Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Lyndon Pugh has performed a valuable service in providing a new edition of his important book, first published in 2000. Change management and change implementation are critical issues in the library and information science profession. As service‐oriented knowledge workers, librarians and information professionals have long had a reputation for excellence in the pursuit of information and even, as the occasion demands (particularly in specialized libraries), in synthesizing information and advising clients in translating that information into knowledge and/or a learning product. The pursuit of classic management skills has not, sadly, been a strength of the profession, either as students pursue their qualifications or as information professionals seek independent learning opportunities as their careers advance.
Thanks to people like Lyndon Pugh, however, there are good resources available for those who wish to learn management skills and supplement gaps in their education and experience. In the long list of subjects that must be taken up and understood by information professionals as they move into the management ranks, change management offers particular challenges. Not only are most people resistant to change, all of society is constantly undergoing change and such clichés as “the only constant is change” have become almost standard refrains in the management community. So tools such as the one provided here by Lyndon Pugh are welcome indeed.
Beginning with a valuable essay on the nature of change as it is being experienced in management of libraries, Pugh makes it clear that it is “the sheer pace of technological change” that is driving the creation of today's “hybrid libraries.” Noting that some libraries are now “amongst the most highly diversified organizations in the world,” Pugh makes a convincing case. He points out that information services delivery is impacted by such influences as the unpredictability of the enormous diversity libraries are experiencing, the need for the development of new and technical skills, structural and organizational changes and their role in contributing to the complexity of the larger organization, competition (not only for resources but for the provision of services) and the need for collaboration, the personalization of services, the vagaries of what he refers to as a “mixed” economy, and the effects of cross‐border and specialized subject expertise. What this means for the librarians who are moving into – or are already part of – the management environment is that they must take on the role of change agent and change architect whether they want to or not. They have a responsibility to do so, both to the organizations that employ them and to the development and delivery of services that match their clients' needs.
In describing how the librarian/information professional manager develops a strategy for change management, Pugh is good to note the value of seeking a “wide range of inputs and perspectives,” a point well taken by those who are involved in auditing information, knowledge, and strategic learning services on a regular basis. There are few less useful exercises than to prepare a change strategy and discover, after the fact, that an important or – in most cases – influential segment of the audit population has been ignored. At the same time, Pugh's comments about the organization's willingness to change – what Rosabeth Moss Kanter used to refer to as the organization's “readiness” for change – is an equally important consideration, and Pugh leads his reader through a good discussion of how this capacity affects the outcome of the change process, taking the process away from “its bureaucratic roots.”
One of Pugh's most interesting chapters is entitled, “Metaphors for organizations,” in which he offers what he calls a “brief alternative history” of change management, taking a look at the development of management through history and providing what he hopes will be a “new perspective” on management and one that puts the embrace of change management and change implementation in a new light, which it does. In the same chapter, Pugh offers some provocative new looks at organizational structure, again presenting librarians and information professionals confronting management roles with images of how the organizations they manage can be thought of in a variety of ways.
Two other chapters that are particularly useful in today's management environment for librarians and information professionals look at the subjects of leadership and skills development. Our organizations must seriously delve into workforce planning and identify the competencies knowledge services specialists must possess to succeed. In order to provide services that affect the management of information, knowledge, and strategic learning in the knowledge‐centric organization, the ability to lead change is becoming a critical competency. Pugh provides a valuable list (including such critical admonitions as “the possible jettisoning of long‐established practices,” new professional and social relationship, skills development, and dealing with resistance) that, if nothing else, can stimulate very useful thinking along the lines of “How do I do this at my place?” Following this list with a useful selection of skills that the change leader must embody – creating trust, self‐awareness, openness, empathy, emotional intelligence, listening skills, and the value of dialogue, and the placement of all of these skills in the context of the organization – Pugh ends the book describing how library managers can build an organization that is, indeed, change ready (or, as he puts it, “an organization fit for change”). It is a welcome and thoughtful framework for bringing this valuable book to a useful conclusion.