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Take One: January 8, 2013 (Recommendations from Managers’ Council and LEG Response to CUL Staff Concerns)

As a follow-up the university employee survey the Managers’ Council, with the support of the Library Forum, held a series of listening sessions last year to seek greater clarity about specific library staff concerns. Your combined comments led Managers’ Council to develop a list of ten recommendations for the Library Executive Group to consider, among them the recommendation to hold library-wide discussions on doing less with less. I am pleased to share with you the full set of recommendations and suggested strategies for moving forward on concerns that library staff members mentioned. As you will see in reading through them, we have made some progress, with more to come. Our effort in responding to some of these recommendations will be informed by the final reports (due January 15) from the priority objective teams formed to move forward CUL’s strategic plan. In part our efforts will be informed by University HR efforts in key areas to address staff concerns at the university level. These recommendations are also being posted on the “Library-wide Conversation” page on Staff Web at I welcome your comments and questions.

Recommendations from Managers’ Council and LEG Response to CUL Staff Concerns

1)  Develop and articulate updated clear vision and mission statements for the Library.
Done!  The vision and mission statements and the next steps in advancing the CUL strategic plan have been added to the CUL web site Posted as first link under “Inside the Library.” Our five “Next Steps” have been added to the “Toward 2015: CUL Strategic Plan” page at on the Staff Web page.

2)  Provide clear rationales for decisions at all management levels including how decisions relate back to CUL's vision, mission, and our stated priorities.

  • Senior administrators shall enhance their communication of library-wide decisions, which should be announced prior to implementation

-- Each All-staff meeting will provide updates on library-wide decisions and directions

-- AULs will utilize a range of ways to communicate clearly and regularly with their relevant managers about library-wide decisions and invite questions/observations about these decisions

  • Managers will communicate unit-based decisions to affected staff on a timely basis, tying the decisions as appropriate to CUL’s stated priorities and will interpret how library-wide decisions may/will affect their units
  • Supervisors will help individual staff members understand the effect of decisions on their work
  • Staff shall have an opportunity to assess managerial/supervisory effectiveness in communicating changes in policies and priorities as part of staff supervisor reviews (note the university is working on recommendations on supervisory feedback)

3)  Explain the rationale for making collection growth a priority and acknowledge the staffing needs that come with increased collecting.

  • Acknowledge the impact of additional collection growth on staff responsibilities and current approaches; incorporate those calculations into decisions regarding acquisitions and financial support for collections building
  • Provide updates on building support for collections in All-staff meetings and whenever major progress is made in securing additional collections support
  • Hold an information session (Library Forum?) on strategic directions in CUL collection development, including the impact of collections support, collaborative collection building in 2CUL and Borrow Direct, and increased efforts to understand collection usage and needs.
  • Selection Teams should engage others in a dialog on collection priorities and strategic directions

4)  Regularly acknowledge the importance of staff contributions at all levels; ensure the free flow of ideas from staff to managers to senior administrators and vice versa.

  • Continue using and referencing the Library staff triangle image (below) that Anne used in her All-staff presentation. The triangle notes where library resources are invested and illustrates that the majority of staff commitment is devoted to mainstream programs and services, and that when project initiatives become mainstreamed, other work must be pulled out of the system to accommodate them.  
  • Encourage managers to discuss with their teams how their particular services support the Library's vision, mission, and current strategic goals. Managers should constantly look to "connect the dots" in their communications and interactions with their staff.
  • Review supervisory staff training program to ensure that staff recognition is understood as a vital component of effective management
  • Ensure that staff are provided the means and the confidence to communicate ideas for service improvement and to raise questions with supervisors and upper level management.  
  • Staff shall have an opportunity to assess managerial/supervisory effectiveness in acknowledging and supporting staff and soliciting their input as part of staff supervisory reviews (note the university is working on recommendation on supervisory feedback).

5)  Institute more direct interactions between the AULs and staff.

  • Hold Library Forums on getting to know AULs (Done!)
  • AULs should share information and perspectives using a variety of means (e.g., all-unit meetings, regular updates)
  • AULs should encourage staff to bring ideas and concerns to them through a variety of mechanisms (e.g., office hours, departmental meetings/visits).
  • Departments/units should be encouraged to invite AULs to attend meetings to discuss key issues/concerns
  • See also recommendation #2

6)  Recognize and reward innovation and excellence wherever it occurs.

  • Embrace a broad definition of "innovation" that includes improvements to existing services and processes as well as new projects
  • Encourage managers to recognize and celebrate innovations large and small
  • Encourage the Library Forum to hold an annual innovation forum so that staff can highlight novel contributions
  • Consider establishing an innovation award that recognizes staff contributions to service improvements and new capabilities
  • Invite and recognize everyone who was nominated for the staff excellence award to the annual award ceremony
  • Staff shall have an opportunity to assess managerial/supervisory effectiveness in recognizing innovation and excellence as part of staff supervisor reviews (note the university is working on recommendations on supervisory feedback)

7) Hold a library-wide conversation on how to do less with less.
This is underway!

8)  Optimize the committee structure and clearly define responsibilities.
Note: these recommendations may be informed by the final report of the Priority VII.1 team.

  • Drawing on the work of the Strategic Priority VII.1 team, senior administrators will review standing committees in all functional areas, with an eye to consolidating committees with overlapping responsibilities, replacing standing committees with limited-term working groups or task forces where this would increase effectiveness, and retiring committees that are no longer needed.
  • Senior administration will ensure that committee reporting lines as well as the responsibilities of committee chairs, ex-officio members, and sponsors are rational and understood. Information about committee reporting will be made available on the CUL staff web.
  • Chairs of committees, task forces, and working groups and their sponsors in the senior administration will ensure that each group has a formal charge that is up-to-date and readily accessible to all CUL staff. Charges should make clear if (and under what conditions) the group is empowered to make decisions about policy and fund allocation, or if its role is to make recommendations to a senior sponsor.
  • Sponsors, chairs and committee members should develop a precise and common understanding of the groups’ charge and work.
  • Chairs and sponsors of committees, task forces, and working groups will seek to draw membership from staff from across CUL units and functional areas, as appropriate, being mindful of time commitments and individual unit needs.
  • When the work of a committee, task force, or working group requires information or expertise from CUL units or individual staff members not represented on the group, chairs will ensure that input is sought in a timely fashion – early in the planning process, if appropriate.

9)  Clarify the Decision-Making Process.

  • In order to avoid the possibility of micro-management or miscommunication, managers should always explain and review what decisions are made at the individual, team, and unit level with the goal of empowering staff to make appropriate decisions
  • Every new charge and every assignment (at the individual or group level) should articulate where the decision-making authority lies
  • Actions requiring buy-in from a group or individuals should be sought at the most appropriate time, e.g., at the beginning or final stages of an effort.
  • Staff shall have an opportunity to assess managerial/supervisory effectiveness in clarifying decision making and vesting such decisions at the appropriate level as part of staff supervisory reviews (note the university is working on recommendation on supervisory feedback).

10) Provide opportunities for staff to deepen their expertise.
Note: these recommendations may be informed by the final report of the Priority VII.2 team and the university’s initiative in determining job competencies

  • Make use of online, webinar-type presentations and training in group settings. Build events around the online content, to include discussion, feedback, etc.
  • Offer library-wide funding for staff participation in conferences or training events. Open to staff without other funding resources (possibly through an application process).
  • Allow for more opportunities in cross-training, both within units and across units and libraries. This might be carried out through an expansion and strengthening of the current mentorship program. 
  • HR should clarify the training budget that is available for staff development and the process for securing support.

Have a healthy and productive week,

Anne R. Kenney
Carl A. Kroch University Librarian
Cornell University Library

201 Olin Library
Ithaca, New York 14853-5301
t. 607.255.6875
f. 607.255.6788

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