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ASSIGNED LEADERS IN UNIONIZED ENVIRONMENTS: COPING WITH THE ECONOMIC RECESSION AND ITS AFTERMATH IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES 1 Adriene Lim, Ph.D. Dean of Libraries,

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Presentation on theme: "ASSIGNED LEADERS IN UNIONIZED ENVIRONMENTS: COPING WITH THE ECONOMIC RECESSION AND ITS AFTERMATH IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES 1 Adriene Lim, Ph.D. Dean of Libraries,"— Presentation transcript:

1 ASSIGNED LEADERS IN UNIONIZED ENVIRONMENTS: COPING WITH THE ECONOMIC RECESSION AND ITS AFTERMATH IN ACADEMIC LIBRARIES 1 Adriene Lim, Ph.D. Dean of Libraries, Oakland University June 30, 2013 LRRT Research Forum, ALA Annual 2013

2 Problem Statement 2  Economic recession and aftermath having a major impact on many academic institutions, even as libraries faced accelerating changes in technology and scholarly communication, and heightened external competition.  Unclear if and how unionization has helped or hindered library administrators as they try to transform libraries.  Gaps in the literature about changes occurring in unionized libraries and in assigned leaders’ abilities to transform their organizations.  Purpose of study was to provide insights about changes occurring in unionized libraries; and to explore if (and how) assigned leaders try to ensure that strategic changes still occur.

3 Primary Research Objectives 3  Institutional and Library Context  To identify changes occurring in unionized academic libraries as a result of the economic crisis  To identify perceptions that university administrators have about these changes and effects of unionization on their attempts to address the crisis  Union Context  To identify benefits and constraints that administrators encounter as a result of working within unionized contexts during economic recessions  Leadership Context  To identify assigned leaders’ strategies for handling changes in unionized, financially stressed environments

4 Methodology 4  Multi-case study of four, large, public academic libraries with the same Carnegie classification rank and similar economic indicators.  Online survey conducted to determine libraries’ unionization status and other characteristics.  Cases selected through purposive/criteria sampling. Eight libraries in subject population, but only four agreed to participate.  Data gathered through qualitative, semi-structured interviews with 21 university and library administrators (provosts, vice provosts, library directors, associate / assistant directors), three focus group interviews with unionized librarians and staff, and content analysis of various documents.

5 Findings: Changes Occurring 5  Chronic/extreme fiscal stress, pessimistic budget outlook  Retrenchment and cutback management; severity depended upon stimulus finding, size of institution, region  Loss of acquisitions buying power and librarian/staff positions  Broad adjustments to organizational structures, functions, and to individual positions  No substantial focus on external fundraising or entrepreneurship  No perceived change in libraries’ performance levels (but this was not based on real data in most cases)  No perceived differences in interactions between library administrators and unionized librarians/staff members  Threat or actuality of organizational decline apparent

6 Causes of Public-Sector Decline 6 InternalExternal PoliticalPolitical vulnerabilityProblem depletion Economic/TechnicalOrganizational atrophyEnvironmental entropy

7 Findings: Upper-Admin Views 7  Aware of staffing and budgeting challenges, but none seemed optimistic re: increasing libraries’ allocations  Aware of heavier workload on remaining employees, challenges in keeping morale/commitment levels high  Agreed that libraries’ performance levels remained high (but again seemingly not based on data)  Believed unions brought negative and positive effects  Lamented less managerial flexibility, more bureaucracy  Perceived negative effects were amplified in times of economic crisis  Said that shared governance was both improved and damaged - adversarial relations at two sites and not others

8 Findings: Union Benefits/Constraints 8  Agreements largely negotiated, administrated by others  Administrative decision-making about budgets perceived to be mostly intact  Delays in planning/implementing of changes  Less flexibility in regard to HR issues, more bureaucracy  Did not think fiscal adversity would damage relationships with unionized personnel or affect libraries’ performance  Unions not contesting technological changes  Use of shared, participatory leadership approaches  Organizational values shifted - tended more toward internal focus, stability, and control, than toward adaptability and flexibility

9 Competing Values Framework 9 Output Quality Human Relations ModelOpen Systems Model Internal Process ModelRational Goal Model Flexibility Control Internal (People)External (Organization) Means: Cohesion; morale Ends: Human resource development Means: Flexibility; readiness Ends: Growth; resource acquisitions Means: Information management; communication Ends: Stability; control Means: Planning; goal setting Ends: Productivity; efficiency

10 Findings: Change Strategies Used 10  Strategic visioning/planning used; some leaders adjusting vision and plans due to economic troubles  Communication and transparency emphasized  Innovative thinking and resourcefulness seen as key to thriving in lean times – restructuring, redesigning work and implementing new services  Leaders used shared, participatory, and team leadership approaches at each site to different degrees  Institutional accountability/assessment weakly presented at two sites, a bit stronger at other two sites  Protecting existing positions was a high priority at all sites

11 Findings: Other Themes 11  Content of collective bargaining agreements did not seem to predict shared governance levels, assertion of management rights, etc.  Organizational cultures, relationships, and identities were affected by unionization.  Argument made that unionized environments needed even more effective managerial leadership functions than non-unionized.  Assigned leaders focused more on people and personal values at two of the sites, whereas stronger stewardship and strategic thinking were evident at the other two sites.  Attributes of honesty, fairness, courage, and credibility were named by unionized employees as crucial for good leadership.

12 Implications of the Study 12  Seemingly inconsistent responses? Explanations proposed:  Unionization as controversial, sensitive topic  Perceived levels of control and instrumentality  Unionized environments as inherited legacies  Lack of research on unionization in libraries  Need for comparative, longitudinal, & single-case studies  Need to study leadership attributes and strategies  Need to study effectiveness of leadership strategies  More study on intersection of leadership, unionization, and economic stress  Education of academic library leaders  Examination of position classifications

13 More Implications 13  Organizational cultures, identities, values, and effectiveness  Organizational decline and cutback management tactics  External fundraising and entrepreneurship  Politically intelligent leadership, application of model  Administrative strength, accountability, & evaluation/assessment  Union-management cooperation – best practices?  Organizational dysfunctions and employee morale  Resiliency in leadership, application of model  More research needed using theories/models in literatures of organizational sciences, management, & public administration

14 Thank you! 14 Adriene Lim, Ph.D. address:


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