Case Study: You Can’t Please Everyone All The Time
Mending Relationships Between Librarians and Library Technicians
Organizational Context
The Beginning
The Solution
The Dilemma
Questions For Discussion
Key Learning Points

The Beginning - Getting To Know The Staff

Our library seemed to have two very distinct environments. The librarians tended to keep to themselves, haunting either the reference desk during their scheduled shifts, or remaining in their offices to complete their other work. I encouraged them to take their breaks or eat their lunch in the staff room, but they insisted on remaining in their offices, a behaviour which seemed to be rooted in tradition. I had to make a real effort to meet with them in order to discuss what went on in the library, and often found myself knocking on their office doors and apologizing for interrupting their work.

Next, there was the circulation desk, inhabited by my library technicians. Initially I felt uncomfortable and a bit of an outsider around them, but they eventually realized I was genuinely trying to get to know them and relaxed a little. After a month or so, I did not hesitate to take my lunch in the staff lunchroom during common break times, nor did I refrain from stopping by the circulation desk to inquire about how things were going. I made a conscious effort to do this daily and at different times of the day so that I could interact with all my staff. The librarians, however, were very surprised by how friendly I was with the other staff members, as the past director had chosen not to socialize with the ‘non-academic’ staff. I felt this staff division was a significant issue and decided to meet with all members of staff individually to discuss it.

Talking to the librarians about the library technicians was difficult. They were both of the opinion that because the library technicians lacked a MLIS, they were not as skilled as the librarians were. The public services librarian commented that the librarians had nothing in common with the other staff members, and the technical services librarian stated she did not want to consult with the library technicians because they did not have any academic training. The library technicians were more passionate about the issue. They were not pleased with how they were viewed and treated by the librarians, and felt they were not valued. Many shared stories about interactions or comments directed at them that made them feel belittled, unnecessary and ‘stupid’. Most of the library technicians had an Information Management diploma from a local college, yet the librarians did not recognize this. The circulation manager was especially fiery with her comments. She insisted that the library technicians put their hearts and souls into their work, yet had never received so much as a ‘thank you’ from the academic staff. She herself was interested in possibly extending her own skills and abilities, but did not have the means to acquire a bachelors degree, never mind attempt an MLIS. Obviously, I was concerned by these revelations, and intended to do something to fix the oppressive environment that swirled around our students, faculty and other patrons.

Case study written by Lisa Shamchuk for LIS 504 (Leadership and Management Principles for Library and Information Services). Wordle created and website coded for LIS 600 (Capping Exercise), as part of the Master of Library and Information Studies program at the University of Alberta. Modified February 27, 2010.