Making do with less …
The new information environment is characterised by the exponential growth of information, a major change from paper to electronic media as the dominant form of information storage and retrieval, the convergence of previously separate media such as text, graphics and sound into multimedia resources, increasing demand for accountability from parent institutions, new forms of work organisations such as telework, end-user computing, work teams, outsourcing, downsizing, shrinking budgets, rising cost of information resources, sophisticated demands from users, and competition from other information providers.
Navigating under such tough conditions represents a real challenge for library managers who are called upon to display much ingenuity and resourcefulness. The current world economic downturn is bound to result in a negative impact on library budgets. Unfortunately, this is likely to last for some time. This crisis is so severe that it is considered to be the worst since the economic depression of the 1930’s. In this climate, there are not many options left to library and information professionals. However, there are still some rays of hope. Jay Jordan, CEO of the Online Computer Library Center for instance, has recently announced the decision of his organization not to increase the price of its products and services for the next couple of years.
Continuously stretching upon the finite human resources to impress the funding body with numerous achievements may be an easy option, but not necessarily the wisest decision in the long run. Marie Blosh, a reference librarian believes that: “struggling to get the job done with fewer resources in the hope that our efforts will be noticed and rewarded is silly. Making do with less only means that we will continue to get less.” Indeed, there is food for thought in this statement. This is unfortunately the case in several libraries worldwide. Year after year, this strategy is adopted with the same predictable outcome, i.e a poor budget. Sharing increased workload among fewer personnel is likely to result in low staff morale, absenteeism, job stress, burn out and staff turnover. The ideal solution is probably for library managers to strike the right balance between tasks accomplishment and satisfying the legitimate aspirations of employees in order to get the job done efficiently and effectively.
An interesting study conducted by Tom Nicholas Associate Professor at the Harvard Business School on the practices of business organizations during the years of the great depression to see if there were any useful lessons for executives, has revealed that successful companies such as DuPont, Hewlett-Packard and Polaroid did not delay investments in innovation even in the midst of the deepest economic recession. As far as libraries are concerned, Nicholas believes that “delaying innovation does not make sense and is not the best option”. In addition to setting priorities in today’s volatile economic environment, libraries must endeavour to emulate these best practices and leave no stone unturned to constantly innovate. An excellent way to foster novel ideas and projects is to set up a mechanism within the library to generate and follow-up bright ideas on a continual basis.
Blosh, Marie (2003). Changing the way we do business. In American Libraries, January Issue. pp. 48-50.