be at the forefront and to explore those opportunities the IT development offers and recognise that part of the responsibility is their own as individuals.
Continuing training - lifelong learning
One of the topics of the project was to experiment with distance work and distance education. The project funding included a minor contribution (£ 3.000) as support for the purchase and installation of PC´s in the homes of 8 staff. However it was decided, that 70 PC´s was leased and installed in the homes of every single member of staff during February 1998. The PC´s are networked to the library and all telecommunication expenses are paid for by the library (call back modem), the work-stations is implemented with the Microsoft Office Environment and other resources which is needed for education and training at home. This action has proven to be a very good initiative. It has boosted the activities of the staff as to keeping updated with developments on the net, engagement in net-based distance learning and has contributed significantly to a more optimistic view on the individuals future in the organisation. And it gives the management the opportunity to see to which extend the staff is interested in working from there home. At present 45 of the 70 staff are engaged in obtaining a distance learning based approved PC-user-education. The deployment of the PC´s has also encouraged the staff to make use of the different electronic conferences installed by the library - where they for instance use colleagues for advice, exchange and test of new ideas. As a matter of fact a whole new attitude to responsibility for keeping qualifications up to date has developed. Earlier one could frequently meet the opinion that the responsibility for the staffs qualifications solely was in the hand of the management. Now the majority of the staff expresses that given that the institution has set up facilities for the continuos education the responsibility is at least a shared one.
The future of the project - a hot spot
From the evaluation and other expressions there are a uniform demand that the project is continued. The JULIA-project - the project group and the activities - has surely developed into a hot spot in the organisation. No doubt the activities will go on and the spirit from the project will grow further in the coming activities as to all the different measures that has to be taken in order to proceed towards the hybrid library.
Qualifications of staff
Support, skills and attitude of staff is the most important factor that determines the performance and appreciation of the library from the users point of view. In the hybrid library there will be a wide range of new and interesting jobs, for staff regardless of there educational background:
Categories of staff
- IT-technicians, network-staff
- System designers:
- Database constructors, web-designers, development staff
- Project managers
- Information consultants - "teachers"
- Information providers:
- Electronic (and paper based) services
- Document delivery staff:
- Staff involved in information distribution (articles, books etc.)
- Support staff:
- "Super secretaries", administrative staff
- Tools: MS-Office, e-mail, e-conferences, HTML, browsers, Internet
- Language: English (read, write and speak)
- Personal qualities
- Curiosity, "self starters", "risk-takers", "self educators", flexible
- Social qualities
- Tolerate "chaos"
- Tolerate "stress"
- Project oriented
- Ability to work in loosely defined environments
The traditional differentiation between "professional" and "non-professional" will diminish as the information technology releases people from routine, time consuming tasks. What I have seen so far is that it is possible to cope with the feeling of uncertainty engendered by rapid and unpredictable changes in the environment by giving the staff room for taking responsibility for self-management in which training, personal development are part and also the ability to remain flexible, share knowledge and expertise with colleagues and to communicate. However , the most important lessons with a project which has the human resource side as its main focus is that it is possible to tackle rather dramatic shifts in an organisation without having to cope with more or less explicit reluctance or resistance by the staff provided the management is committed to invest in and facilitate an appropriate environment for personal growth, responsive to bottom-up initiatives and ideas and thus making it possible to envisage an attractive future based on ones own active contribution to this future.