For the last few months, I’ve written about changes in the organizational structure of the Libraries as we clearly distinguish central vs. local functions, most recently talking about the role of the library directors in coordinating local services. It is easy to get lost in the details, so I think it is worth taking a step back and looking at what is driving this change. The 2014 Strategic Plan describes a vision for the University in the following way:
As one Rutgers, all of our campuses and units share common values, features, resources, and administrative and other centralized services. As distinct entities, however, the campuses and RBHS each have differentiated missions and future visions that emanate from this unified core. An important outcome of our planning process has been each campus’s and RBHS’s articulation of its own sense of self, each with unique elements of mission and future direction.
We are in the process of implementing this vision by developing an organization—structure, function, decision-making, communication, etc.—with a unified core that is responsive to distinct missions.
Something that has been clear to many of you, and is becoming clearer to me each day is that we—the Libraries—are a microcosm of the broader university. Just as the former executive vice president for academic affairs was responsible for New Brunswick and many of the central functions of the university, the former associate university librarian for research and instructional services was responsible for New Brunswick and many of the central functions of the Libraries. I could be wrong, but I think that the Libraries are the only academic unit that has central and local functions and, by extension, the only unit that is experiencing the full breadth and depth of these changes in roles, responsibilities, and culture.
Recently, I had a day with an interesting sequence of meetings that highlights the parallel structure of University and Libraries and underscores how profound the organizational changes are. In the morning, I attended a meeting of the Rutgers–New Brunswick chancellor search committee. In the afternoon, I met with the AVP/director of New Brunswick Libraries search committee.
Throughout the chancellor search meeting, conversations returned to two main themes. The first broadly addressed the relationship between the chancellor and the central units. Members of the chancellor’s search committee spent time discussing the relatively new (and narrower) scope of the position. It was clear that search committee, primarily comprised of Rutgers–New Brunswick faculty, had not had a chance to internalize the implications of this change for decision-making. Throughout the meeting, the question, “Is that New Brunswick or is it central?”, was raised repeatedly as discussion returned to the role of the chancellor within the University. Several of the search committee members asked detailed questions about the relationship between the chancellor and central services such as the Office of Information Technology, the Libraries, and Facilities, and wondered aloud how the new chancellor would get things done if key elements of the infrastructure were not a part of the position’s portfolio.
These questions struck a chord for me because they are the same questions we’ve been circling and addressing in recent months as we carefully separated Research and Instructional Services and New Brunswick functions. We have created structures, most notably the Shared User Services department and the Library Directors Group, to coordinate work across the campuses. Even with all of this progress, there are some details that we will need to resolve. Just as the New Brunswick faculty expressed concern related to the ability of the new chancellor to affect change, I think there are still questions that need to be resolved about how each of our library directors gets things done for their campuses.
I already see the transformation. Chancellors and other stakeholders on campuses are working directly with library directors to request specialized services, resources, and partnerships. As this shift occurs, we need to be sure that our central services can respond. Some questions this raises for me include: How do we create clear lines of communication and accountability between central services (Collections, Technical and Automated Services, Budget and Finance, Communications, Development) and the library directors? What is the relationship between coordinating bodies (e.g., Collections Analysis Group, Discovery Task Force) and the library directors? What does this shift mean for our decision-making regarding the structure of the website, the function of discovery, the collection allocation process, and more?
Although we have made an immense amount of progress is establishing clearer lines of responsibility within the Libraries, I am not certain that we have all of the infrastructure in place to enable library directors to effectively address the unique needs of the campuses. In recent weeks, Cabinet has worked on a planning calendar to help us all schedule and better understand major milestones throughout the year. In providing a cross-departmental look at what is happening each month, the planning calendar identifies activities that rely on this infrastructure. It also highlights activities that require feedback and information from financial and administrative contacts at the universities. Hopefully this will improve workflow and empower the library directors to anticipate and troubleshoot issues that may arise.
The second issue that surfaced during these search committee meetings is the identity, or lack thereof, of Rutgers–New Brunswick. Just as each of our library directors has developed an identity for their libraries that is tailored for their community and strengths, so have the universities. Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences is “leading the way in academic health care.” Rutgers–Newark is “where opportunity meets excellence.” In Rutgers–Camden you can have “all of the benefits of a world-class research university plus the personalized experience of a small campus.” However, until recently Rutgers–New Brunswick has always been, well, Rutgers.
This is about to change. Rutgers–New Brunswick recently announced a new identity, using the tagline of “America converges here,” drawn from President Obama’s historical commencement speech last year. The new chancellor will have to formalize and strengthen an identity for New Brunswick. Given the parallel structures of the libraries and the university, it is not surprising, therefore, that our new AVP/director of New Brunswick Libraries will face a similar challenge to establish an identity for the New Brunswick Libraries.
While I am on the topic, I want to spend a minute clarifying an issue that I know has cause substantial confusion. These changes are not happening because of RCM. RCM is the new budget model that is being established because of these changes. The definition of Rutgers’ special version of RCM, helps to operationalize the vision of four distinct entities that emanate from a unified core of values, features, and services.
That is a lot of simultaneous change! Needless to say, interesting days lay ahead for us all.