The largest structural dilemma facing the library was integration. Integration is the process of organizing employees on what their job responsibilities are and how to coordinate all those responsibilities with a diverse group of people. The organization had clearly defined efforts on who was responsible for what particular job, but the real issue came as a result from “when the “what” gets done and how (Bolman & Deal, 2013, pg. 49). In relation to the problem with integration, complications with vertical and lateral integration were also a concern.
A majority of these dilemmas stemmed from the upper hierarchy at the ain Service Center faculty to coordinate and control the work effectively between all branches. According to Bolman & Deal (2013), authority is the “most basic and ubiquitous way to harmonize efforts of individuals, unites or divisions” (pg. 51). The responsibility of managers, directors and those higher up is to ensure all efforts of the organization align with the mission. In order to due so they must ensure all their employees are happy. Many of the KCLS employees had complaints with resolving conflicts, policies and systems in place in the library system.
The olicy of the KCLS system for decision-making primarily deals with the director’s Administrative Council, also known as the DAC. The DAC comprised of the director, assistant director and the six deputy librarians. This group was the sole governing body with final say on all changes to policies, systems, rules, etc. in the organization. There were a few committees of standing and ad hoc, and a monthly meeting of all 38 managing librarians and representatives of the Public Service Department (Chell, 1996, pg. 5).
Lateral coordination in the form of meetings was a typical way or upper management to make decisions in the DAC meetings and the branch managers to voice concerns during the Public Service meetings. Often problems arise with lateral coordination and cause disgruntled employees. The amount of service delivery questions brought up at each monthly Public Service Meeting was overwhelming and the Assistant Director who oversaw the meetings felt the problems were unique to a certain branch and the whole group did not need to discuss them.
On the other hand, the DAC meetings often did not resolve problems, ran informally, and items continuously added o the agenda last minute. “Meetings can provide an opportunity for face-face dialogue and decision making, but may squander time and energy. Personal and political agendas often undermine the meeting’s purpose” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, pg. 57). Rules and policies standardize procedures to ensure operations are run smoothly. Changes to policies at the KCLS, such as the debacle with the video loan period policy, often generated contention.
The new policy increased the video loan period from two to fourteen days and allowed clients to place holds on videos system wide. In addition, employees now had to ail out the videos to the patron’s home address. Patrons had no limit to what they could borrow and due to the lack of guidelines, patrons’ borrowed unlimited amounts of videos. Often there was nothing left on the shelves when others came in to rent a video. It also created a problem with the ability to rent videos system wide. The process of shipping videos could take one to three days on top of the already increased loan period.
Implementing the policy almost overnight with no thought for the employees caused additional headaches. Staff spent a larger portion of their time in the mailroom to mail out he videos, which in turn meant less time helping patrons and answering questions. Librarians often dealt with irritable customers because of the lack of selection of videos or there was a request on the video they wanted. Many did not like the reserve function due to the extended time period it took to receive the video in the mail.
In the end the DAC cut back the loan time to 10 days, but did not address the holds on videos system wide or mailing out the videos to patrons. The lack of consideration for the employees of KCLS was a major failure on the DAC to effectively solve problems through authority. In order to address the dilemma with integration, vertical coordination, authority and policies, the King County Library System needed to encourage and provide opportunities for lateral coordination between the DAC and all its branches and between the branches themselves.
The effort of the top- down hierarchy was stifling initiative and upper management never addressed any creative ideas presented to them or it took forever to implement them. Human Resource Issues In the case study of the Kings County Library System, there were many conflicts with human resources and the effects felt ll across the 38 branches of the organization. KCLS failed to empower their employees through investing in employees, fostering self-managing teams, promoting egalitarianism, and providing information and supports.
When defining empowerment, Bolman and Deal (2013) state it not only keeps employees informed, but it also “involves encouraging autonomy and participation, redesigning work, fostering teams, promoting egalitarianism, and infusing work with meaning” (pg. 147). The shift to a central purchasing system for all books was a drastic change from the usual policy of allowing branch anagers to delegate themselves what books to purchase and failed to promote egalitarianism.
Egalitarianism implies a democratic workplace where employees participate in making decisions,” (Bolman & Deal, 2013, pg. 153). This change was a big red flag in terms of human resources and limited employee participation in decision-making. The Service Center essentially redefined their job descriptions without consulting the branches prior to the decision. The process of selecting and buying books was a task librarians’ enjoyed and eliminating it upset many of the librarians.
In addition, KCLS’s move to a centralized urchasing system, the discretionary book buying budgets of the branches drastically decreased and left very little to buy books for the needs of that particular branch. Another red flag that created complications in empowering employees dealt with the technology revolution and providing information and support. Providing information and support is important to keep employees informed of changes to policies and designing ownership in the organization.
The circulation system of the KCLS was an automated system and provided an efficient way for staff and clients to look up and put a hold on aterials via computers at the library. Oftentimes, changes to the system happened with no notice. This generated confusion on how to accomplish their jobs efficiently and personnel often had to take extra steps to access information on the PAC terminals. Additionally, there was a lack of training concerning new technology.
Staff received very little training and it usually took place over one day. Often training would take place weeks in advance before the implementation of the new technology and staff forgot most of what they learned in that time lapse. The lack of empowerment through self-managing teams is vident in the hierarchy of the Kings County Library System. Self- managing teams work together to organize and determine their day-to-day plan of action and have a reduced influence of upper management involved in their responsibilities.
Branch managers felt the Service Center neglected their needs and there were no resolutions for any issues dealing with operation or delivery. Furthermore, the branch managers felt they had little control over the timeline of completing tasks. Self-managing throughout the branches of the organization provide a way for staff to ncorporate ways to complete tasks in a timely manner, have a say in the democracy of the decision making process and provide a way to relieve some of the added problems that bogged down the Public Service Meetings.
Conclusion In the three years of serving as the director to the King County Library System, Bill Ptacek was successful at implementing their “Year 2000 Plan” to reflect the expansion of the library district into a modernized system and the fifth largest library system in circulation in the United States (Chell, 2013, pg. 3). Nonetheless, the KCLS is fraught with issues in structural and humane esource frames, encouraging public service motivation, and combining both high advocacy and high inquiry.
The organization needs to establish high-developing teams or self- managing teams to address some of the structural issues at hand. A focused and high-developing team at the DAC level provides a way to better communicate and solve upper level management debates. Self-managing teams can provide a way for branches and staff to operate independently from the DAC and provide a way to empower employees. In addition these teams will alleviate some of the issues associated with the top- own hierarchy approach.
To encourage the continuation of public service motivation within the organization, employees need better training for new technology and updates to services, less red tape within the system, and align the strategic plan to address the employees as well. Furthermore, willingness for an open forum between the DAC and the branches allows for high advocacy and high inquiry needed at KCLS. With these proactive steps in place, the King County Library System can move the strategic plan forward and create a better structure for the employees and the patrons.