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Implementing a new library management system

This report focuses on dealing with the problems related to applying a new library management system (LMS) in a library where the current automated system has not been changed or revised for ten years. The new one is an integrated system which covers all professional processes/tasks of the library and complies with new and modern standards used in the information and library field. With this LMS, the library can implement new services such as: online reference, Z39.50 searching, and OPAC. In the other hand, the old one is a software whose functions are limited to cataloguing and internal information searching. What is more, this system does not support standards which allow users (both clientele and staff) to work online on the Internet (MARC21, Z39.50, ISO 10160 and ISO 10161).

There are many solutions to the change management. Nickols F (2004) mentions the method “problem solving and problem finding” when he discusses the issue of change management. This report is based on that method in order to deal with the situation above. Therefore it is divided into two parts: problem finding and problem solving. The first one refers to discussing and analysing the problems that the library and its staff can face. The second part studies strategies which can be used for ensuring that the LMS is able to be iplemented successfully and the staff can adapt to new changes quickly.

1. Identifying the problems encountered by the library and its staff

1.1. Changes

According to Tam L.W.H and Robertson A.C (2002, p. 374), there are four changes which can occur in organizations. They are structural, technological, task and people ones. In this section, we will exam what levels of those changes are in the library when the new LMS is going to be implemented and their effects on the library staff.

Structural changes

Stoner J.A.F et al (1994, p.293) believe that “structural changes are created by applying organizational design principles”. Those authors also assert that “today, many managers try to improve the performance of their organizations by changing management spans, job descriptions area of responsibility, and reporting relationships, to align the organization structure with the changing for internal and external environment of the organization”. The new LMS affect the library structure considerably. This is because it makes the library operates as a real electronic library while the old one can not do that. That means, with an instant communication network inside the library, the new LMS can make the design of the library “become simpler, from a function-based to a process-based design (…) and cross-functional working groups will operate within and across the major process area” (Tam L.W.H and Robertson A.C, 2002, p. 374). What is more, the flow of work is different from that used to be when departments can work together online. That means departments can co-operate easily and the managerial information flows are ensured continuously. For instance, in the acquisition module, the library can establish an online link to publishers or information providers via the Internet in order to get updated information which is useful for the library’s selection and acquisition process. Those lead to the fact that the productivity is increase and the complexity is reduced. However, it require the staff very good team skills and professional knowledge.

Technological changes

The new LMS allows users to work in the Web environment and be able to connect to others easily. An interactive user-librarian service system can be created and the clientele can communicate instantly with librarians in order to deal with their information needs. This is definitely different from the way the librarians work and communicate with their colleagues and clients.

The new LMS also requires the library staff to have knowledge of new library technology standards such as: Z39.50, ISO 10160 and ISO 10161 in order to manage online services (OPAC, interlibrary loan, and resource sharing).

The new LMS is an integrated system consisting of sub-systems or modules. The relations among those sub-systems are the key to ensure the system’s effectiveness and even existence. Therefore, system maintenance and protection need to be taken into account.

Task changes

The most significant aspect that can be seen from what the new LMS can support the library is that many works and tasks, which used to be done manually, can be done electrically and automatically now, for example: cataloguing, interlibrary loan, user management, and reference interview.

Human resource changes

The changes of the library structure, technology and task created by the new LMS affect the staff profoundly. The staff must have abilities to work independently, flexibly and work in team as well.

What is more, instead of being book-keepers, librarians are considered as knowledge engineer who can support users to locate, evaluate and use information resources effectively. This is because the workplace in the library will become dynamic and open when the new LMS is going to be implemented.

1.2. Conflict

There will be conflict occurring when the library introduce the new LMS. To understand that conflict is very important for managers to deal with new organizational changes. As Stoner J.A.F et al (1994, p. 315) cite from Tjosvold and Johnson’s work: “if organizations are to be effective, and if members of an organization are to be competent, they must be able to manage and resolve conflicts constructively”. In this context of the library, conflict within individuals should be considered.

Stoner J.A.F et al (1994, p. 317) state that this type of conflict “occur when an individual is uncertain about what work he or she is expected to perform, when a certain work demands conflict with other demands, or when the individual is expected to do more than he or she feels capable of doing”. Clearly, this is the problem that people generally and the library staff specifically can face when they deal with changes. The librarians having acquainted with traditional works will be worried about their ability. This will affect the library operations badly if it is not solved reasonably

1.3. Resistances to changes

When introducing the new LMS, the library managers can face resistance to their strategies from their staff. The theory of management indicates that there are three types of resistances coming up leaders when they adopt new policies, goal or technology, as following:

Firstly, it is the staff’s uncertainty about the reason why the new LMS is applied and what the new LMS can bring to the library. This makes the staff unwilling to give up their familiar tasks and old relationships, especially with the people who are always afraid of learning new technology. Some librarians can lose their confidence in “their ability to learn new skills and to do the new jobs required of them” (Stoner J.A.F et al, 1994, p. 287).

Secondly, existing benefits of the staff can be affected considerably. Some people have to start at a new position; some are merged into new branch; and some tasks have been done manually before (associated by jobs for people), now can be done by computerised systems…

Finally, some staff may find and think themselves that there are some potential troubles with the new LMS; and then, they resist to the participation in and implementation of the new LMS. To a certain extent, this is a positive signal if a discussion and negotiation between managers and the employees are taken place. The problems can be worked out and there will possibly be a more appropriate plan used.

2. Solutions

Tam L.W.H and Robertson A.C (2002, p. 373) assert that “staff should be given the facts. Management must explain the reason for change, specify the expected benefits, seek and answer any question that staff may have, and invite their participation in the process”. According to this approach, the library leader should conduct useful and practical activities for their employees. The purposes are: all changes’ impacts are identified before changes are put in practice; people understand what the new LMS can bring to the library and themselves as well; and people are aware of the way that the new LMS is implemented. As Tam L.W.H and Robertson A.C (2002, p. 376) believe that staff “need to be able to see change as an opportunity rather than a threat, have the motivation to seek information and the ability to learn”

2.1. Providing the staff with information resources related to:

– The basic functions, features and using guide of the new LMS.

– What the intended changes are involved, for instance: the library structure, technology, task and people

– Who the staffs are expected to be: the new professional skills acquired by the staff; the new role of the staff

– Anticipated benefits of those changes: productivity, effectiveness, flexibility, and ability to satisfy the users’ information needs, etc

2.2. Discuss with the staff what they are interested in and involved.

– The problems of the old (current) system: the negative aspects of current systems (out-of-date technology, hard to manage, unwieldy, closed system, etc.)

– The need for implementing the new one: needs originated from the clientele and the community; from common trends in the field of library and information science; and from the internal development of the library (bigger collections, resource sharing, online searching, etc.)

– Clarifying things related to the new system which the staffs have not understood

– Working out what staff should be trained and acquired: Computer literacy, using new professional standards (MARC21, Z39.50 …), online reference interview, etc.

– Identifying the staff’s abilities in order to put them in suitable positions

2.3. Training

Based on the discussions, the manager classifies and divides the library staff into groups which are associated with corresponding skills and knowledge they may need to acquire and be interested in. Three main issues as following should be focused:

– Technology: using network and the Internet

– Team skills: cooperation, coordination and commonly understood procedures and mores

– New professional standards and services which are used in online or computer–based environments such as: MARC, Z39.50, online reference interview, etc

In conclusion, change management is a process which should planed carefully. There are two aspects that the leader has to think of when he or she tends to adopt a new LMS for the library. They are: external elements (the need and profile of the community) and the internal ones (structure, labour force, training…). It is necessary to determine the current status of the library; and prepare readiness and appropriate knowledge for the staff before any changes are implemented.

Huy Nghiem (2005)

References

Jones N. and Jordan P. (1988), Case studies in library management, Clive, London

Kotter J. P. (1998), Winning at change, Leader to Leader, No. 10, viewed 02/9/2004, available at <http://www.pfdf.org/leaderbooks/l2l/fall98/kotter.html>

Nickols F. (2004), Change Management 101: A Primer, viewed 03/9/2004, available at <http://home.att.net/~nickols/change.htm >

Stoner J.A.F et al (1994), Management, Prentice Hall Australia, Sydney

Tam L.W.H and Robertson A.C (2002), Managing change: libraries and information services in the digital age, Library Management, vol. 23, No. 8/9, p. 369 – 377.

Torrington D. and Weightman J. (1994), Effective management, Prentice Hall International (UK) limited, London